Build the perfect home office on a budget
by Preston on 2020-10-09
You don’t have to choose between a great home office setup and your checking account balance. This guide can help you outfit your workspace with all the equipment and accessories you need without breaking the bank.
In June, Remote’s CEO Job van der Voort shared the details of his productivity-maximized home office. Always a tinkerer, Job’s office features a Sony camera he converted into a webcam, a piece keyboard with custom-mapped keys, and a lot of other productivity-inspired tweaks.
Not all of us have the technical inclination or desire to fine-tune everything ourselves, though. Some of us prefer to buy things that just work. This guide includes a variety of items that are budget-friendly, easy to set up, and widely available. Every category includes at least two options, so you can spend more in areas that matter to you while keeping costs as low as possible.
Home office desks
If you’re looking for a desk on a budget, your best bet may be local listings on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. Although supplies have gone down with more people working from home, you can still find great deals with local options.
For online orders, it’s hard to beat the CubiCubi writing desk on Amazon for $89.99 (on sale this month for $78). It’s simple, stylish, and has just enough room to fit your computer, peripherals, and some scratch paper. If your desk sits in a corner, spend a bit more and grab the Salina L-Shape Executive Desk off Wayfair. This desk offers ample legroom, a bit of storage, and lots of surface space for those with two monitors or extra equipment.
Standing desk aficionados can choose between adjustable workstations or entire desks that lift and lower. Full desks tend to be more expensive, so if you’re on a budget, get a cheap desk and put the FITUEYES Height Adjustable Standing Desk on top.
Home office chairs
Someone wise once said, “Never buy the cheapest version of anything that separates you from the ground: tires, shoes, beds, and chairs.” Fortunately, home office workers today have a variety of sensible chair options with great support and reasonable price tags.
For a tight budget, check out Yaheetech’s ergonomic desk chair. At $54.99 on Amazon, this chair has great reviews and comes in a variety of colors, in case you’re tired of the same old Office Black options. Another great option under $150 is this Hbada chair, which comes in at $129.99 and includes flip-up arms, a great feature for those who want to customize their sitting experience.
People with back pain and people who sit down for extended periods of time might want to consider an investment in a higher-end chair. For that group, I suggest the Duramont Ergonomic Adjustable Office Chair. It’s pricier than the budget options, starting around $329, but you get what you pay for with greater durability, lumbar support, and cushioning. I should know — I’m sitting in mine right now.
Home office keyboards
Your wrists and hands do a lot of work. If you don’t protect them, you could end up with repetitive motion injuries or other unpleasant consequences. Fortunately, peripherals that are both functional and ergonomic don’t always carry massive price tags.
The Logitech K350 has rave reviews from thousands of happy users at a third of the price of comparable ergonomic keyboards ($36.99). It may look funky if you have been stuck on regular, non-wavy keyboards your whole life, but don’t let the curves fool you. This is a great option to protect your hands and maintain typing speed at the same time.
Not sold on the curves? Prefer something clicky with lights? Mechanical keyboards get expensive quickly, but for an entry option, look no further than the Redragon K552.
Home office mice
Mice come in all kinds of funky shapes and sizes, just like hands and wrists. If you frequently find yourself shaking out your mouse hand, give Anker’s vertical mouse a shot. Anker offers both wired and wireless options, depending on your preference, and both come in at under $25.
Whatever you select, don’t forget to grab a wrist rest for both keyboard and mouse. Grimars offers the most popular option, and at $15 for the set, this fits any home office budget. You could get a mousepad with a built-in wrist rest, but I prefer the flexibility of an independent cushion.
With all options, remember you want to keep your wrist elevated and straight. Anything that forces you to pinch upward or sideways will eventually wear out the sensitive parts of your hands and wrists. Don’t be afraid to shop around and return anything that doesn’t fit your style.
Home office webcams
If you’re tech savvy, you could hook up an old camera or even a smartphone to serve as your webcam. Not all of us want to mess with that, though. For people who prefer plugging things in and letting the computer do the rest, these home office webcams do the job just fine.
Webcams come in two varieties: with microphone and without. For a budget webcam with a reliable microphone, go with GESMA’s plug-and-play option. It’s simple, it works well, and it costs $34.99. For an all-in-one option that not only includes a microphone but a ring light as well, Aoboco has a great option for just $79.99.
For something a little nicer (say you need to record content prospects or customers will see), you may need a webcam that focuses solely on great video quality. For that, go with Logitech’s BRIO Ultra HD Pro webcam. It’s not cheap at around $200, and it frequently lands on backorder, but the 4K picture quality is stellar for the price.
Home office microphones
The podcast industry created a boom in home office microphones. Not everyone needs a discrete mic, but if you spend a lot of time talking to prospects or making presentations, a good microphone can elevate your audio quality immediately.
For a microphone that plugs in directly to a USB port, try the Audio-Technica AT2005USB. This option plugs directly into your computer and comes with a small stand to sit on your desk. At just $79, this microphone can provide all the audio quality you need for Zoom calls, recorded webinars, and more.
If you prefer a more adjustable mic experience, TONOR’s adjustable stand works well with mics and desks of all shapes and sizes for just $30.
Home office headphones
Working at home with others? Did your neighbor choose this opportunity to redo his roof or practice trumpet in the backyard? No matter what your situation, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones can make a massive difference in your work-from-home quality of life.
In general, over-the-ear headphones are more comfortable for prolonged use than earbuds or on-ear headphones. With that in mind, the Anker Soundcore Life Q20 headphones may have the best price-to-performance ratio in headphones today at $59.99. You won’t reach the same performance levels offered by $300 options, but for 20% of the price, you can get surprisingly close.
If you prefer something a bit nicer, you’ll run into arguments from audiophiles of all persuasions. At Remote, Sony lovers and Bose fanatics occasionally clash, with a strong crew of AirPods diehards in the mix as well. As someone who wears headphones for 6-plus hours per day, I recommend the Bose QuietComfort over-ear series. If I can go all week long without a hint of discomfort, I’m happy. While Bose no longer sells the QuietComfort 25 wired headphones, they make a great workstation pair if you can find them.
Home office lighting
If your webcam does not come with a light, but you still want to look great on video calls and recordings, you can do one of two things. Either you can situate your desk in front of a window and make calls when the sun is just right, or you can purchase some lighting to help out.
Ring lights are popular with content creators for a reason. For a great budget choice at $10.99, go with the Whellen Selfie Ring Light. The attachment clips to your screen or laptop while providing good lighting for a fraction of the cost of other options. It’s also portable, so you can use it for live content on your phone as well.
Want to get clever with your lighting? Grab two or three reading lights, like the iVict 24, then clip them to the top and sides of your monitor. With a few adjustments, you can give yourself photoshoot-quality lighting on every call.
Home office storage
Hopefully, you’re sending more Google Drive links and printing fewer documents. However, many of us still have to store items we only use occasionally in our home offices. If you’re tight on space and tight on budget, smart storage is a must.
You can usually find great secondhand storage options locally. Plenty of people have old file cabinets and shelving to give away, especially now that most offices have embraced the wonders of digital document storage.
Don’t buy heavy items like file cabinets online if you can help it. Prices reflect shipping costs for bulky metal items, and your money would likely be better spent elsewhere.
Home office monitors
Nothing changes the game for a home office quite like a second monitor. When you don’t have to minimize and maximize windows every five minutes to get your work done, you will be amazed at how much your productivity improves.
The world of monitors is a complicated and messy one, though. If you mostly spend your time writing emails, working on spreadsheets, attending virtual meetings, and using project management software, a 1080p monitor will do the job just fine. Check out the HP VH240a 23.8-inch monitor for a highly reviewed option with a great picture. At only $124.99, this monitor also includes built-in speakers, while many monitors now do not.
If you work with more visual components, like marketing collateral or design work, you may need something a little bigger and better. The Philips 276E8VJSB is a fantastic value for a 4K UHD monitor under $250. The large 27-inch screen is substantially more impressive than 23-inch options and makes it easy to work in two programs at once, even without a second monitor.
Home office exercise equipment
Sitting down all day leads to all sorts of health problems. If you don’t get up and move around from time to time, your body pays the price.
You don’t have to become a home gym fanatic to be kind to your body, though. A few cheap additions to your home office can help you get moving and relieve some of the strain on your joints and muscles.
Add a foam roller to your office to help you stretch when you get too stiff. The AmazonBasics option is fine (it’s just hard foam in a tube, no matter what brand you get). Try rolling on your hamstrings to keep your legs limber, and if your back feels unhappy, you may benefit from a roll there, too.
Those looking to build muscle from home could benefit from a versatile pull-up bar, like the ever-popular Iron Gym workout bar, which comes in at $29.99. If you want some kettlebells or weights, you have no shortage of options, but try to find local secondhand options first. An old and dusty dumbbell from someone’s garage is just as heavy as a brand-new one from the store.
A budget home office setup built to last
How much does it cost to outfit a complete home office? With our list here, you can set yourself up with a desk, chair, keyboard, mouse, wrist rests, webcam, microphone and stand, noise-canceling headphones, lighting, storage, monitor, and a bit of exercise equipment for under $600. Not bad, right?
This setup doesn’t include a laptop or PC tower, but your computer option depends greatly on your job responsibilities. A writer could get away with a used Chromebook, while a video editor would likely need a $3,000 machine just to get started. Contractors should consider their options carefully, while employees should receive a laptop or PC from their employers.
No matter what your budget, you deserve a home office that works for you. Use this list to get started, add or subtract products based on your needs, and create a space you enjoy.