With an estimated 4.34 million people working from home full time in the U.S., and an additional 11.33 million doing so part time, it’s not surprising that retailers are zeroing in on the home office crowd.
Everyone from office supply stores to home furnishing manufacturers are gearing up to take advantage of this growing homepreneur market. Unfortunately, as demand increases, so do price tags. I was appalled at what I found during a recent Internet search for home office options. When all is said and done, the products these companies are encouraging you to purchase can add up to the cost of a small fuel-efficient car!
Fortunately, you don’t have to fall victim to outrageously priced, home office trends. Here are a few ideas I’ve found to build a fantastic, functional, and comfortable home office on a budget.
Affordable Home Office Furniture Options
1. Your Space
We can’t start a conversation about setting up a home office without first discussing the space you’ll be utilizing. A lot of people have the idea that you need an entire room to set up an office. This mindset can lead to the perceived need to add an entire addition to your house, costing thousands of dollars. So, does “home office” mean you have to have an executive suite in your home? Absolutely not!
A productive home office can be set up just about anywhere you have a few feet of available space. Forgotten areas like large stair landings, alcoves situated under stairs, closets, laundry rooms, kitchen nooks, the corners of spare or master bedrooms, and unused areas in the living room, can work perfectly. The possibilities are simply endless, depending on how much space you really need. You can also look to arrange your furniture differently and better utilize the space in your home.
2. Work Surface – Home Office Desk
A desk is perhaps the most critical piece of office furniture you’ll have, because most of your functions will be performed on it. Desks come in varying shapes and sizes, from L-shaped to smaller corner desks, to vertical climb desks to small mobile desks that can be rolled away and stored in a closet. Think about your needs, and then decide which size is right for you.
Here are some of the ways you can get an affordable desk that you love.
- Make it. Did you know that Amazon gives all of their employees a door to use as a desk? That’s right, a company worth billions understands that frugality is smart in good times and bad. They do it by taking a solid core, wooden door with no pre-drilled holes and attaching pillars as legs. You can do the same thing in your home office, using any large, workable surface. Cut a piece of glass or even marble, and stand it on two filing cabinets or mount it on L brackets to create a unique workspace. The best part? You can custom fit it to just the size you need.
- Paint it. Home offices don’t just have to be about dark, stained wood anymore. By combing through flea markets, garage sales, pawn shops, and even the free section of Craigslist, you’ll likely be able to find an old wooden or metal desk that’s seen better days. With a bucket of paint, you can create a piece of office furniture in any color you want, for an incredibly low price.
- Buy it. If you decide to the go the traditional route and buy your desk, you’ll find that the laminate ones are the least expensive. The problem is that they generally look as cheap as they are. But the trick is to buy the darkest color you can find – preferably black. This will help the desk to fade into the background, so it’s not the focal point of the room.
3. Seating – Home Office Chairs
If you’re going to be spending hours at your desk, comfort is key. The last thing you need is a sore back from sitting in a bad chair all day. That said, a brand new, ergonomic office chair can carry a hefty price tag. While your comfort should be a priority, if you simply can’t afford the investment right now, there are other paths you can take.
- Re-purpose a chair. Perhaps the least expensive way to get an office chair is to go to your dining room every day and borrow a chair for your desk. You’ll have to make sure that the chair you choose is comfortable, and that the height is right for you to type on your computer. Adjustments can easily be made with pillows on the chair to increase height, or books under your laptop to decrease it.
- Buy secondhand. Flea markets, garage sales and even office furniture warehouses are great places to pick up a deal on an office chair and buy secondhand. If it’s not in great shape, you can paint it or upholster it yourself to create a look of your own.
4. Storage & Shelving
Good storage is essential in any home office setting because it’s usually shared with another part of the home. In order to work productively, you need a space that feels organized and clutter-free with anything you need right at your fingertips. Assess your storage needs and consider the following:
- Construct your own. One great space-saving and budget-friendly idea is to construct your own enclosed cabinets or floating shelving. Visit your local hardware store for ideas and instructions. By doing this, you’ll create all of the storage space you need, and your office products can be put away at the end of the day.
- Purchase used cabinets. If the idea of building from scratch doesn’t appeal to you, there are several ways to find affordable, used cabinetry. You can contact demolition companies and ask for cabinets from houses or buildings that are being destroyed, check your local Craigslist postings, or post one of your own asking for free cabinets – great condition not required. Habitat For Humanity Restores are also great resources for this and can be found in many cities. After you have the cabinets, they can easily be spruced up with a coat of paint. Doors can also be replaced, or removed completely for a fresh look.
- Get creative with containers. For those with tight budgets or apartment renters who aren’t able to mount cabinets on the walls, there is always the option of storage containers.You can go with a plain ol’ plastic bin, and slide everything into a closet or under the bed at the end of the day, or you can create an artsy space with multiple containers and baskets of different shapes and sizes. These storage options are extremely affordable and there are many fun designs to choose from.
In addition to storage cabinets, you’ll need a way to organize the things that can clutter your desktop. Use brightly colored cups or jars to store your pens, pencils, scissors and other small items. If you find yourself drowning in books and documents, dig out an old magazine rack to keep them neatly in one place. Remember, when it comes to smaller storage, lighting and decorating, always check around the house before you head out to spend more cash.
As you can see, organizing a functional home office doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does require some imagination! Find a suitable space in your home, then think about your personal priorities when it comes to a comfortable work space. With a little creativity, you can customize a home office that suites your needs and your wallet. You can also take advantage of the IRS home office tax deduction for added savings.
Do you have any tips for creating a home office for less? Share them with fellow homepreneurs in the comments below.