Definitely not the lowest priced item on your needs list, but it doesn’t have to be the most expensive, either. Keep rule one of office design in mind, and buy the computer you need rather than the expensive model the salesperson wants you to buy. You can get a good laptop or desktop PC with all the power and features necessary to run business applications for under $500 online or at any chain store that sells electronic equipment.
A decent android tablet can be had at a reasonable price. The better equipped (and much more expensive) units such as the iPad or the Microsoft Surface can run the Microsoft Office Suite.
If you spend all day in front of a computer, don’t skimp on the monitor – your eyes will thank you. Get a quality 24″ or larger unit. If you have a laptop or Microsoft Surface (buy from Amazon) for mobile use you can plug it into the larger monitor when in your office. If you save documents locally make sure you have a backup system in place – either to cloud storage or to an external disk or usb flash drive.
How to Save Money – Know the features and configuration you want and shop around. Stores often have sales. You may also find the computer or mobile device you’re looking for at a cheaper price online.
5) Computer Software
With the growth of cloud applications it is no longer necessary to spend hundreds of dollars on an office suite that needs to be upgraded every few years; instead you can pay a yearly subscription fee.
Google Apps for Work, Microsoft Office 365, and Zoho Office are examples of such. Online storage (with various levels of pricing depending on the space required) is included with each suite.
How to Save Money – There are some free or nearly free office suites available, but these tend to have fewer features and integrate poorly with mainstream ones.
6) Multifunction Printer
Multifunction printers (combining printer, scanner, copier and fax machine in one) are a great way to save money and space in your small or home office design. If you plan to do a lot of printing or copying see my primer article on printer technologies and printers, Before You Buy a Multifunction Printer. A “cheap” printer may cost you more in ink/toner costs in the long run.
How to Save Money – Decide what features you want, and look for the multifunction printer that does exactly what you want it to do. Why pay for a multifunction printer with a built-in fax when you rarely fax anything, for example? Watch for sales; new models come out regularly and older models are sometimes heavily discounted.
7) Printer/Multifunction Device Stand
Incorporating a printer stand (buy from Amazon) in your office design gets your printer/multifunction device off your desk, creating more usable desk space, and gives you some extra storage space. Inexpensive printer stands of the standard design with non-enclosed shelves are available from office supply chain stores for less than $50. (Fancier versions with enclosed shelves and/or drawers cost more.)
How to Save Money – It doesn’t have to be called a printer stand to be a printer stand. You could use a microwave cart, an end table or just about any drawer unit that’s the right height. Measure to get the dimensions you need for your printer and your office design and then take your creative eye to garage sales and surplus stores.
8) Desk Storage
Assuming you’ve taken my advice and not bought one of those puny computer workstation desks, you’ll need some type of desktop storage unit. I like open shelves because they make it easy to find things visually. Retail chain stores such as Staples and Ikea offer all kinds of small shelving units at reasonable prices.
How to Save Money – Go for the cube. Look for storage cubes in the department store chain retailers. They’re often in the kitchen storage section. You can get a set of four plastic storage cubes that stack and interlock for less than $20.
9) Desk Accessories
Little things matter when you’re trying to stay organized and get a job done. Two desk accessories that you’ll have to have are desk trays to keep your paperwork sorted and some sort of container for your pens and/or pencils. Office supply stores and department stores offer all kinds of desk trays. I prefer plastic, interlocking stackable ones, which are inexpensive.
How to Save Money – An (empty) coffee can or old mug works great as a pen/pencil cup.
If you intend to use a desktop phone, plan for space for it on your desk in your office design. I recommend getting a speaker phone, as the hands-free option is a real boon to productivity. You can get a good speaker phone for less than $100.
How to Save Money – Look for open box, floor models and/or repaired speaker phones at phone retailers, which are often discounted, although there’s nothing wrong with them. Or, of course, go with the traditional non-speaker phone, choosing one without extra bells and whistles.
And That’s It…
Stop here. Everything else you may be tempted to buy for your office design is not actually necessary to create a workable, comfortable small or home office. That doesn’t mean that you should never buy it; just that you need to pause and think of your office design and your budget before you do.
You won’t end up with the kind of office that impresses visitors with its opulence if you stick to the rules and the list of necessary office furniture and equipment above, but you will end up with the kind of office that you can work in comfortably, and that’s what good office design, budget or otherwise, is all about.