Setting Up a Frugal Home Office

By Staff

My family recently moved and we have settled into our new home. While we love our new house, it did have one glaring problem for a wanna be writer – no home office space for Frugal Dad. Not to worry, as you may remember I’ve had experience setting up a home office in laundry/utility rooms, bedroom corners, and even recently threatened to convert our outside storage building to a home office.

Initially, I dreamed about setting up my own shop remotely. It would be nice to have a place to go to do some writing out of the house without having to share the space with diners, coffee drinkers or teenagers playing online games (this is the setting of most places with wi-fi in my area).

I checked out a few online listings for office space and found a promising lead. A local real estate office was renting out one of their unused offices for only $400 a month, including utilities. I talked with the manager of the firm and rode by to check out the office. It was nice, but something told me not to sign right away.

While I came away with a favorable impression of the space, I added up the annual costs on the way home and realized it would cost me nearly $5,000 a year to fund this extra space. There had to be a more frugal alternative. I returned home to do a little brainstorming.

Setting Up a Home Office: The Before Picture

Yes, that’s our master bedroom closet. Well, half of it. And yes, this is the place where we just threw everything we didn’t have room for elsewhere. The fun part about moving is that you get to discover just how much crap you’ve accumulated over the years. I told my wife I was going to use my half of the closet to create a writing area. Once I convinced her that her side would be unaffected, she went along with the idea.

My first order of business was going through some old clothes I had accumulated over the years and no longer wore. I wound up bagging three bags full of old shirts, sweatshirts and miscellaneous t-shirts simply taking up space. I donated them to a local men’s shelter in our area, and they seemed grateful.

With the clothing racks cleared on one side, I moved that file cabinet into one corner of the office, and relocated an old table sewing machine my grandmother used (bottom right of that picture) to another room. I cleared out the remaining stuff (including the giant Christmas gift bag, which I embarrassed to confess still held most of the contents of our family’s Christmas stockings!).

The Frugal Home Office: After Picture

After sliding the file cabinet into the corner, I had plenty of room for a four-foot folding table. This was the ideal size, and since I already had one on hand, I made it work. The only other supplies needed, in addition to my writing laptop, was a simple scratch pad and pen, and a small basket with basic office supplies (stapler, dry erase markers, etc.).

As you can see, not much decorating going there. I did hang a dry erase/bulletin board and my kids were nice enough to supply a few early Valentine’s Day decorations. That sticker on the side of my filing cabinet has been there for several years and reads, “Live Like No One Else.” You might recognize that quote from Dave Ramsey. For years I looked at that sticker while toiling away on my side hustles with the goal of debt freedom in mind.

The books on top of the file cabinet represent just a small section from my budding personal finance library. You might recognize a few covers as Your Money or Your Life, Work Less, Live More, The Tightwad Gazette, America’s Cheapest Family, and the recent release from Gary Vaynerchuck, Crush It. The supply rotates as I discover new reads, but these four or five books stay because I always go back to them for ideas and inspiration.

In case you are worried about me becoming claustrophobic, I should tell you that since taking the picture I used a bungee cord to band those clothes on the right side and pull them closer to the wall. They were mostly warm-weather shirts, so I won’t be needing them for a while anyway. This freed up a lot of shoulder room, but honestly it felt pretty cozy without the extra space.

I couldn’t be happier working away in my frugal home office. I’m fairly isolated from other noises in the house, even with the door open (I can always close off the bedroom door and leave this one open if the kids get too noisy). I don’t expect everyone to be able to set up shop in their closet, but if you are looking for a place to start a home business, I encourage you to get creative before rushing out and leasing office space.

Chances are there is some tiny bit of unused space in your home to set up a folding table and computer. If nothing else, it was a good excuse to clean out our closet!