Creating a home office on a budget

Lisa Charles - Choices MagazineChoices Magazine Co Founder Lisa Charles knows a thing or two about working from home; here she shares her top 8 tips on setting up a home office on a budget.

According to the office of national statistics, of the staggering 4.2 million people who work from home (the highest rate since comparable records began in 1998), two-thirds of these home workers are self-employed.

Creating a productive and organised home office is of paramount importance and although there are costs that you cannot avoid, there are plenty of cost saving ideas that will help you keep more money in the bank. Check out my top 8 tips for creating a space that you’ll love for a budget you can afford.

1. Bare essentials only
Don’t get carried away and immediately go shopping; buying things you don’t actually need, blowing the budget that you don’t actually have. Make a list of the bare essentials you need to do your work. Once you have been working from home for at least a few weeks you’ll have a better idea of anything you additionally need that will add to your productivity.

2. Location, location, location
If you are amongst the lucky ones and have a spare room, attic or basement that you are going to transform into your office, you won’t have to spend any time thinking of the best location in your home. Otherwise you’ll have to think about the best place for you to work where you can have some privacy, sufficient space for you to make your home office mark and preferably decent lighting – near to a window is ideal if feasible.

If you think you have absolutely no where suitable, put your imaginary creative cap on.  You would be surprised at where people have set up shop in their homes, albeit unconventional in some cases but you can make it work. You may have to forgo the idea of privacy and an idyllic window view with some of these ideas, but remember the end game – flexibility, independence and control of your time and life!

Large landings can make a great space, as well as utilising that cupboard filled with things you no longer need. The corner of a living room, kitchen or dining room are also useable spaces. If you are in a communal space, consider room dividers for some privacy and put together a timetable of your working hours so you can carve out some time where you are less likely to be disturbed or distracted by other family / household members. If you don’t have enough natural light, make sure to brighten up your space with table lamps – who likes working in a dark space?

3. Dig for the forgotten…
I know there’s the temptation and want to go and buy new shiny things for your work space, hold off and put your sensible hat on. Look around your home for items you can use. Check cupboards, attics and basements for things you may have forgotten about that could be put to use again. And if you think you have nothing of use, check out the ideas in tip number 6 – you may well be inspired…

4. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
Before you start counting the pennies to see what you can afford, see what you can get for free. Yes you read correctly, free! If you haven’t already, join one of the many recycling groups. I’d recommend either Freecycle or Freegle. Search for your area, join the group and see what people are giving away. Companies also use these networks to get rid of office furniture if they are refurbishing or closing down. You can also do a ‘WANTED’ post to ask specifically for what you are looking for.

5. Don’t do specialist
If you do need to buy furniture and accessories stay clear of the specialist office retailers and opt for cheaper alternatives – check out places like Argos, Ikea, Asda, Tesco and Homebase.
At the lowest end of the market, you can get a very basic desk for £14+ such as the Beech effect office desk from Homebase below retailing for £14.99.

If you’re a creative, why not make your own desk? Either upcycle an old piece of furniture such as an old dressing table or use other unconventional items like an old door as your desk surface and purchase legs from Ikea. Ikea also have a range of table tops that you can choose from if a door is just too crazy an idea for you.

Also look for general household bookshelves and other shelving rather than looking for office specific items to keep costs down.

6. Get creative with storage
‘I haven’t got any storage space!’ – This is a complaint I hear from many people setting up an office space at home and of course it’s not surprising. As a family we have storage challenges, let alone adding an office into the mix. The good news – a little creativity goes a long way! Where you can, use your walls with well thought out shelving and you can use things like wire or wicker baskets instead of traditional office storage items. Shoe boxes covered with some nice paper also look great. Don’t forget doors either, they’re great for storing stationery items in an over the door canvas shoe rack, wire rack or a specifically designed office door storage product. Check out these fabulous ideas below for some inspiration…

Create a shoe box stationery caddy (shoebox and toilet rolls covered with contrasting paper).

Use jars to utilize the space under your shelves (glue the jar lid under the shelf).

Use your door to hang office stationery or use for filing papers (the possibilities are endless!)

More ideas are available on our new office ideas Pinterest board!

7. Evaluate your IT requirements
This is an area where low cost can often mean poor product so you’ll have to do your research here. If you need to buy a laptop (for the small home office a laptop is usually more practical) seek some advice on the minimum spec you need for what you’ll be using the laptop for. If you’ll be using design programs, you will need a much higher spec than someone who just uses word processing software. Also, if you tend to work with many applications open at once along with a lot of internet tabs running, then you’ll need a laptop that can handle this level of multitasking well without freezing up or slowing down to snail pace.

And if you need a printer, invest in an all in one model that includes a scanner – this is very useful for emailing documentation and replaces the need to fax documents – who faxes nowadays anyway?

With regards to the internet, bear in mind that now that you’re working from home, you’ll be using the internet more than you have ever used before, so make sure you get an unlimited data package so that you are not hit with additional costs on your bill.

8. Don’t ignore ergonomic rules
You’ll be sitting at your desk for long periods at times, so make sure you avoid any health problems by adhering to the guidelines on correct posture, chair height, screen distance and eye level. This wikihow page breaks it down very well.

Lastly, save and create where you can but invest in a good chair that you’ll be comfortable in; you’ll be more productive and your back will thank you!

For more ideas, follow our new home office Pinterest board for endless creative ideas.

Posted in: Lifestyle, Recent Posts

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