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10 Ways to Save Money in Your Home Office

Is your home office a money maker or a money pit?

Whether you’re a work-at-home mom or simply need a place to keep your family’s finances organized, the home office should be a place that saves and makes money — not a money pit.

Working from home in particular runs a few risks: it’s easy to be disorganized because your boss isn’t going to walk by your desk; it’s easy to be distracted by all the other things you need to get done in your life; and it’s easy to lose track of expenses because there’s no accounting department asking for your receipts.

I work from home, and I definitely struggle to stay organized. I’m also not the best at money management, frankly.

This post ended up being a great project for me — I found a lot of good tips on saving money, all of which I’ll be utilizing. I also started using the online resource Women & Co. to help me make better purchases and even think about things like estate planning. (Yes, you need to think about that stuff even if you’re pretty much broke and don’t think you have an “estate.”)

Take a look at the ten best tips I found, and share yours in the comments!

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  • Equip your home office with free or second-hand furniture and technology 1 of 10
    Equip your home office with free or second-hand furniture and technology
    Craigslist and Freecycle can be great sources for furniture, and I'm not above trash-picking a chair, either. Second-hand furniture stores can also produce great finds, and if you shop at one that raises money for charity, all the better. As for technology, you probably don't need this season's hot seller. Look for last year's models, and also check your options for "refurbished" equipment. (Of course, if you're still plugging away on your Tandy TRS-80, it's time to upgrade to a faster model.)

    (Photo Credit: Thaikrit)
  • Keep organized, for cheap 2 of 10
    Keep organized, for cheap
    Even the things that keep your space organized, like in-boxes and pen caddies can be repurposed from something else (like those glass jam jars that are just going to be recycled anyway). I know it's tempting to get a whole matching set of stuff, but those little things add up. Related: step away from the cute, patterned binder clips.

    (Photo Credit: apprendereorganizar.com)
  • Keep track of your finances 3 of 10
    Keep track of your finances
    It seems kind of obvious, but it's critical to record all your business expenses and income. Save receipts for office supplies, postage, etc. If you're operating a for-profit business, you may be able to deduct your expenses. If you have a dedicated office space in your home, you may even be able to deduct a portion of your electricity and heating bill. See the IRS guidelines on business deductions and home offices, or talk to a knowledgeable tax consultant, for more information.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Go green 4 of 10
    Go green
    All those things that save you money in the rest of your house will save you money in your home office, too. Use the backs of school memos for note paper. Turn off all your equipment at the end of the day, or try using a "smart" power strip that senses when your computer and printer are turned off. Use energy-efficient lighting, and when you do purchase new equipment, look for products that are Energy Star certified.

    (Photo Credit: Horsemark Cards Blog and Horsemark Cards Shop)
  • How much paper do you really need to use? 5 of 10
    How much paper do you really need to use?
    If your home business involves a lot of written or graphic material, think about ways to go paper-free. Can you save on printing and postage by simply transferring files to your clients? Check into "cloud" solutions for transferring large files.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Be disloyal 6 of 10
    Be disloyal
    Yes, get every store's loyalty or rewards card and use it with every purchase. But keep an open mind! Paper may be cheapest at a large office supply store, but look for HDMI cables at a home supply store like Home Depot, or on eBay instead of at big-box technology stores.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Stay on top of your contracts 7 of 10
    Stay on top of your contracts
    Speaking of being disloyal, stay on top of when your contracts are up for renewal. Better deals crop up all the time for things like cell phones and Internet service, so check around to see if there are cheaper plans before you renew. Even if your contract isn't up yet, if you're seeing much better deals out there, call your current provider and ask if they can offer you a better plan.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Gah, you still have a landline? 8 of 10
    Gah, you still have a landline?
    If you're maintaining both a landline and a cell line, consider upping your cell phone plan to unlimited minutes and dropping the landline. You can also look into using Skype and other Voice Over Internet Providers (VOIP), but do your research and read reviews: nothing's worse than poor call quality when you do a lot of business over the phone.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Remember that time is money 9 of 10
    Remember that time is money
    It's an old saying, but it's true; time is money. Time wasted is time not making money. You have a limited amount of time, and working from home offers unparalleled opportunities for distraction. Ignore the laundry, and move your coffee maker if you can't seem to stay away from the sink full of dirty dishes when you go through the kitchen. Screen out personal calls while you're working (unless it's the school nurse, of course). Check prices online instead of driving around to stores—but stay off time sucks like Facebook and Pinterest.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Invest in yourself 10 of 10
    Invest in yourself
    You don't want to waste money on supplies you don't need, and it's great to cut costs where you can. But don't be afraid to invest in yourself in the form of certifications, classes, and training; it'll boost your resume and give you the smarts to save time and money in the long run. You may spend a large part of your day in your jammies, but you do need the right clothes for when you are in front of clients. And a few dollars spent smartly on advertising can have a big payoff.

    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

A big thanks to Citi for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto)

Read more from Joslyn at Babble Pets and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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