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By the author of What School Should Have Taught You
More people are working at home now than ever before, and if this is where you find yourself, you may have come to the conclusion that you need to set up a home office. Hanging out at your local café every day is causing you to eat into your budget (literally), and you’re looking for alternatives.
So what can you do? Are there inexpensive ways to get your home office all set up without having to spend a fortune to do so? Let’s take a look…
A wall-mounted TV can save you money on a standup desk.
If your “normal” office is complete with standup desks and you miss being able to use them while you’re at your own home, you can easily create an ad hoc solution with a wall-mounted TV connected to your computer.
Standup desks like the VariDesk can easily run into $500. You can still allow yourself to work for long periods of time by attaching a mount to the wall at face level, hooking up a TV to it, and then connecting this to your computer nearby.
You’ll now have a monitor at face level.
For the desk part itself, I think the best bet is to purchase an adjustable table on wheels. These are fairly reasonable, don’t take up a lot of space, and will allow you to type with your arms held at a normal level.
You could easily get all of this set up for a fraction of the cost of a professional standing desk with a bit of searching at online marketplaces or your local flea markets.
Do you need a scanner?
If you’re working at home, you may be able to avoid purchasing a scanner altogether if, instead, you can simply take pictures with your smartphone of the documents and then email them to yourself or upload them online to whatever folder you need them to be.
The document will be just as legible as if it was scanned in, provided you make sure everything is focused, and you have proper lighting in your room. If this is feasible for your job, this could easily save you $100-200.
Printer ink can be found much cheaper online.
I have no words for how expensive printer ink is. It makes zero sense to me, and I truly detest having to drop $50+ on a single cartridge of black ink at the store. If you do, too, there are cheaper options out there.
If you’re willing to take the risk, there are plenty of people on both eBay and Facebook Marketplace who make a living out of selling toner at a fraction of the cost of what it is online. What often happens is that people end up throwing out their old printer due to issues, but then they still have this big pile of toner.
The new printer that they then bought doesn’t use the old type of toner, and now they’re stuck with all that old toner that was worth hundreds of dollars. So, they sell it online at a steep discount. If you pay attention, you can save some serious cash this way.
The Dollar Tree
Just about every office supply that you could ever want when it comes to the “littles” (e.g., notebooks, calendars, staplers, etc.) can be found at your local Dollar Tree. Unless you’re looking for something that’s of higher quality, I don’t recommend the official office supply stores. Their prices are obscene for things that you can easily get much cheaper online. If you’re setting up an inexpensive home office, you need to become friendly with The Dollar Tree.
So, check this store first for the office supplies that you need. Then, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, then go online. If you shop in person at the big box, you’re going to end up spending much more than you were hoping to.
An office chair
If you’re looking for something that’s a bit more comfortable than your wooden dining room chair for a long day at a desk, then you’re going to need to look for an upgrade. A chair is typically something that I would recommend buying quality because you’re likely going to be spending a lot of time here.
You may as well make it comfortable. Ending up with some type of weird overuse injury from sitting in an uncomfortable chair for too long is rather silly.
However, if you are really strapped for cash, you may be able to get by just buying a Swiss ball (aka an exercise ball) at your local Walmart or Target to sit on. A lot of people within the fitness industry like using these at their desks because it helps maintain one’s posture and works the core musculature at the same time.
If sitting on a gigantic ball all day doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are some very affordable office chair options on Amazon as well that you may want to check out.
What is your advice for setting up an inexpensive home office?
Do you have a home office? How did you save money creating it? Are there other tips and tricks that you use for your home office that you would like to share with others? Let us know in the comment section below.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, What School Should Have Taught You, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.
4 thoughts on “How to Set Up an Inexpensive Home Office Without Sitting on a Cardboard Box”
A thrift store bargain on a used director’s chair can be perfect. Even if the canvas seat and back are very worn, those are easy to replace. Such chairs are incredibly comfortable even after many hours use every day. For people who do a lot of keyboard work, the director’s chair arms sometimes get in the way of one’s elbows. Sawing off those wooden arms solves that problem.
A long time ago I realized the price per gallon of printer ink was in the thousands of dollars. So I switched over to a black-and-white multi-function toner-based printer/copier/scanner/fax. It’s worth shopping around for a used deal on one in good condition. There are some good after-market sellers of toner worth finding. That multi-function combo saves you a lot of trips to office supply stores, eg., for daily basics.
For privacy and reliability I like to use a nearby privately-owned shipping and receiving service. Besides defeating the porch pirates, such services don’t have the delivery blunders I used to suffer from the post office (such as checks mailed to me ending up in neighbors’ mail boxes) and most such private services can work with UPS, DHL, FedEx, etc as well as USPS. Also I get an email within an hour or two whenever anything arrives for me — very unlike USPS (which if something you were not expecting arrives at your PO box — where not only are you not notified but also if you don’t pick up that unexpected package within 15 days, USPS will ship it back to the sender without keeping a record for you as to what the item was or who it came from).
Right now is a really good time to check Facebook Marketplace or Buy Nothing groups. Many people set up home offices or homeschooling during the pandemic and are now getting rid of them, Some are even FREE for pickup. For sale items, decide ahead of time on desk and chair height and color/theme you prefer so you don’t get led astray by a great bargain, and always bargain with private sellers.
Concentrate your biggest spending on comfort and ergonomics: Right chair height, keyboard height, monitor height (hint: free coffee table books). If you can afford it, spend on noise cancelling headphones (I like my MPOW ones from Amazon reasonably priced) to spare your Zoom team the lyrics to Elmo’s Potty Time video or the neighbor’s excited chiweenies.
Instead of buying matching things in expensive sets, pick a color or theme you like, then thrift and shop with those guidelines so everything works together. I’ve found great file organizers and desk items on Buy Nothing, including some solid maple items I could never afford new. They just needed a swipe with an $8 can of furniture refinisher.
Instead of lots of picture frames, frame your diploma or credentials, then make the rest of your favorites your desktop screensaver on carousel so you can enjoy them every time you take a break.
I love working from home so much! Hope everyone else sets up an office they can enjoy and be productive in.
If your employer provides a laptop but you have trouble seeing it, one of the best things you can do is get a cheap laptop stand and also a cheap keyboard and mouse. That will help your ergonomics so much and will allow you to better use whatever furniture you may already have.
Oh, I forgot to mention, keeping your Zoom or Teams background set to “blur” or a cool background also helps keep your professional image. You can even find backgrounds that look like nice professional offices if you really want that look. It’s a small but powerful upgrade and it’s also free. I wouldn’t recommend sitting on an exercise ball all the time, since that leads to fatigue and its own problems, but I have one that I swap in and out when I feel the need. Maybe it could be exercise ball vs. kitchen chair? Habitat for Humanity stores, thrift stores, and similar places will often have good chairs too.