Have you turned your kitchen into your home office? Have you transformed your spare room into your very own workspace? Are you waiting for the perfect answer for your work-from-home situation?
Most of us have been working at home for a year now and it's more than likely that you've made some strides to transform part of your home into an office. But during your revamp you've probably run into an issue — the price.
42% of Americans are now working at home and are personally responsible for the cost of creating a workspace. When 56% of Americans have less than $5,000 in savings, and a 1/3 have $1,000 or less, how can you make a home office without blowing your emergency fund?
Whether you're only working from home temporarily or will be working remotely on a more regular basis, here are 11 tips for building a comfortable and functional space for little or no money!
Find Available Space
The first step to create a home office is identifying what free space you have in your house or apartment. You don't necessarily need a lot of space, but make sure it matches your needs. Will you be working from home with toddlers or homeschooled kids? Will your roommate or spouse also be working from home?
Depending on your space, you may need to get creative! If you don't have a spare room, have you considering repurposing a large closet, big pantry, mudroom, portion of your bedroom, or even the attic? If an open space can work for you, an alcove in the living room, nook at the end of an entryway, or space under open stairs can work.
Decide What Is Essential
When creating a home office, make a list of things you absolutely need and the things you want to have. For example, you'll certainly need a desk and chair. But, will you need a bookcase, a filing cabinet, or a printer/scanner? Do you want to have a second monitor or background decor for video calls?
When starting this project, it helps to be practical and focus on the items that you find essential. If you're running up against your budget, you can always come back to your list later.
Set a Budget
Before you start shopping, how much spending can your budget handle? If you've got credit card debt, are still catching up on past bills, or don't want to dip into your savings, make it a no-spend project. If you do have a little bit of stimulus money left or can repurpose money typically used for commuting, determine how much you can afford for this project.
Before furnishing the space with furniture, start with a clean slate. There are several things you can do on your own instead of hiring an expensive contractor. You don't need to install in-ceiling lighting when floor and desk lamps go a long way to brighten a space.
Whether's it is removing old wallpaper, painting drab basement wood panels, or brightening a space with a can of white paint, a little bit of effort and a small amount of money can go a long way.
Repurpose What You Already Have
Office furniture can be expensive. So, before rushing to the store to buy new furniture, look at what you've got at home and see what can be repurposed for your home office. When thinking about a desk, do you have an old table lying around?
It doesn't have to be pretty, and a tablecloth will go a long way to hide the blemishes. Office chairs can be expensive. While it needs to be comfortable enough to use for hours, can a kitchen, dining room, or living room chair work?
Keep Ergonomics in Mind
If you’re trying to set up a home office on a budget, make sure to get the ergonomics right to prevent expensive and painful neck and back issues.
“Comfort is key when setting up your personal workspace, especially if you plan to spend long hours in front of a computer. Reusing boxes or books to get your monitor at eye level or raising it even higher for a standing workstation is cheap and effective at helping to prevent neck and back pain,” says Dr. Peter J. Scordilis, a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician at Scordilis Family Chiropractic. “If you’re repurposing a dining room chair, make sure your feet are on the floor and your knees are at 90 degrees to reduce stress on your back. Also, check that your elbows are at 90 degrees when your hands are resting on your mouse or keyboard to keep the stress off your neck and shoulders.”
Trade With Friends or Neighbors
I bet there's a good chance you have some items at home that don't get used regularly. One smart, budget-friendly way to save money is to trade. If you have something that still has a useful life, why not swap it for something you need?
If you don't have any physical items to trade, perhaps you can barter? Do they need tech support or help setting something up? Could you offer to help them in another creative way?
When thinking about making a home office, consider second-hand items to save money. Between the freecycle movement and local town forums, it's easy to find people giving things away or selling their old furniture.
Did you know that Craigslist has a free section? There, you'll be able to connect with people in your community looking to get rid of their stuff. You might even find a company that wants to upgrade its office furniture and is giving them away instead of paying for a hauling service.
Bargain Shop for New Items
If buying used isn't your thing, you can look to companies like Ikea, Walmart, Target, or Homegoods for new office furniture. If you're looking for just the basics to get started, you can get a desk, chair, and bookcase from Ikea for $250 total.
Depending on your budget, that might leave some money leftover for decor or the all-important noise-canceling headphones.
Don't Forget to Decorate
When it comes to decorating a space, there's no question that “the sky's the limit.” You can create an inspirational space you'll be happy to work in for little to no money! You can repurpose items from other parts of your home, score freecycle decor, or buy a couple of bold items to frame your space from big box or home discount stores.
Pillows, vases, throws, rugs, books, and picture frames can make the space warm and personal. And remember, it doesn't cost anything to remove clutter and keep the space tidy.
Finance a Large Home Office Project Wisely
Since companies are canceling leases at a pace never seen before, people will be continuing to work from home. If you know you'll need a permanent space at home and have to convert your basement or attic into a proper office, pay for it wisely.
If there's no room in your budget for a home renovation project, you could use a credit card that has a 0% balance transfer for 12 or 18 months to pay for it. Keep in mind that you have to pay the balance in full within the given offer period. Otherwise, the APR goes back to the original interest rate, and you'll have a giant bill to pay off.
Rick is a Personal Finance Expert, Best Selling Author of The Financially Independent Millennial, and Co-Founder of Travel Addicts Life, a travel blog that focuses on the life of a traveler.