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Working from Home? Follow These Tips to Cut Costs

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/15/2011

Working from home provides flexible work hours and savings on commuting costs, but entails incurring costs of maintaining the home office. In such a scenario, ideas to cut controllable expenses becomes part of an overall business strategy and a direct means to increase income.

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    Office Furniture

    How to Cut Costs in Home Office The maximum possible savings in home office administrative costs come when purchasing furniture. Look around for used furniture at second hand furniture stores, local thrift stores, auction centers, and office renovations. Such furniture not only comes at rock-bottom prices, but also complies with the required ergonomic standards.

    Alternatively, source unbranded furniture from local manufacturers and save the brand and establishment mark-ups that big manufacturers and furniture stores add. The advantage of buying from local manufacturers is the possibility of them custom-making furniture to suit home office specifications. Sourcing such furniture however requires due consideration to ergonomics, and probably compromise on aesthetics that branded furniture, even used, brings.

    A third option, of using furniture already available at home allows for maximum savings, but go for this option only if you can spare such furniture for the exclusive use of the home office. Having a multi-use table invariably creates drags in efficiency and productivity.

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    Telephone and Internet Usage

    Telephone and Internet are the lifelines of a home office, and charges on these overheads account for major expenses of maintaining a home office. The following are some tips to cut communication costs.

    • Always prefer email over traditional mail, and text or voice chat over telephone.
    • Switch over to a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service such as Skype that costs less than traditional telephone services in most areas.
    • Always review offers from various service providers and switch over to the best available plan. Bundling long distance, local calls, and unlimited Internet into one package usually provides the best rate.
    • Make telephone calls at non-peak billing hours whenever possible.

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    Fax Applications

    Sending a fax over a landline incurs long distance charges, and receiving faxes through a fax machine costs paper, printer ink, and energy charges. The following are some ways to cut fax related expenses:

    • Prefer e-mail attachments over faxes.
    • Configure the fax machine to receive messages directly to the computer instead of printing every incoming fax.
    • Use “free fax" offers from companies such as FaxZero. Such companies do not charge for the fax but instead place an advertisement on the cover sheet. Other web-based services provide a fax number and receive incoming faxes for their clients for low fees.

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    Office Supplies

    Expenses on office supplies constitute a major component of administration costs in any office, and the case of home office is no different. Consider taking the following actions to cut costs on office supplies:

    • Sign up for rewards program such as Staples Rewards account, MaxPerks account and others when making stationery purchase to receive discount cards.
    • Buy more when stores offer discounts and cash-back offers.
    • Order in bulk to get quantity or volume discounts. If the volume required for your home office is small, tie up with other small offices and make joint purchases.
    • Online shopping websites sometimes offer much better discounts on office supplies compared to traditional stores.
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    Paperless Office

    A paperless office reduces stationery and overhead expenses considerably and also saves the world from environment degradation. Follow these steps to eliminate or reduce paper from the home office:

    • Prefer electronic form of communication such as email and electronic fax over paper based communication.
    • Store records in electronic format rather than physical paper format as far as possible.
    • Use personal information management software instead of making notes on paper.
    • Use the mobile phone to jot down memos and appointments rather than maintain pocket diaries.
    • Use outdated stationery as notepads instead of throwing it away.
    • Save shipping boxes, plastic foam balls, and other plastic packaging materials for reuse.
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    Computer Settings

    The computer contributes to home office expenses in a big way. Follow some smart working tips to cut costs substantially.

    • Use energy star certified monitors and other peripherals to save on energy costs.
    • Turn off and unplug computers when not in use for extended periods.
    • Select the "hibernate mode" in energy settings options when taking short breaks. This mode allows switching off the computer without having to reload everything when switching on again.
    • Switch on the computer monitor, printers, modems, scanners and other peripherals only when required. Keep such peripherals unplugged otherwise, for it draws some energy even in sleep mode.

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    Energy Audit

    Although professional energy audits target medium to large commercial establishments where the average monthly energy demand exceeds 350 kW, adopting the same principles in the home office can help cut energy costs considerably. Audits analyzing energy use patterns, compare the same with recommended best practices, and recommend new ways of using devices to conserve energy, or purchasing energy efficient equipment to substitute energy guzzling inefficient devices.

    Devices such as “Kill A Watt" from P3 International and others monitor energy usage by individual appliances and identify devices that consume more power than normal. Energy efficient equipments with Energy Star Logo use about 50 percent less energy compared to other equipments. UPS, monitors, and other devices vary widely in energy usage from brand to brand.

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    Energy Saving Tips

    Some common recommendations that stem from energy audits are:

    • Insulating the home office properly to reduce heat or cold leakage and save on air-conditioning costs.
    • Reducing the use of air-conditioning by using attic fans and skylights that open out to let out the heat.
    • Ensuring appropriate temperature settings in the air-conditioner. The most energy efficient thermostat settings are 68 degrees or less in winter and 78 degrees or more during summer.
    • Allowing for ample ventilation to allow free circulation of air and cool down of computers and other devices.
    • Using auto-setback thermostats and automatic light switches.
    • Using sunlight wisely by leaving shades and blinds open on sunny days to reduce lighting requirements.

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    Home Improvement

    Several home improvements related to energy conservation qualify for tax incentives in the Energy & Transportation Tax Acts of 2005. This act allows tax credits for adding insulation or roof materials to reduce heat loss, and putting in geothermal heating and central fan systems.

    Compact fluorescent and halogen bulbs use less energy, produce more light, and last longer than ordinary incandescent bulbs. Similarly, LED lighting uses only a fraction of the energy that conventional lights use, and the higher initial outgo recoups within a few months for commercial users. Solar air-conditioners similarly help save energy in a big way. Such interventions not only save costs, but also add to the reputation of the business, and make for a good marketing pitch.

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    Recycling help cut controllable expenses in a big way. Adopt these recycling ideas to ideas to cut controllable expense in the home office.

    • Recycle ink cartridges rather than purchase brand-new cartridges and save about 75 percent of the price of new cartridges.
    • Recycle junk mail and other paper that has outlived its utility to make envelopes and packing material.
    • Unless there is a good reason, such as the old device using more energy or creating inefficiencies, try to make do with existing devices and equipment rather than go in for upgrades. Most upgrades only change appearance and make a few tweaks without adding much to functionality.

    The guiding principle is to look at how anything can be recycled within the home office before throwing them away. As the adage goes, "a penny saved is a penny earned."

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    1. Zbar, Jeff. Seven Ways To Cut Costs in the Home Office. SCORE. Retrieved from
    2. How to Reduce Your Energy Consumption. Natural Resources Defense Council. Retrieved from
    3. 32 Powerful Ways To Cut Costs In Business. Retrieved from

    Image Credit: BluPics,

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