Set up a Budget Home Office

Be Creative and Frugal for the Best Results

Businesswoman working at home in an office.

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With so many people working from home these days, a home office has become an essential space in many homes. The guest room may be replaced by a work-at-home spot, and all the elements must contribute to a productive time.

Not everyone has a big budget for outfitting a home office and few people can pay to have a professional space planner come into their home to design an efficient home office space.

There are lots of ways to create a good space for working at home without spending a fortune. Read these ideas, and you can go from there. You may end up feeling a great sense of accomplishment after turning some wasted space into an efficient stay-at-home office.

  • Define Your Space. If you're lucky enough to have a separate room for your home office, the task won't be so hard. The key to a good home office is to make use of whatever space you have, whether it's a stair landing, a small closet, a spare room, or an unused corner of the living room. For greatest efficiency, find a space that can be dedicated to a home office area. You'll be able to work more professionally if you don't have to move papers off your desk to change diapers.
  • Create a Plan. It might be tempting to just move the pieces around until the space works. But if you spend some time measuring your space, creating a floor plan (small as it might be), measuring your furniture, and thinking it through, the final result will be much more satisfactory.
  • What Can You Do Yourself? Whatever work you can do yourself will save you money. Your home office space is probably not going to be too big, so consider painting the walls yourself. Adding a fresh, lively color or a sedate, calming color will set the tone for your workspace. And if you're not a pro at painting, never fear. Most of the space will be covered up with furniture anyway. If you're feeling creative, stencil a border around the desk. Or wallpaper one wall to define the space.
  • What Do You Already Have? Can you move furniture or accessories from one part of the house to your new home office? If you don't have to buy some pieces, you'll save a lot. Is there a comfortable chair in the guest room? Do you have some pictures tucked away in a closet that would be inspiring and decorative on the walls of your workspace? Look around to see what you can use in your new home office.
  • Build a Desk. If you have a large landing between the first and second floors, you can place filing cabinets on each side of the space and put a board across them. Voilà! Instant desk. You can spend some time staining the board, putting molding on the edge, and painting the file cabinets a color close to the stained board. But the space is filled and holds everything you need it to.
  • What Else Can You Make? Think of other ways you can use inexpensive materials to create shelves, filing systems, and in-and-out boxes. Use a decorative flowerpot to hold pencils and scissors. Buy several multi-level shoe shelves to put on top of the desk to hold a printer, some paper, or books.

As you plan your home office space, think of all the ways you can save money. There will be plenty of ways to spend it!

  • Shop Around for Bargains. You'd be amazed by what you can find at garage sales, flea markets, consignment shops, and thrift stores. It seems that people are always getting rid of bookshelves and desks, and you might find just what you need. Clean off the pieces, sand them down, and paint all of the items the same color. It will look as though you bought them to match. If you don't want any hand-me-downs, keep your eye open for furniture sales or check web sources.
  • Be Willing to Take Used Furniture. Visit professional offices to see if they are renovating. Quality hotels redecorate guest rooms every four or five years. Maybe you could buy a used desk or chair there. Does your own company have any extra furniture that's not being used, since people are working at home? Ask neighbors to let you know if they're getting rid of things. Also, look for a used furniture store or a furniture rental store. They often have pieces they're willing to sell. Be ready to do some fixing when you take the pieces home. Check to see if your community has a store that sells used office furniture exclusively. When you go shopping for furniture, be sure to take your measurements with you. It would be a shame to get a great price on a great desk, only to find that it doesn't fit in your space.
  • Buy New at Bargain Prices. Discount stores, home centers, furniture outlets, lighting showrooms, and home decorating centers offer an amazing assortment of items at deeply discounted prices. You might be surprised to find a beautiful desk next to factory-second towels. And everything is at prices you'll love.
  • Swap With Friends. Consider trading pieces of furniture with a friend. If you have a dining table that doesn't fit in your home, how about trading it for a desk that you need? Or do you have children's furniture that a neighbor can use in exchange for bookshelves? Consider swapping services for furniture, too. Offer your decorating skills in exchange for a chair. Or make some curtains for a neighbor who could build you a desk. Everyone has something of value that they can offer.
  • Get Ideas Online. Find other ideas for do-it-yourself office makeovers, such as those offered on HGTV. See our sources for home office ideas or office furniture.

If you're working full-time at home, be sure to include adequate lighting, music, and comfortable seating. Bring in plants and inspiring artwork. After all, you might be spending a lot of time in this new home office. It should be a comfortable space that you enjoy spending time in.