7 Pitfalls That Can Bloat a Home Office Budget

by Chris Birk on 20 April 2011 1 comment
Photo: schrierc

Working from home.

It's an almost magical phrase that inspires jealousy among the cubicled masses who trudge into an office park five days a week. But the grass can certainly be greener when it comes to operating a business or doing the bulk of your work from your home.

Distractions abound. So do hidden expenses.

For a startup company, a sole practitioner, or a freelance specialist, a dedicated home office is often the most economical option when it comes to carving out work space. However, it may be trickier than you think to budget for your awesome corner office next to the laundry room.

Consumers may be tempted to outfit their sparkling new home offices with new furniture and hardware, but that’s a surefire way to quickly blow through a budget. Here's a look at seven pitfalls that can ensnare the home-office builder. (See also: Setting Up a Home Office on the Cheap)

1. Failing to Draw a Floor Plan

Sketch one that’s to scale so you have a realistic idea of what will and will not fit in your workspace. You’ll save money by not buying excess furniture or decor that would otherwise bog down your space. Plus, if you figure out where your outlets and Internet connection are, you won’t need to do any expensive, time-consuming electrical work.

2. Dissing the DIY

Try consolidating space by making your own desk. A traditional DIY desk uses two filing cabinets that keep a door or wood slab level. To add some class, varnish the door. If your office space looks too white and boring, jazz it up by painting the walls yourself or framing photos by you or friends. Better yet, build a stand-up desk, which saves you the cost of a chair and is actually better for your health.

3. Buying New

Buying new furniture wastes loads of money. Check your local Goodwill stores or Craigslist for office chairs, coffee tables, and desks. The market for these furnishings is quite saturated, so there’s no reason to buy new ones. You might even find gently used printers, wireless Internet routers, and computer monitors.

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4. Skipping the Sales

Office supply stores have predictably timed sales, especially when school starts. Also keep on the lookout for clearance items and promising yard sales. Plenty of pens, notepads, and printer paper can be found in sale bins. Think about buying bulk, too. You might be able to get more bang for your buck.

5. Ignoring In-House Inventory

Dig around in your basement or attic for any art, throw rugs, furniture, or supplies that can still be put to use. Don’t bother upgrading your computer or other hardware as long as it works efficiently. Resist the temptation to splurge. It's easy to make a list of what you want when you don’t actually need that much. Take serious stock of what you need and base your first purchases off of that list.

6. Forgetting You're Still at Home

Carving out some truly separate space is paramount. Not doing so may result in several distractions. Devote one room or space as your office to cut down on nuisances and save time. After all, time is valuable, and you’ll need to make sure that you work as if you’re on an office schedule. Creating a work-life barrier can be difficult when it all happens in the same general area.

7. Missing Out on the Tax Benefits

Consumers can claim direct and indirect expenses using the home office tax deduction. Direct expenses are things like repairs or maintenance that are localized to the business space in your home. Indirect expenses, like utility bills or homeowners' insurance, can be deducted based on how much of your total square footage is considered office space.

 

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Meg Favreau's picture

The work-life barrier is definitely key if you can manage it. My first home office was in the bedroom I shared with my boyfriend at the time, and we kept different work schedules.

Does anybody have other pitfalls to warn about or home-office mistakes they made?