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Setting Up Your Home Office on a Shoestring Budget

When you’re just starting a home business, you may not have the funds to spend on a fancy home office, but you need a place to keep your business “stuff” together so it doesn’t end up covered in Cheerios, juice or paste and glitter.  Good news!  You can get setup with the basics you need without spending a fortune.

The first step is to figure out what you really need.  Start with an inventory.  For example, if you’re running a business online, here are some things you may need:

  • Office Space
  • Computer
  • Printer
  • Software
  • Desk
  • Desk Chair
  • Internet Connection
  • Telephone
  • Fax Access
  • Business Cards
  • Office Supplies
  • Decor

If you’re running a local business or one that requires creating and delivering a product, your workspace needs will vary a bit, but start with the same step of brainstorming exactly what you need.

The second step is to go through your list one item at a time to figure out if you already have something that will work or if you need to acquire it.  You can start with what you’ve got, what you can borrow from family or friends, or pick up second hand, to keep your investments low as you start your business.

Office Space: It doesn’t necessarily require a dedicated room.  A corner of a room can work if that’s what you’ve got.  Just think smaller.  Instead of a full size file cabinet use a small plastic file box.  Instead of a big executive desk, use a corner desk.  If you need to get away to focus, consider the library or a near by coffee shop for a temporary office.

Computer: Even if your computer is a dinosaur, if it works, you can start with it.  Upgrade as your business takes off.  If you don’t have your own computer yet, check with family and friends to see if anyone has one they aren’t using you can borrow or purchase inexpensively.

Printer: If you don’t have a printer, check with family and friends on this one, too.  If you can’t find one cheap, just use the local FedEx/Kinkos or similar when you’ve got to print and pick up a printer for home later.

Software: Go open source!  You can get setup with great software without spending a penny.  Check out or  You can find free office software like Open Office, graphics programs like Gimp, and many other options.

Desk & Desk Chair: It does make working easier if you have a proper desk and desk chair.  So even if you’re starting from the kitchen table, just keep your eyes open for friends or family who are getting rid of a desk or watch the thrift stores, garage sales, and Craigslist.

Phone: Do you really need a dedicated line?  Consider a prepaid cellular phone or Skype as a possible lower cost alternative.

Fax: You can use an online service like eFax instead of purchasing a fax machine.  Or, depending on what you’re faxing, you can have things faxed to an office supply store (many offer fax, copies, print services, etc).

Internet Access: If you don’t already have internet access you may be able to work from a coffee shop or library.  Check with your phone, cellular or cable company to find out what special bundle deals you may be eligible for.

Printed Business Supplies: For business cards, stationary, and related supplies try VistaPrint, Overnight Prints, and other online services, as well as local print shops, to see what each would cost. You might also be able to barter with a local print shop to exchange your services for theirs.

Office Supplies: You can probably come up with the office supplies you need with a quick scavenger hunt around your home including pens, pencils and note paper.

Decor: This might seem like a silly or frivolous item to include on a list when you’re setting up your home office on a shoestring budget, but what you surround yourself with can help contribute to a positive mood and your success.  Pick up inexpensive frames at the thrift store, then fill them with your own photography, artwork by your children, recycled postcards or calendar pages, inspirational quotes.  Grab a plant from elsewhere in your  home and relocate it to your office space.

As your business begins bringing in a steady income you can upgrade your home office.  All you’ve got to do for now is get something that will work while you get your new business started.  So, get to work on your list of needs and in no time you’ll be creating a space you love to work in.

And now, let me give you access to some great free resources for small businesses including 101 Free/Cheap Ways to Market Your Business and more at

Michelle Shaeffer has been a work at home mom for more than 10 years and loves to share the tips and strategies she's learned to help other entrepreneurs and small business owners.

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