Get more for less: how to equip your office on the cheap

Creating a great work space needn’t be expensive. Here’s how you equip your office for pennies on the dollar, without sacrificing quality or productivity.

equip your office on the cheap: Run down, cheap office front

You probably won’t be able to reach the dizzying heights of the world’s coolest offices, with their ‘collaboration pods’ and firing ranges, but there are certainly a few clever ways to equip your office on the cheap.

Don’t be a magpie

Go with what you need, not what you want, no matter how shiny it is. Ask yourself if you really need need that cocobolo conference table or that new, top-of-the-range laptop with the latest graphics card.

The one exception is a good chair. You and every one of your employees need a comfortable, adjustable chair. Uncomfortable seating will land you with low productivity and high medical bills.

Think long term

Buying intelligently might cost you a bit more up front – think LED lighting and an efficient heating system – but may well save you pennies down the line. You might also consider buying laptops that allow you to later replace the memory and hard drive – a much cheaper option than having to buy a new fleet of laptops every time you’re looking to upgrade.

Be software smart

As Clare has said before, small businesses and startups have small budgets but big IT needs so, rather than buying enterprise-level software, use open source software, like LibreOffice, and other cheap alternatives to more expensive products. What these may lack in cool features (do you really need all those bells and whistles?) and clean design, they more than make up for in savings.

You should also make use of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applicationsTurbine, Basecamp, Dropbox, etc. Old fashioned software licences left you with the headache of hefty up-front costs and routine maintenance for software you had to install and host on your own servers. SaaS apps, on the other hand, are hosted by the SaaS provider and allow you to simply pay for what you use in monthly or annual instalments.

You don’t have to worry about maintaining your own servers or paying for the space to house them; there’s no need to upgrade or reinstall your software every year; regular updates are pushed to all users through the cloud so you’re always using the best version of the software; and the cost is spread over time, meaning software becomes less of a gamble – there’s more room to experiment and find what works for you and your team.


Try to squeeze the most out of suppliers without burning your bridges. Exercising your negotiation skills not only helps you get short-term deals but also helps you to build mutually beneficial long-term relationships with your preferred suppliers.

If they know you’re a valuable, repeat customer, you’re more likely to be offered discounts, free trials of new products and priority software upgrades.

Get thrifty

Look to see if any local businesses are downsizing or going under and if any office supply and IT stores are shifting old stock or having a sale – they’re all excellent sources to equip your office on the cheap.

Don’t get a phone system

Certainly not a physical one, anyway. With workers becoming increasingly mobile, the common-or-garden desk phone is all but obsolete, being replaced by mobile phones, Skype, instant messaging, social media, etc.

If you really need a phone system, consider investing in a soft phone system, like Bria, or just let your staff use their mobile phones and agree to cover the costs for any work-related usage.

Say goodbye to the office

Do you really need to work in a physical office? If you want to save the pennies, try working from home and encourage your employees to do the same.

Even if only a few of your employees take it up, you’ll still save on office overheads, transport costs, insurance, etc.

If you absolutely can’t manage without an office, however, you could still hire freelancers for seasonal work and short-term projects, using something like Elance, to avoid paying out for the space, equipment and training for a new full-time employee.

Hat tip to Beverley Goodwin for the photo

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