Has anyone experienced this predicament? You are so excited about working from home, starting your business, or creating your home office that you decide to stop by Target or your local office supply store for a couple essentials…. and in your excitement you leave the store with arm loads of fun office products?
Many of us work from home to eliminate the long commute, save on gas money, or eliminate a lease payment on a separate office. And in fact, working from home can save huge amounts of expenses! However, if we’re not careful we can end up eliminating that cost savings through stocks of office supplies or other unnecessary expenses. Here are a few ways to keep your savings in your pocket.
Make a List of Essential Supplies. Before heading out to buy boxes of paper clips, personalized notepads, and exciting desk organizers – decide what you really need in order to work at home. We all have handfuls of stray paperclips and rubber bands around our house, so do we really need to buy the 100 count box just so we feel that we’re prepared? Post-its always seem to be useful, but they are more expensive than you’d ever know! Pretty desk organizers make us excited to sit at our desk, but perhaps this is the chance to make that DIY organizer you pinned on Pinterest last week.
Look for Discounts. Research which office supply stores are having big sales or raid the cheap “back to school” aisle for what you need. Office supplies can take a huge bit out of your wallet, so collect coupons for the big items and keep your rewards card handy.
Forgo Purchases for Freebies. Many office supplies are available to use for free at your local office supply or copy store. For example, I only need a huge heavy duty stapler once or twice a month; instead of buying one for occasional use, I simply use the one available for free at Kinkos. Although this sounds stingy, it doesn’t make sense to pay a lot of money for supplies you will use that infrequently. I usually end up purchasing something or making copies while I’m at Kinkos anyway, which is probably how they justify letting people use it at no charge! There are also programs such as online fax services that are less expensive than getting faxes sent at an office supply store, and many of those offer a free first couple months when you sign up. Freebies are always good!
Strategize Large Ticket Items. When it comes to large ticket items such as fancy printers, binding machines, paper cutters, and heavy duty staplers, decide what options fit your needs. For infrequent printing/copying/faxing needs, do the job at an office supply store and pay as needed. As your needs increase, you may need to consider something heavy duty. For example, my office-style printer is more expensive than the basic home office version, but it is efficient and I seldom have to replace the printer cartridge. Sometimes spending the extra money pays off in the long run.
Find Other Work-at-Home Friends. Are there are neighbors or friends who work at home and might want to share big ticket office supplies? If it is convenient enough, this may be a great way to save. For example, having a friend receive your occasional fax for you would be an idea solution instead of your purchasing an entire fax machine for only occasional use.
Remember Expenses for Tax Time. Don’t forget to save your receipts for even your small business purchases, as these are deductible for your taxes. Do some research into what surprising expenses might be deductible, and don’t forget that you can deduct even a portion of your home mortgage, utility, and property insurance expenses that are applicable to your home office!
Just as other types of business decisions require budgeting and close scrutiny, don’t let your home office finances skip your attention. By thinking through creative solutions, you can save a lot of money on office expenses in the long run!