Budget Hacks for the Home Office and Small Businesses

by Julie on May 2, 2013 · 8 comments

blueshirt final bright The following is a guest post from Andrea Woroch. You can read more about Andrea in her bio at the end of the post.

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. You also might want to consider contacting your internet provider like Verizon or Megapath and see if they can increase your internet speed and you can put some of your phone savings money to good use by insuring your call quality is top notch.

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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebekah May 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

Great ideas! Just a little FYI – Staples accepts competitor coupons. I used a $20 off $100 purchase coupon from Office Max at Staples the other day. Also, Staples sends out great coupons via email. I bought a box of Staples Multi-purpose paper for $4.99 after rebate.


Andrea May 2, 2013 at 4:44 pm

That’s such a great point and thanks for calling it out. I love the store brand supplies too–such great value!


Julie May 3, 2013 at 8:05 am

Those are great tips, Rebekah. Thanks!


KC @ genxfinance May 9, 2013 at 8:20 am

These are nice tips. We are trying to reduce the utility bills at home and these are good suggestions to save money..


jeff @ Money and Potatoes.com May 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm

i always shop consignment and thrift stores as my first option when buying furniture or clothing. I was very proud of a recent trip to the Goodwill store where I was able to buy 5 pairs of high quality jeans for my kids who are 13 and 9 for only $20.00.


Barb @ A Life in Balance May 22, 2013 at 9:24 am

Great tips! Staples recently changed their rewards program to include everything which is so helpful!

I’ve been looking for a PDF maker; I’ll check out the one you recommended.

Thanks for linking up at Fabulously Frugal Thursday!


Amanda September 28, 2013 at 1:54 am

I agree with you so much on letting that landline go. That’s one thing that helped me save money a lot. I just invest on a strong internet connection so I can get to use Skype (for clients) and Google talk for friends.

Good thing there’s facebook and twitter for everything else. I’m not using my mobile phone that much as well so that helps me save a lot on phone bills. :)


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