With more individuals running their own businesses or telecommuting, the home office has become indispensable. Applying your existing frugality skills to home office creation and maintenance allows you to work from home without breaking the bank.
Not sure how to run a frugal home office? Try these suggestions.
Okay, ideally you run a paperless office, only reserving your printer for really important documents. If so, congratulations! You should be writing this article instead of me, and I salute you.
Like many people, however, I find I can’t quite give up paper. Working with a small, refurbished monitor, I have limited screen space. Print outs mean I’m not constantly rearranging my screen so I can read five documents at once.
If you do print, at least reuse paper. I have a pile of old printouts by my desk, for taking notes and folding. You can also reuse paper in the printer, printing on the clear side.
My kids use scrap paper for homework, and I grab sheets to make grocery lists. Just be sure sensitive documents don’t get used by accident. When I was writing on people’s experiences at inpatient alcohol rehabs some very personal stories crossed my desk. I made sure those hit the shredder — not the scrap pile.
Set Your Printer to B&W
Printing in color costs almost four times the amount of black and white printing. Set your printer’s default setting to black and white, so you have to manually select color printing. Your ink cartridges will last much longer, and you’ll save money.
Use Free Online Backups
Dropbox, Google and other online services offer free cloud storage. Take advantage of these features. Google Drive only offers 15 GB of free space, but you can pack plenty of documents into 15 GBs. If your hard drive crashes, free cloud storage prevents data loss.
Online trading posts like Craigslist routinely offer secondhand bookcases, filing cabinets and office furniture at a fraction of their retail price. I found most of my office equipment in this way.
I do have one hard rule for trading post purchases — no electronics. A frugal shopper can quickly evaluate the condition of an office desk. Evaluating the state of a laptop or CPU is much more difficult.
For electronics, I stick to refurbished items sold from reputable stores. Prices are reasonable, and most stores include 90-day warranty on refurbished devices.
Remember as well computers and laptops are modular devices. If your hard drive dies, you don’t need to replace the entire computer. Buy a refurbished hard drive and learn how to swap it into your device.
Use Open Source Software
With a variety of free, online alternatives now available, you don’t need to spend money on Windows Office. Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) is the best known free cloud-based office suite, but there are others out there. The only problem, of course, is you have to be online to access the service.