Working from a home office is many people’s dream. The idea of waking up and walking mere footsteps, instead of driving miles and miles, and being able to work in your pajamas, represents the height of living and working flexibly.
And while working from home offers many benefits, there are quite a few changes you’ll to which you’ll need to adapt. Specifically, you will be responsible for setting up your home office. This means not only finding the right equipment, but paying for it all, which can get expensive quickly.
But building a good home office doesn’t necessarily need to mean spending thousands on a high-end desk and premium computer equipment. You can set up a home office that can be a bastion of productivity even if you’re on a tight budget. And here’s how
Make It Separate
This is a way to save on your home office that might not be felt right away but that will still help lessen the burden on your pocketbook. Essentially, by making sure your office is completely separate from the rest of your home, and designating it as strictly an office, you will be able to claim this space on you tax returns, helping put money in your pocket at the end of each year.
However, before you get too excited, know that there are some stipulations involved with this deduction, especially after the new tax reform law that went into action in 2018. Essentially, you can only claim a home office if it’s your primary or sole place of business. So if you work for a company and they let you split between working from the office and working from home, then you might not be able to take this deduction. But if you run your own business, or work full-time as a freelancer, then you probably can.
Consider enlisting the services of tax accountant, as they can help you figure out if you qualify and also how much you can deduct. Typically, it will depend on how big the office is in comparison to the rest of your home. So if you have an 800 sq. foot home, and your office is 80 sq. feet, you should be able to claim 10 percent of your living expenses as business expenses, and these can be deducted from your taxes. However, it’s not always this black and white, so make sure to consult a professional before signing your name to any legally binding documents, i.e. your tax returns.
Find Used Equipment
A more immediate way to save when setting up your home office is to opt for second-hand or used equipment. While it might look nice to have brand new mahogany furniture, this will set you back quite a bit, and it might be best to wait for these luxuries until you’ve had the chance to save some cash.
But this also goes for computers and A/V equipment. It’s often nice for those working from home to have a separate monitor so that you can keep track of all the tabs and programs you have open, and these can usually be found second hand for rather cheap. A quick Google search for “used” or “second-hand office equipment” will reveal countless places where you can get what you need at great prices.
And if you’re in need of a new computer, ask yourself if you really need a brand new, $2,000 Macbook. For most of us, the answer is probably no, especially since you can find other options for much more cheaply. For example, shop around on manufacturer’s refurbished catalogues. These devices come with full manufacturer’s warranties, and they are often better buys than something brand new, as any issue they might have has already been detected and addressed.
Choose the Right Room
Working from a home office will require you to use more utilities than normal. For example, if you live in a colder climate, many of us are used to turning the heat way down during the day; it doesn’t make sense to heat an empty house. But when working from home, this might change. You may need to run heat or A/C all day, and you may start using more electricity. And while in the beginning this might not seem like a big deal, these expenses can add up quickly.
To work around this, spend some time to choose the right room in your house. Try to find a place that receives a good amount of natural light, as this will not only help reduce your need for lamps and lighting, but it can also help enhance your mood and productivity.
If you live in a warm climate, try to pick a room, though, that doesn’t get blasted by direct sunlight, as this will make it hotter and increase your need for A/C. But if you’re in a cold climate, this can help heat things up and reduce your need to turn on the furnace or baseboards. Rooms that face north tend to be a good happy medium as they will get light from outside but will not severely alter the room temperature of your office.
Opt for Free Services
There are countless services out there all claiming to help you manage your home business much better than you can on your own. And while this may be true, the expense of these services can add up quickly. So don’t discount free services. Google Drive can do everything and more than Microsoft Word, and it’s getting better every day. Trello can help you manage projects, Skype can work as a phone, and PayPal allows you to send and pay invoices for free.
Of course, there may come a time when it makes sense to pay for a service, such as when you want to make use of marketing automation or CRM software. But the key is to save elsewhere so that when you do need to incur these expenses it’s not as dramatic.
Set Your Home Office Up Today
While setting a home office up on a budget might make it look a little less glamorous, it will not affect its functionality. And by working to save wherever you can, you’re going to increase the margins on whatever you’re using the office for, boosting your income and turning you into a savvy remote worker.
About the Author: Kevin Conner is the founder of Broadband Search, a service dedicated to helping people find the right internet package for them. As an entrepreneur and a long-time home office worker, he’s always looking for ways to help others raise margins and boost productivity.