How to Build a Home Office on a Budget

You shouldn’t have to drop a few grand to get a quality work station.

Woman working at her home computer, shot from behind Getty Images

It’s December 2020. You’ve been in denial about returning to the office for nine months. And while you keep promising yourself you’ll start yoga to fix the back pain your kitchen chair is causing, you, well, haven’t.

Tell yourself this now: 2021 will be different. You know you’re going to be home, but you’ve worked from the couch for long enough. It’s time to treat yourself to a comfortable chair, a sturdy desk and maybe even a light-therapy lamp to last you the winter.

If your employer doesn’t offer a home office set up or a stipend, you have to take matters into your own hands — but you shouldn’t have to drop a few grand to get a quality work station. Here are some tips on how to get a nice home office, without the price tag.

1. Find extra cash in your budget

First things first — alway make sure you have enough money in your budget before you buy anything. Going overboard and ending up with credit card debt (and the insane interest rates they’ll charge you) is not worth an ergonomic chair or electric standing desk.

If your budget is tight, try making a few tweaks to free up some money. For example, you’re likely overpaying for car insurance and could get the same coverage for cheaper elsewhere.

That being said, shopping for car insurance is a pain, which is why we like using a free website called Savvy. It helps you find the best rates — in just 30 seconds. In fact, it saves people an average of $826/year.

All you have to do is connect your current insurance, then Savvy will search hundreds of insurers for a better price on the same coverage. It’ll even help you cancel your old policy and get you a refund from your current insurer. Best yet: This is totally free.

If you find a better deal, you can switch right away and don’t have to wait for your next renewal or even your next payment.

2. Go to estate sales and thrift shops

One of the best ways to get high quality furniture, art and lighting for your office upgrade is to get them second hand (or third or forth).

Estate sales usually go above and beyond a standard yard sale, meaning you can buy a piece of art straight off of someone’s wall or snag a solid wood desk for next to nothing. A quick Google search will show you where local estate sales are happening, plus online bidding options.

Thrift stores can be hit or miss, but one tip is to seek out stores in wealthier ZIP codes. You could find higher quality items for sale for cheap just by driving a couple more miles.

3. Build your own desk

You don’t have to be a master woodworker to build a desk from scratch. There are tons of simple, yet sturdy, desk plans on the internet for free — all you have to do is buy the materials.

Here’s another hack: when you buy the wood, have the store cut it to your exact specifications before you leave (for free!). This way you don’t have to buy a saw or risk slicing off any of your appendages.

4. Snag free stuff on Facebook

Join a no-sell group on Facebook or check the free section on Craigslist. Sometimes people just need to get rid of stuff and don’t have the time or patience for a garage sale, which can work to your advantage. Look for fun art, cool lighting, and unique storage ideas to add character to your space.

Another option if you’re clearing out a dedicated space for your office is to barter. Just like in the old days, you can swap something you don’t need with someone who could use it. That’s a win-win.

5. Get crafty

Hanging a painting on your wall or placing a sculpture on your desk can give your office space a relaxing and inspirational vibe. Making that art yourself can provide you with an extra outlet for stress-relief, plus it won’t break the bank. And it’s not like you don’t have the time these days.

You don’t need to be Picasso to create something beautiful — a few swipes of paint on a canvas can give you a minimalist look while a splattering of vibrant colors could have your Zoom meeting attendees confusing you for Jackson Pollack.

This article was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.