A patio can be a lovely addition to your home. It gives you another room without the expense of building walls. It can give you privacy as well and a way to commune with nature while still having the comforts of home close at hand.
Use graph paper to draw the dimensions of your patio and where it should be in relation to your house. Try to pick a fairly flat location that's free of trees to save yourself the expense of cutting one down or the frustration of trying to work around it. This step can save you a lot of money up-front.
Consider Your Expenses
A typical patio is about 25 by 25 feet. This requires 25 bags of concrete. Beyond that you need a wheel barrow, concrete mixer, lumber for a concrete form, rebar (installed every two feet across and up and down), a concrete trowel, screed, plastic sheeting, wire, gravel, and a garden hose. The good news is that you don't have to buy the concrete mixer or the concrete tools--you can rent them from a hardware store or equipment rental store. The shovel you already have, and probably a garden hose and even a wheelbarrow. The lumber does not have to be of the finest quality, which can save you money, and the gravel does not have to be high grade. A basic push broom should be added to the to-buy list. The biggest savings will be in labor--if you and your family do the work yourself.
Do It Once, Do It Right
Take into account where you live. This could result in the biggest savings, because if you lay the concrete patio correctly the first time, you won't have to do it again. If you live in a part of the country where frost is a concern, you need to dig down at least six inches when you excavate, to get below the frost line. Adding the gravel helps not only to improve drainage, but also to allow for a little flex. Combine that with the rebar, and you have a patio that will hold up to weather conditions for a long time.