A home office on a shoestring

One of the most daunting prospects of starting a business is overheads - so what better way to keep costs down than starting from home? Some of the world's biggest business empires were born on the kitchen table, and two thirds of new entrepreneurs now choose to go in the same direction.

In fact, around 1,400 people take the plunge from their spare rooms every week and the 2.1 million home businesses in the UK contribute turnover of £364 billion to the economy every year.

But how do you create a comfortable, smart work space when you're on a budget? But just because you're starting your business life at home doesn't mean you can't work professionally - but if you're on a shoestring, kitting out an executive office with designer furniture isn't very practical, either, so we've dug out the best bargains and accessories to help you create the perfect home office.

The chair

Because you'll be sitting down into the wee hours, it's essential you have a good chair. Forget borrowing one from the dining room: it won't give you the support you need and the last thing you want when you're trying to start a business is a bad back. You don't have to re-mortgage the house to find a decent chair; those clever people at Ikea have come up with a wide range of office chairs to suit all budgets and needs. Our pick of the bunch is this Karsten design (£49.99). You'll get a lot for your money: it's height adjustable, has a tiltable seat and can be adjusted to suit your weight and how you sit.

The desk

Your desk is an essential piece of office kit. It needs to be the right height, size and most importantly you'll need to like working at it. However, don't rush off to buy a Chippendale at auction just yet as there are plenty of sturdy bargains to be had. Check out this oak finish computer desk with filing and keyboard shelf that can be found at Argos for a bargain price of £82.99. OK so it's not going to win a design award but it's practical and big and until you've got those fantastic city centre offices, it will do what it says on the tin.

The lamp

A good, flexible lamp is important, especially if you expect to be burning the midnight oil. Eyestrain makes you more tired and relying on a ceiling light simply won't do, especially if you're going to be doing lots of reading and screen work. Choose one which is adjustable like this Pico Desk Lamp from John Lewis. It ticks all the boxes, comes with a free bulb and is a bargain at £18, plus we think it's pretty stylish too.

The clock

You might not think it but a clock will be a key part of your office. While you'll always work over, it's important to split work time from home time. You don't need to splash out but choose one with clear, visible numbers (particularly handy for when you decide to call it a day at 3am) and one which is wall mountable so it's out of the way. We found this Tesco retro clock for just £10 and you can have your pick of three colours, bargain or what?


A tidy office will help you keep a clear mind and mean you can find what you need at a second's notice. A bookshelf is a good idea as it can house books, files, magazines and catalogues. It's back to Ikea (better make sure you take the car they have some great storage at really affordable prices). Start off with a good, solid bookshelf, such as the BILLY model (from £19.57) it has deep shelves and you can also buy added extras such as boxes for stuff you want kept away from prying eyes.

Next, magazine files are great for storing everything from back issues of magazines and invoices to order books or even post. Don't break the bank on fancy leather designs when Ikea sell their FLYT ones at £1.29 for a pack of five. What is worth splashing out on is a lockable drawer unit - and  the ASPVIK is one of the cheapest around at £59 and is perfect for stashing away laptops and sensitive material.

The printer

An all-in one-printer is a good idea, especially if you're short on space. You'll get the best deals online, and we found this one for a Epson BX300F 4 in 1 Printer from Rymans for only £79.99. It scans, prints, copies and faxes (yes we know that's a bit old hat but still essential for sending invoices and legal documents in a flash), and uses cost effective ink cartridges.

The laptop

Definitely go for a laptop over a desktop PC - it means you can take it with you on the move and to meet clients. Reliability should be your buzzword, but you'll also want business speed and capacity to future-proof your needs. And if you're taking it out and about, you'll want something light and small. Don't get hung up on screen size - flat-screen monitors are cheap - so go for a small laptop and a big screen to plug it into. Never go for the cheapest option when buying IT, instead look for value. The Dell Latitude E5400 offers business spec for consumer price by coming in at under £500 and Dell monitors start at £92.

Make sure you add a decent pair of speakers for next to nothing so you're not constantly popping into another room to watch TV.


You know what they say on Dragons' Den: always know your figures! What better way to have sales and targets imprinted on the brain than have them up on the wall. Space is likely to be limited so we've sourced this bargain magnetic whiteboard from Euroffice.co.uk, which comes with a pen and eraser for a credit-crunch-alicious £9.99.

And finally...


Coming in at a mere fiver from the Douglas Design Sign eBay Shop this is arguably the most important, if not economical, of our recommendations. It's not just you who needs to be motivated to work from home, it's important the people you live with realise it as well. Some people wear a hat when they don't want to be interrupted, others won't answer between certain hours - we advise you make it nice and clear on the door.

Result - a great looking, functional office for £857.37 - including the technology. Of course, you won't need everything here and should beg, steal and borrow whatever you can before parting with your hard-earned cash.

And remember, Smarta's all about sharing the knowledge, so comment below to leave your top tips for kitting out a home office and great deals you think others should take advantage of.

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