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10 Home Office Money Saving Ideas

by Craig Ford

Sometimes after spending the day at the office we come home and spend money on our office like someone else is going to pick up the bill. However, the cost of maintaining a home office will be paid by your personal budget. As a result, cutting costs in your home office is a great idea.

In addition, if you are self employed and run your own small business every dollar you save on your business is another dollar profit.

10 Ways to Cut the Cost of Maintaining Your Home Office

1. Refill your own printer cartridges. Undoubtedly, this is a hassle. However, it can provide substantial savings. I have a laser printer and I buy a refill pack for $20. The pack lasts for three refills. The cost of one print cartridge is $80. I save $220 every three refills. Alternatively, consider buying ink cartridges from a discount store online, such as 123InkJets.com.

2. Keep a list of items you need to buy. If you have a list of items you need to purchase you can watch local office supply stores for that item on sale. In addition, you might have the time available to order the product online. If you get organized you will be able to cut costs.

3. Stock up on sales. When an item you regularly use (like paper) goes on sale purchase a larger inventory. This way you guarantee getting the sale price over an extended time period.

4. Reuse scrap paper. With this one simple action you save money and the environment. If you print up a piece of paper you don’t need, just drop it into a file for scrap paper. These papers can be used for giving the kids to play with, doodling, or they can be used as printing paper for other non-important print jobs.

5. Set your print default to print in black and white draft setting. Since color printing is 3 to 4 times more expensive than black and white there is no reason to print directions to Uncle Joe’s house using color ink. When you need the color or a higher print quality you can manually make the changes just for that one print job.

6. Buy used items. Auctions, garage sales, second hand stores, or store closings are all great places to get used furniture and products. I have two filing cabinets in my office that I paid $20 for (both). I bought them when a local store was going out of business. I used to have a desk that I bought at a garage sale. Also search places like Amazon, Half.com, or used book stores to find the best prices on books. I buy almost all my books used and the savings is substantial.

7. Make your own bookshelves. I just finished making bookshelves in my office. I’m not exactly a carpenter, but learned to build when I moved overseas. Standard items (like a bookshelf) are great construction projects for anyone with a minimal amount of building knowledge. I ended up with about three times the bookshelf space compared to the cost of buying a bookshelf.

8. Negotiate when purchasing big ticket items like computer. You don’t need to be a master negotiator. Just be aware of the current value and average sale price for an item and be sure to use this one negotiation tip – ask “Can you do any better than that?” You can also save money on your next computer by examining your needs (not wants), or buying a refurbished computer.

9. Use free computer software and programs. There is a lot of free computer software. For example, I use SpyBot and Avast for internet security – both are free. I use Evernote as a note pad – free. There are also great products like Skype that allow you to make free computer to computer calls overseas.

10. Consider a laser printer. If you do a significant amount of printing you will see a significant reduction in the ink related to printing costs. You will need to do your own math based on your current product, but you should be able to find out how many pages on average it prints per cartridge. Investigate the cost of a laser printer and the number of prints per cartridge. See if the laser printer will provide a good savings over time.


Published or updated September 26, 2011.
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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristia@Family Balance Sheet

My husband and I are small biz owners and are always looking for ways to increase our profits too. A few years ago, my husband was refilling the ink cartridges and the printer started working poorly. We think it was directly related to the re-filled cartridges. Have you had any problems with this?

We take advantage of Staples easy rebates on office products. Many times they offer promotions on items that you use every day for FREE after the rebate. The rebates are easy to process online.

Most of the filing cabinets in our office are from an office supply salvage store. They are sometimes hard to find, the one near us recently closed, but if you can find one, they have everything from paper products to filing cabinets and office furniture.

thanks for the tips.

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2 Craig

Any free programs especially skype could really help cut costs. Buying from big stores like Costco could really help when buying things like paper in bulk. With ink cartridges, there are some stores that refill it costing less than buying new ones each time.

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3 Curt

I must suggest against using free Antivirus since it violates the license agreement, instead use Microsoft’s antivirus (free). I have used Avast and Antivir but I wouldn’t use the free versions inside a business since the license agreement states for personal use only.
A great site I have stumbled upon is http://www.techsupportalert.com. I am in no way affiliated with the site but I like it because it 1) gives quick reviews 2) is all free software 3)states whether the software is “unrestricted” (can be used for companies) or not 4)gives direct links to the download location and the software’s main website.

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4 Craig

@Curt – Thanks for clarifying the license agreement for Avast. When I wrote the post I was thinking about a personal home office, but it is good to clarify for those using the home office for business. Thanks also for pointing out a great site.
@Craig – Costco – two thumbs up.
@Kristia – Great question about the ink. I’ve never actually had that problem, but I do know that ink jet refills are a lot messier and precise. I only have laser printers now and refilling those are a snap!

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5 Laura

Thanks for the great ideas…we’re in the processing of organizing our home office, so your tips will come in handy. One thing I found really nice is having some sort of bookshelf/shelving unit in the closest in the office…

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6 K @ Greenshield

Excellent savings advice, Craig. I’m sure that we can use some of this around our office, as well.

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7 Stephen

Yes, the inferior ink found in some ink refill kits can damage your printer or cause your print heads to clog, which, depending on the model of printer, you might not be able to fix.

I would still recommend either refilling your own ink carts or buying them on Ebay or something but just make sure you aren’t using it on a very expensive printer. Do research before you buy a printer to make sure it is cheap, works well, and can be easily refilled. Then if and when your printer stops printing properly you can simply get a new one because it will be much less expensive than all the money you saved on ink.

It is also a good idea to have a second printer that you keep for high quality print jobs that you use the manufacturers ink in so you know that one will always work even if your other one starts printing poorly. If you notice your printer with refill ink starts to print poorly you can try running a set of the expensive manufacturer print cartridges through it and that will sometimes clear the problem up entirely. I had that experience with my Epson printers. You can then try to go back to the refill ink if you want but you’ll probably notice that your prints start to suffer again more quickly than before. Either keep using the expensive cartridges or get a new printer.

There is also the option of a cheap but good laser printer. Toner is more expensive but you can refill your own on certain models of printers. You usually get a higher page count with toner as well and you don’t have to worry about your print heads clogging.

A full set of ink for my Epson RX500 used to cost $120 + tax at the store or from Epson. I started buying genuine Epson ink on Ebay and was able to get that final cost down to about $60 including shipping and currency conversion. I was hesitant to refill this printer because refill ink did damage my previous 2 Epson printers. I used genuine ink for a long while and also got a black and white brother laser printer so I would use less ink. Finally, I just recently broke down and bought 3rd party cartridges off Ebay from a seller for a total cost of $20-$30 for TWO sets. The first set I have in has been working well so far. The printer is old enough now that I don’t mind replacing it if it breaks.

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8 Richard

I’d also recommend a utility I’ve used for a while, FinePrint. It allows you to print anything as multiple pages and save paper. http://www.fineprint.com/products/fineprint/index.html

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9 BeBob Esq

I personally tend to favour SSuite Office’s free office software in my business. They have certainly saved me a bundle in my office department.

Their software also don’t need to run on Java or .NET, so it makes their applications very small and efficient.

http://www.ssuitesoft.com

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10 Mike

Craig, nice post.

I’d like to add OpenOffice to your list of free software. You can do everything you do in commercial office products like Word and Excel, in the OpenOffice suite.

Mike

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11 Ryan

Mike, Open Office is a great productivity suite. Thanks for sharing!

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12 Craig

@Laura
Use everything you have for storage. Storage is an issue with most home offices.
@K
Thanks for your kind words.
@Richard
I’ll be sure to check it out. Sounds neat.
@Stephen
You know your ink! Thanks for the informative comment.
@Be Bob Esq
Another great resource. Thanks.
@Mike
My dad is a big fan of OpenOffice. He has yet to convince me, but I’ve heard it is a great product.

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13 susan

Hi, just a couple of points. I also tried the refill route without success. However, I did find that Costco carries the same laser cartridge for $35 less than Staples. Staples won’t match Costco pricing but my guy at Grand and Toy does! I just have to buy 2 at a time, which is smart anyway considering I kill a few trees during tax season.

Also, I made a choice 9 years ago when I started my business that I would not use scrap paper for the kids. I used to do this when I was a kid because my parents were printers. But being that I work from home, my kids at the time were 1 & 5, and the fact that as an accountant I have a lot of “other people’s” paperwork in my office, I found it simpler and better for stress management to tell the kids to only use blank paper. That way I never have an issue where I have to hand over a colourful picture on a client’s tax return. At that age, the kids can’t distinguish between important and not important papers so it is much easier to say only use paper that has nothing on it.

Also, when I needed a second printer to use as a scanner, I bought the same one I already had so that the ink was interchangeable.

Susan

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14 Dany Tosh

I use a laser printer and a refill my own printer cartridge. I don’t use anymore Microsoft Office, because OpenOffice is all I need. I save a lot of money. Thanks for the rest of the tips.

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