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Many of us found ourselves unexpectedly having to work from home this year. If you're like most people, you probably ended up piecing together a workspace, using a cramped room or makeshift furniture and equipment. With no clear end in sight, and some companies planning to be permanently work-from-home even after the pandemic, you may be thinking of an upgrade for comfort's sake.
If you don't have spare cash set aside, coming up with money for remodeling, office equipment and furniture can put a burden on your budget. To help you set up a functional home office, we've gathered a few recommendations for how to cover your necessary purchases, including options for financing.
What Do You Need in a Home Office?
Before you start planning out your home office, you'll need to get a realistic idea of how much your dream setup will cost. Prices can vary greatly depending on tastes and quality, but here's a general idea of what you can expect to pay for the main equipment and essentials you may need:
- Office Desk: You can find a basic work desk, with or without drawers for storage, starting at around $200. A high-quality standing desk could cost you anywhere from $500 to $800.
- Work Chair: Since you'll likely be sitting in it for hours at a time, shelling out for a high-quality chair can really make a difference. While a basic task chair can be had for $50 or less, an ergonomic office chair with adjustable features could cost around $200 to $300. If you're game for it, top-of-the-line Herman Miller office chairs can go for more than $1,000. For this price, however, you'll get a supremely comfortable and adjustable chair with a long-lasting warranty.
- Computer: A desktop or portable laptop that's powerful enough for work doesn't have to break the bank. You'll likely need to spend a minimum of $400 to $700, depending on what's available when you shop. Before you buy one, make sure you understand what's necessary for your job, and if you're limited to a specific operating system for the software you need to use. If you're focused on minimizing costs, you could consider buying a refurbished or open-box laptop from Best Buy or another retailer.
- Monitor(s): Setting up one or two monitors may take up a lot of space, but extra screens can ease tedious work, such as comparing data or reading detailed text. If you're on a budget, you can likely find a monitor that's perfect for home-office use for around $150. This is another arena where the sky's the limit, though. If you're so inclined, a curved ultrawide screen with all the bells and whistles could cost more than $1,000.
Depending on your setup and the nature of your work, you may also add some additional equipment to your shopping list: headphones, a printer, webcam, laptop stand, and a new (wireless, maybe) keyboard and mouse. All of this could add up to a couple hundred dollars depending on what you buy.
For anyone required to participate in regular video conferencing or give presentations, you may also want to add aesthetic purchases to your list, like office decor to place in your background. You could also add a ring light or even a pop-up green screen to your shopping list.
How to Budget for Your Home Office
You may be tempted to drain your emergency savings or splurge on purchases for your home office. But instead of making a move that could harm your finances, consider the following options for covering furniture and equipment costs first:
- Ask your employer about reimbursement. Your employer may offer allowances for items that are necessary to your work or help increase your productivity. Consider asking if office equipment, such as an office chair or a monitor, could be provided for free. You could also ask about getting your purchase reimbursed, just be sure you understand reimbursement requirements before making a major purchase.
- Ask for a gift. If a holiday or birthday is around the corner, you could ask for home office items as gifts. From a wireless mouse and keyboard set to an ergonomic office chair, consider putting an item on your wishlist if it'll make your workday go more smoothly.
- Try a payment plan. A payment plan can allow you to buy your equipment now and spread out your repayment over time. For interest-free payments spread out over four installments, try Klarna, a company that offers a plan with zero interest and zero fees, as long as you make all of your payments on time. Affirm also offers payment plans, with an option to choose your repayment schedule, but look out for their rates which can range up to 30% APR. Just know that services like this may perform a hard inquiry on your credit, which can affect your credit scores. It can also hurt your credit if you miss payments and default on the plan.
- Use a credit card. Credit cards aren't always the ideal way to finance a purchase since they tend to carry high interest rates if you don't pay off the purchase right away. Plus, unpaid credit balances can affect your credit scores. If plastic is your only option, make a plan to pay off the balance as soon as possible. You could also consider applying for a 0% introductory APR credit card and budgeting to pay off the balance before interest charges kick in. Consider using Experian CreditMatch™ to find the credit card that's right for you.
- Take out a small loan. You also might apply for a small loan through a credit union or online lender. You might be out of luck, however, if you only need to borrow a few hundred dollars, as many lenders have a minimum loan size of $1,000 or more. Generally, taking out a loan smaller than that shouldn't be your first option, as you're likely to pay a relatively high interest rate.
Saving Money on Your Home Office
It can be hard to swallow the idea of investing in a home office, especially if you don't enjoy remote work or you're uncertain how much longer you'll be working from home.
If you're deciding what to buy and where to cut corners, think about the equipment that's really crucial to your job. Going without certain furniture or technology is not worth the savings if it makes it harder for you to do your job. If you can, avoid putting your employment in jeopardy for minimal savings.
Instead of letting your work suffer, try shopping around for the best budget recommendations, be sure to make a plan for repaying anything you finance, and consider selling your new equipment once you return to the office.