12 Tips To Set Up A Home Office On A Shoestring

This guest post is by Lloyd Burrell publisher of OfficeDeskReviews.com – which is a great place to start if you are looking for inexpensive office desk furniture . Make sure you pay a visit to his site and pick up your copy of his free report on How to Avoid the Five Most Common Mistakes Made When buying an Office Desk Online. You can connect with him on Twitter @officedeskinfo.

Whether you’re just getting started on a home office layout, or are in need of a little refreshing of your space, being a frugal dad on a budget doesn’t have to mean that you have an inefficient or uninspiring home office. A productive environment is essential for success. If you’ve ever spent half an hour looking for one single piece of paper, then you know what I mean! Paper trails can be important, so keep everything nicely organized and filed away.

You have to create a plan for your home office, and stick to the budget. There’s no need to compromise on either luxury or quality either. Be smart when you shop for goods and then you’ll have the comfortable feeling of spending enough, yet have left over funds that can provide a nice little cushion. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t find the right computer, equipment, office desk, chair, and other office furnishings all within budget.

1. Get out a tape measure and plot out your space.

You might have been congratulating yourself on having found a really cheap office desk, but if you are unable to get it down a set of stairs, up a set of stairs, or it’s sticking out from a niche which is just too small to take it, then it’s money down the drain.

2. Get back to the basics in your thinking.

Grab your essentials and go from there. Make a priority list for all purchases and defer, even for a little while, the non-essentials. Your basic home office is your desk, chair, shelves, computer, and printer.

3. Be your own handyman.

What you can do yourself, will save you a lot of money. If it involves electrical, it’s best to call in a professional. If you’re a licensed electrician, you’ll save a lot of money! Often, stores will assemble furniture for you, so just ask.

4. Pick it up yourself.

If you have a big enough vehicle you could take furniture home yourself. If not, then strike a bargain with the store and you’ll either be able to get it delivered free, or at a deep discount. You can make this a part of your purchasing process. If they don’t want to sell the item, then walk away.

5. Check the Internet for bargains.

You can buy second hand pieces at retail, but you can also save money buying new furniture from the WWW. Discount office desks can be found without too much trouble on-line and most Internet-based reputable companies will give you free delivery as well as hassle free returns. If they don’t, buy it somewhere else!

6. Do your décor yourself.

Put up a few paintings that you like and be sure and get at least one live plant. Check out your light situation first, because all plants need some kind of light to grow, unless they’re fungus. Of course, you may love mushrooms!

7. Put up do-it-yourself shelving.

A lot of shelves and shelving units come in do-it-yourself kits. This means that all the screws, latches, and other things are in one handy place. Just be sure you don’t throw it into the garbage can by mistake. Dedicate an afternoon to assembling, dusting off, and placing your home office furniture.

8. Browse flea markets and garage sales.

You might be very surprised at what you can find in the way of office furniture and shelving. A few licks of paint, and it’ll be as good as new!

9. Barter or trade.

You could do this with neighbours, by looking online, or checking out stuff for sale at the library or at the local shop.

10. Accessories need coordination.

There is a difference between an eclectic décor and a junkie one. Make your home office space as inviting and comfortable as you can. Keep colours to two or three, or even a neutral tone with punches of colour here and there.

11. Go to auctions.

These are fun events and a way to get a good bargain in an office desk or chair. You kind of have to go with an “as is” frame of mind. Check your local newspapers and notices for time and location.

12. Shop for discounts on computer equipment.

Check out electronics stores over a period of a couple of weeks, and especially around holiday time. Often, their online prices are cheaper than in the actual store itself. Many will price match so look online first at home, print out the ad, and take it with you to the store. It’s best to buy new electronic equipment, so that you’ll know it’ll work.

Don’t forget to make a list and plot out your new office before you start. It will then be a calm, cool, and collected process, and you’ll have a little money left over in your bank account.


  1. We have used garage sales with mixed results. My wife found me an awesome desk for $10, which you can’t beat. However, when buying equipment, best to make the sellers turn it on to show it works. I spent $10 on a beautiful monitor only to find out it didn’t work with my other equipment. Still, it wasn’t a huge loss and the desk was a huge gain!

  2. Thanks for the great post. Setting up a home office is one of the times that you really need to get the most bang for your buck. Keeping these expenses as low as possible to give you more money to market your services and expand your home business.

  3. I like my desks big, so when I was shopping around, I hated the particle board ones and the others were just too expensive. I ended up buying a rectangular dining table and two wooden file cabinets and it’s worked like a charm. It looks much nicer than particle board and it was much, much cheaper.

    Even better if you can find those things second hand.

  4. I cannot tell you how much trouble I went through finding a desk for our home office. Desks are incredibly expensive, and I didn’t want a giant, wooden executive desk. I ended up ordering ours through the internet and it worked out fabulously. But it did take hours and hours of research. I bought a credenza and shelving set to go along with it, and put it all together myself no problem.

    Measuring is so so important, you are right with that!

  5. Don’t forget to check Craigslist.com. You can always find cheap (if not free) office furniture there!

  6. Let’s not forget saving hundreds or thousands of dollars by using free and open source software such as linux.

  7. Setting up organized space at home in which you can work with minimized distractions doesn’t have to be expensive at all. The main thing is just carving out the space, making sure it’s in a less-trafficked area in the home, and ensuring that you can actually work there. The physical assets used in the workspace can certainly be purchased at a low cost. Who needs to spend money on a home office, if it won’t be seen by clients, colleagues, etc.

    I actually purchased a desk for $150, which I used for about 12 years. It was a good, functional desk that I bought at a great discount, and it lasted for quite a while. I ended up giving it away due to a move, but realize that one can buy lower-cost items that do in fact last. Additionally, there are folks like me who are looking to get rid of older furniture like that for whatever reason. As I mentioned, I gave it away, but would have taken even $10 for that table. Someone could’ve had a nice deal. I have to believe there are similar opportunities out there.

  8. I think it is important as well, to take inventory and consider ‘what’ you actually do in your office, ‘what’ you actually need to store, and the best ways to accomplish this. ‘Then’ you can start looking to buy stuff or get creative and figure out the best ways to store and use what you need. I have, in the past, bought many things at the office supply store (one of my favorite places!) only to bring it home and realize I didn’t need it or it didn’t work for my situation.

  9. Some other good ideas are finding some coworking space (in case you want to get out of the house) and finding older computers, just adding some additional RAM (could save a pretty penny)

  10. Planning is everything, you’ll save more money and have a clear idea if what you imagined will workout when finished. My wife is great at this.

  11. What is really funny .. I am 6’5″ and have a hard time finding desks. I cannot use a desk with sides on it. What I mean is 90% of all desks have stuff on the sides (cubby for the computer, file drawer, etc.) of the desk, which makes you sit 100% vertical, and cannot relax at all at your desk. I found my desk when I was in college as a Sophmore and have used it ever since. I packed it in my car every time I went back and forth to school in the early 90’s and it still works for me to this day. It was $30 at Office Depot. It was a 4’x 2’x 29″ folding table. Dark brown, 2 folding legs, and high enough for me, and fit between the doors in the back seat of my car. I even have 2 now in my den. One for computer (I have dual monitors, 6 PCs, etc) and the other one has a light, and chair, for doing school work or bills, taxes, etc. An example of this is http://www.officedepot.com/a/products/471391/Realspace-Folding-Tables-29-H-x/. I use something like this for my computers (not monitors, just the CPUs, with a KVM that runs the two monitors, keyboard and mouse on the main desk). http://www.costco.com/Browse/Product.aspx?prodid=11316732&hierPath=1892*3207*76767*&whse=BC&topnav=&Browse=&lang=en-US

    It is a cheap office and will be really efficient, and you are not confined in your space utilization.

  12. Thanks for the timely info. I’m in the process of setting up an office in some vacant basement space. Looked at the Office Depot/Max desks – too expensive. Your suggested websites are my next stop.