As someone who works from a home office, I am happy to have her suggestions.
Another note: this post contains referral links. Please see my disclosure policy for more details.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 24 percent of employed Americans worked from home some or all of the time in 2010. Such tools as cloud storage, video conferencing and online collaboration have made telecommuting more convenient than ever.
While working from home has its perks, it also has its share of expenses. Whether you run your own business or are employed from home by another firm, consider these tips for saving on home office costs.Dedicate Space for Business
Working from home can result in great tax deductions as long as you know the rules. For instance, if your home office doubles as a guest room for weekend visitors, you can’t deduct the space for business. For more insight into what you can claim for your home office, refer to this helpful tip sheet from the IRS.
Reduce Energy Use
Many people leave their computers, printers and scanners running all day and night. These electronics are known as energy vampires because they suck power even when not in use. In fact, Consumer Reports indicates that you can shave 10 percent off your electric bill by powering down this equipment at night. Use a power strip to make this task easier.
Eliminate the Monthly Phone Bill
If you’re still paying gobs of money for your pricey landline, switch it out for an Internet phone service like Ooma. You pay $150 for an adapter and monthly taxes and fees thereafter based on your location (less than $5 per month in most cases). Otherwise nationwide calling is free, and the basic home service includes voicemail, caller ID and call-waiting. You should also consider Skype for free video conferencing and instant messaging.
Buy Remanufactured Ink
Replacing ink cartridges isn’t just bad for your wallet, it’s bad for our planet. Buy remanufactured ink to save money and compare prices on InkjetWilly.com to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Better yet, do what you can to keep things digital and reduce paper clutter, like saving important files to PDF or storing your work “in the cloud” via Google Drive.
Join Reward Programs
Office supply stores like Staples and Office Depot offer free reward programs that provide you with coupons and special offers. You earn points with each purchase you make so getting discounts is fairly easy to accomplish. To get the most bang for your buck, pick one store to do most of your shopping so you can earn those points faster. Julie’s note: This is an excellent suggestion. And you can add to your savings by going through Mr. Rebates to make your purchases. For instance, Mr. Rebates offers 2% cash back at Office Depot and Staples and 1% cash back at Office Max. These stores also offer free shipping on minimum purchase orders, ranging from $20 – $50, depending on the store. All this equals convenience + savings.)
Shop Consignment Stores
When furnishing your home office, buying used desks, shelving units and filing cabinets will save you a bundle of money. Craigslist, thrift shops and antique stores are great places to office essentials for a great deal. Remember, a fresh coat of paint or even new knobs can make an old piece of furniture look new again. You may even take your chance of looking on Freecycle.org where many local residents are unloading their goods for free to fellow community members.
Check Designer Discount Stores
I recently picked up a vintage desktop file organizer from Marshalls that looks identical to the one I wanted from Pottery Barn. And get this, I paid half of what the name-brand store was charging! Stores like Marshalls, TJMaxx, Homegoods and Ross are great places to find file organizers, pin boards, chalk or white erase boards, shelves, frames and other office supplies at 50 to 75-percent less.
Buy Paper in Bulk
Buying in large quantities typically saves you money on a per-unit basis. Paper is one of those items you don’t want to run out of before a big presentation or when your child’s book report is due. In addition to checking prices at your local office supply store, check warehouse club stores for deals or shop Amazon and other online retailers.
Get Free Software
Protect your computer with AVG free anti-virus software and add the free PDF maker from CutePDF to your computer. I also stock up on promotional notepads and pens offered by hotels. These materials in handy for jotting down quick notes and best of all, they don’t cost a thing!
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who shares smart spending tips and personal finance advice to help transform everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. As a sought after media source, Andrea frequently contributes to news stories on various consumer topics and has been featured on Good Morning America, NBC Today, Dr. OZ, CNN, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, Better Homes & Garden and many more.
Andrea is also a dedicated smart money blogger with stories published on popular lifestyle and personal finance sites like AOL Daily Finance and CNN Schools of Thought, plus writes for the New York Daily News Dollar Stretcher as well. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.com/AndreaWoroch for daily money tips.
This post is part of Fabulously Frugal Thursday.