The classic home office revolves around a computer. A desktop computer will give you plenty of storage and, typically, a larger visual display than a laptop. With a desktop, you’ll also need to budget for a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. And while a laptop computer has the versatility to take it out of your office, desktops typically offer more data storage, more processing power, and more memory at half the cost of a laptop.
Identify your needs: If you’re a graphic designer, you’ll need a powerful computer with a high-end Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). If you’re a coder, you can get away with a cheap graphics card, but you’ll probably want more memory. If your work is primarily online, you don’t have to worry about hard drive storage space. And if you travel for business, a laptop—or a bare-bones desktop in addition to a basic laptop—will enable you to work on the road.
If you aren’t a computer person yourself, ask a techie friend to help you find the right machine and get rid of any pre-installed bloatware so that your new computer will perform efficiently.
Typical office tasks include printing documents, making copies, scanning, and sending faxes. Thanks to today’s technology, you can save money and space by purchasing one piece of equipment that performs all of these functions.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to periodically refill the toner, so buying a popular brand can make it easier to find replacement cartridges. Be sure to save any warranty information and receipts in case you get into a jam.
The great thing about working from home is that, if you have a laptop and a cordless phone, you can usually work from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. While it’s great to have the option to lounge on the couch in your PJs or work on your tan by the pool while you’re still on the clock, a proper home office will have a home base for your essential items.
The size of your desk will be dictated by the amount of space available as well as what you intend to keep there. And speaking of sitting down, make sure to have a comfortable chair—just not so comfortable that it puts you to sleep on the job. Proper posture during the workday will help you stay pain-free during your free time. If you’re willing to assemble the desk yourself, you can get both items for less than $400.
Phone and internet
This is a less tangible item, but a vital one for anyone who telecommutes or works online. If you work for a company, check whether it will cover all or part of your monthly bill. If you work for yourself, you can probably use your home internet service, but you may want a separate phone line for business calls. To save more in the long run, ask your accountant about itemizing these expenses in your taxes.
Don’t forget about physical items like the phone itself (a handset or cellphone) and a wireless router. You may already have them, so just find a convenient place for them in your new office. Make sure you have a strong internet connection and that the phone has a place to charge where you can reach it from the desk. If necessary, call your local ISP or phone company to schedule your service activation. Keep in mind that it may be a few days before service begins, so don’t wait until Monday morning to find your internet service provider.
While rates vary drastically depending on your area and the kind of service you want, plan to spend at least a hundred getting your communications activated—unless you have a job that will pay for that, too!
In this digital age, you may not need all the supplies that were once, well, staples of business. Consider items like staplers, pens and pencils, legal pads, a three-hole punch, envelopes, stamps, binders, sticky notes, and tape. Depending on the nature of your work, you may or may not need any of these.
Before you shop, make a list of the activities you’d do in a week. If you’re a visual person who does a lot of scheduling, a desk calendar or day planner might be helpful. If all of your work is done through email, though, you probably don’t need that box of 200 ballpoint pens. Limit yourself to a few essentials and one or two mini-splurge items (Gel pens? Colored sticky notes? A framed family photo?) to keep work fun without cluttering up your space.
When you start working from home, you probably won’t miss rush-hour traffic, but you may miss that free coffee most offices offer in the breakroom. To add the finishing touch to your home office, plan to work your own daily java into the budget. A single-cup brewing system makes preparation easier and cleanup a breeze. Stock up on a few of your favorite flavors (hazelnut mocha, anyone?) and you can start every morning—or afternoon—in your office with a delicious pick-me-up.
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