ScoreCard Research Lisa Stein - The Penny Hoarder

Let me ask you a question. Who pays for your home office equipment?

The answer is simple: You.

It’s obvious, but when you think about what it means, it’s kind of a kick in the butt. An employer isn’t going to pick up the cost of your office supplies, so it’s all coming out of your own pocket.

Depending on your industry and whether clients will visit, it might cost you anywhere between $800 and $3,000 to create a home office from scratch.

The essentials include a desk, a chair, a computer and software. You might also need a printer with ink cartridges, a stapler, a desk calendar, sticky notes and pens.

But you don’t want to just snag a cheap Craigslist office chair that’s falling apart at the seams. Here’s how to save money on your home office without sacrificing quality.

Shop at the Right Time

September and October are the perfect months to hit up the stores for basic office supplies. School is in full swing, so stores are trying to get rid of their inventory on back-to-school supplies. You’ll likely find the best prices on smaller items like pens and notebooks.

Holiday sales and clearance events are great options for office furniture. January is a good time for most office furniture, as retailers clear out their inventory to make room for the new models many companies release in February.

Another good time to buy office furniture is in May, after tax time. If you’re creative, skip the shopping altogether and build your own furniture!

For a new computer, you’re better off waiting until August, because competition between retailers rises as college students are in the market for laptops, and because new models typically release during the summer, so last year’s models will be on sale. If you’ll need an upgrade next year, set a reminder in your calendar.

Get Free Shipping

Shopping online saves you the trip to the store, and can help minimize impulse buys. However, the cost of shipping can really put a damper on things. Instead, save your cash by using one of these programs to get free shipping:

  • Spend more than $45 on this office-supply and furniture site and get free shipping. I also saw a pop-up for a $20 coupon for new customers, which could help you save even more.
  • Amazon Prime: If you plan to buy lots of items online, you might enjoy Prime’s two-day shipping. If you don’t want to spend $99 a year (or your 30-day free trial runs out), just make sure your order’s over $35 to get free shipping.

Opt for Free Online Alternatives

Software is sure to take a big chunk of your home office budget. For example, the Microsoft Office Home and Business bundle will cost you $219.99.

But Google’s Docs, Sheets and Slides tools are free and quite similar. For video chatting, use Skype or Hangouts. For anti-virus protection, I like Avast.

Rather than splurging on a program right away, try a quick search for an alternative and save your cash for other expenses.

Don’t Buy in Bulk

Hear me out, here.

While it’s common sense that buying in bulk will save you money per item, first consider how much you’ll actually use. Sure, you could save a couple pennies buying pens in bulk, but what good does that do you when you really only need one or two pens? The rest will simply take up space.

While buying in bulk is good advice for businesses that use up office resources quickly, it’s not always necessary for a one-person-show home office when you’re just a one-person show.

Opt for bulk items when it really is something you use often, such as printer paper, but don’t waste your money buying extra supplies you don’t really need.

Your Turn: Are you building up your home office? What sneaky tricks have you come up with to save?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Lisa Stein owns, is a college business professor and a mom to two growing daughters. Lisa is dedicated to playing a part in helping women and moms run a business they love, help support themselves and their family and create a flexible lifestyle. Grab her free course: 10 Surprisingly Simple Step-by-Step Tasks to Get More Clients.

When you hear the term “freelance,” what careers come to mind? Chances are it’s something like a writer, editor, journalist, web designer or social media manager.

But if you’re not interested in content marketing, can you still start a business as a freelancer?


If you’re dead set on living the freelance lifestyle but aren’t quite sure what services you’ll offer, consider these unusual freelance careers. One of them may just be the opportunity you’re looking for.

1. Calligrapher

So maybe you don’t want to be a content writer, but if you have excellent handwriting skills and a set of calligraphy tools, you can address envelopes and make $2 to $5 a pop just for being a talented calligraphy writer!

It doesn’t sound like a lot, but book a wedding with 100 guests, and you could rake in $200 or more for hand-written invites.

Launch your own website selling your services, or offer calligraphy on sites like Etsy. For example, Margo Dittmer gets creative with her calligraphy services and sells custom wedding certificates for $175 each on Etsy.

2. Date Concierge

If you’ve thought about being a freelance event planner but don’t want to plan big events like weddings, get your foot in the door with couples who haven’t thought of marriage yet.

As a date concierge, you plan the dates couples don’t have time to plan themselves, including everything from developing the date idea to booking the restaurant reservations and car rental.

Freelance date concierge Brenndon Knox charges $12.50 per hour for his services, but depending on your clientele, you could easily charge more.

Who knows? Your clients may hear wedding bells thanks to you, and if you’re into it, they might ask you to plan their wedding, too!

3. Fabric Reseller

Maybe you’ve toyed with the idea of starting your own clothing alteration business, but if that doesn’t seem right and you still love fabric, consider becoming a fabric reseller.

You’ll have to visit fabric sales or buy wholesale fabrics and then assemble small quantities of fabric into appropriate packages. There’s a decent demand for these types of fabric bundles in the quilting, scrapbooking and craft market. Check out some of these packages on Etsy for inspiration.

4. Virtual Recruiter

Do you have the skills and connections to find the right employees or freelancers for jobs? Why not become a virtual recruiter?

As a freelance recruiter, your services may include things like:

  • Posting jobs
  • Screening resumes
  • Handling preliminary interviews
  • Negotiating salaries

If you wanted to expand your services, you could work the other way around and consult with jobseekers to help find the perfect career opportunities for them.

Dorothy Rawlinson works successfully in this industry and reports most virtual recruiters are paid on a commission basis.

5. Coupon Book Organizer

If you love gathering coupons and saving money, why not turn it into a lucrative business? This low-cost service business can actually prove to be a lot of fun.

Collect coupons from local businesses, compile them into coupon booklets and sell them to people throughout your community.

6. PowerPoint Presentation Designer

If you have a knack for designing awesome PowerPoint presentations, turn your talent into a money-maker.

Freelancer Magda Maslowska designs custom presentations and infographics for businesses and keynote speakers who don’t have the time or skills to do it themselves. If you have an eye for great presentations, why not launch a business of your own doing the same thing?

7. Children’s Book Illustrator

Love drawing or designing cute images with Adobe Illustrator? You could make money illustrating children’s books. The type of illustrating you can do and the amount you can make varies immensely.

The good news is that self-publishing is on the rise. Self-published books will make up an estimated 50% of ebook sales by 2020, and children’s book authors are turning to freelance illustrators to help their stories come alive, so now is a great time to start your illustrating business.

8. Genealogist

Love putting together puzzling family trees? People will pay you so they don’t have to do it on their own.

Anthony Adolph is a professional freelance genealogist who charges between £50 and £500 per request. If you’ve been a hobby genealogist for any amount of time, you could easily charge these rates with the right knowledge base.

As these options show, freelance careers aren’t limited to the writing or marketing industries.

Your Turn: What type of freelance career are you thinking about launching?

Lisa Stein owns and is a college business professor and a mom to two growing daughters.  Lisa is dedicated to playing a part in helping women and moms run businesses they love, help support themselves and their families, and create flexible lifestyles.