How to Furnish Your Home Office on a Budget

on July 11, 2012 in Finance, Working From Home
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When we work from home as freelancers, sometimes we don't have much control over our work environment. For example, some writers work from their kitchen tables. A benefit of working in a pre-established area of the home is that you don't have to worry about furnishing a separate office space. But what if you do have a freelance office, but not a huge budget to furnish it?

No matter how big your home office is or how it's laid out, there are plenty of ways to furnish it on a budget. My own office was furnished this way over the years, and I find the setup extremely comfortable. Based on my own experiences, I'd like to share a few tips on how you can do the same.

Here are some great ways to furnish your home office on a budget.

Buy at the Right Times

home office desk

This cheap old desk bought at a back to school sale as served me well for years.

When you have to buy something for your home office, consider whether or not it will go on sale during a particular time. For example, my desk is a simple L-desk that I purchased during a back to school sale at a big box retailer quite a few years ago. It was a steal at around $100 for the huge desk plus a hutch (which I've since discarded for more surface area on the desktop).

It's getting up there in years, and I've considered replacing it numerous times. But I love this desk and haven't been able to find one that would be a suitable replacement. So I've reinforced it after moves and I plan to keep it for a while.

Use or Reuse What You Already Have


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Along the lines of holding onto older office items rather than replacing them, consider using other things from around your home instead of spending more money. For example, let's say my desk were to break tomorrow. Rather than running out to get a new one, I could look around and see what I can repurpose around the house.

For instance, we used to have a guinea pig. And her cage would sit on a reasonably large mission table (which we didn't spend more than $30 on at the time). That table isn't being used anymore. It's just sitting in another room. So I could clean it up and drag it to my office if I needed a new workspace for a while.

You might be able to do this even if you don't have your own office. For example, maybe you can't leave a permanent workspace out all day. You could reuse a folding table that you usually only pull out for holidays or parties, and fold it back up when you've finished working. Or you can even combine things. For example, maybe you have an old filing cabinet or two. Lay an old desktop, boards, or whatever surface you have handy across two things of equal height and you not only have a desk, but built-in storage.

Seek Deals

home office chair

My home office "comfy" chair for long writing sessions. The ottoman doubles as a foot rest and storage.

In my office I have a large chair and ottoman. It's where I like to curl up and read manuscript drafts, do editing work, or settle in for long writing sessions. I was able to get it for around 65-70% off the usual price by being a deal-hunter. In this case not only did I find it at a furniture outlet, but that outlet was going out of business so there were deeper discounts than usual. I ended up with a comfortable working area that was much nicer than what I would have gotten if I spent money at a normal retailer.

Outlets are a great place to look. We're lucky in that we have a lot of them in my area. But if you don't, you can also look for deals online (like Ebay or a local classifieds site). Or you can visit flea markets, auctions, and yard sales. You never know what you'll find. It might just be the perfect thing to furnish your home office without breaking the bank.

Go Modular

home office modular storage

Some modular units in front of my windows -- drawers hide office supplies and shelves store manuscript boxes.

One of my favorite home office furnishings is the modular storage system. Instead of looking for office-specific furniture, go to the organization section of your favorite store. You can often find modular cube-based storage (I liked the Itso units at Target, but the ones I used haven't been in the stores in a while). You can "build" all sorts of furniture for your home office from these and you can have a coordinated look. Here are a few things you can make with them:

  • Bookshelves -- just stack the open cubes or get ones with a removable shelf in the middle
  • Desks -- stack two cubes on each side and put a piece of plywood or something on top for a desktop
  • Filing cabinets -- some modular sets have this option, and with others just add a file rack that you can pull out
  • Supply storage -- keep your office supplies out of site in a canvas box that slides into modular units, or get one with a door or drawers
  • Standing desks -- place a double-wide modular unit on top of your existing desk and you have a quick and easy standing desk whenever you want one (my own standing desk is one of these units on a spare small desk -- simple and effective)
  • Printer stands -- stack two cubes and you have a perfect printer stand, with storage underneath for extra ink, toner, and paper
  • Window seating -- get sturdy modular units and line them up under low windows; put a simple cushion on top for extra seating and a place to curl up and read (or write)

Get Creative With a DIY Approach

home office standing desk

My simple standing desk work station -- just a wide modular shelving unit on top of a cheap spare desk I wasn't using.

I'm a total DIY junkie. And I love finding creative solutions to problems. That's how I came up with the standing desk I mentioned above without shelling out big bucks for one (when frankly none I found fit with my office style anyway). But there are countless DIY projects you could pursue to furnish your home office on the cheap.

For example, I recently needed more shelving. Instead of spending money on a large sturdy bookcase, I instead bought some cheap boards and decorative shelf brackets (although you could save more by choosing plain ones). For around $50 I was able to paint and hang four large shelves in my office. Getting the same amount of storage in a good bookcase would have cost me around twice that much. With basic brackets and paint you already have on hand, you could do this for around $25-30 easily. The best part? You can completely customize anything you build to match your tastes or the rest of your office.

home office wall shelves

Simple DIY wall shelves can be more cost effective than buying bookcases. Plus, you preserve floor space.

These are some of the ways I've furnished my freelance office on a budget over the years (my only regret being that I didn't paint before moving everything in). And when we're ready for a more elaborate setup here I plan to do much of the work (design and building) myself. What other tips do you have for furnishing a freelance office without spending too much? Share them in the comments.

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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.

She owns 3 Beat Media - a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.

7 Comments

  1. Diana Schneidman July 11, 2012 Reply

    Oooh, Jennifer, I love the huge chair. And is that a cozy blanket on the ottoman? It almost makes me long for winter.

    I secretly long for a Lazyboy chair. Not fashionable but a comfy place to read.

    -Diana

    • Jennifer Mattern July 11, 2012 Reply

      lol Same here. Wishing for winter all the time. I work better when it’s cold, and during that time of year I bundle up in that thing. It’s actually a blanket shawl. You wrap yourself in it, a bit hangs behind you, and there are pockets for your feet. The snuggie didn’t suit me, so I tried this and fell in love with it (found it on Ebay from this seller). When I’m not using it (like all summer), it stays on the ottoman to give a bit more padding. And my cats use it like the biggest, plushest cat bed they’ve ever seen. :)

  2. Amandah July 12, 2012 Reply

    Great tips!

    I’ll pay attention to the estate and garage sales in the neighborhood. You can find some awesome pieces to refinish. Goodwill’s another great resource. Not only can you find great furniture at great prices, it’s for a good cause. Of course, if you have a carpenter in the family, you can have furniture custom made to your liking. :)

  3. Cathy Miller July 13, 2012 Reply

    Such great ideas. I love the modular idea. I’m looking for filing for my project files – pressboard folders with 2 divides and fasteners – and filing cabinets are either super expensive or ugly. :-)

    I have a sofa in my office for reading, but I like you big ol’ comfy chair much better! I took an end table and converted it into my printer stand. It’s cool because it has a shelf at the bottom where I can store the printer supplies.

    Cool ideas, Jenn.

    • Jennifer Mattern July 16, 2012 Reply

      For filing, in addition to cabinets, I like file boxes. You can find some pretty ones, so you can use them decoratively in your work space. Or they stack nicely in a closet if you prefer that. The best ones I find are usually at Target.

  4. Sherwin Ramnarine July 18, 2012 Reply

    Indeed, Ebay is your friend =)

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