My REAL remote office on a real budget

Well, we’re all cam girls now.

That was a very funny joke made by a friend back when all of this isolation began a year ago. It was around my birthday that Covid-19 hit big and everything shut down.

Now many of us are back to work, and those of us who can are working remotely most or all of the time. I use remotely because when I work from home I actually work.

Now to the point. Like many people, I was forced to figure out a home office without having set one up before the pandemic. I had to do this on a budget when most supplies were out of stock or were being price gouged by jerks. The articles I find for ‘budget remote work often give a budget of over $1,000. I believe a lot of people don’t have that as spare cash to blow.

So, here’s my non-exhaustive list of home office supplies on an extremely skinny budget. It’s not perfect, however I like to think it’s a pretty decent office at a realistic cost for most people. We will presume that you have a laptop with a docking station or port replicator or a desktop computer to use as the minimal base.

  • Webcam – I like the Logitech 920. It has great video in my experience, and it is very reasonable if you can get one at retail. I paid about $70 for mine. The Logitech C270 is a good runner-up, but truly anything is better than the camera in your laptop.
  • Desk – I spent $100 for an office quality desk at a used furniture warehouse. Search your classified ads, FB marketplace, and Craigslist. I’ve noticed many people are upgrading so if you look you could find a good deal as well.
  • Chair – Already had one. Be sure to get a good one. So many people are frightened when they see a chair over $200, but paying $500 for something you’ll be sitting in for 8 hours a day isn’t too bad. After all, you spend more on a bed where you spend the same amount of time.
  • Monitors – There was a clearance deal at Wal-mart that I caught for 24 inch monitors at a cost of $70/each. So, for $140 I was able to have a complete 3 monitor setup in my office on my discount desk. If you keep an eye out, these deals happen quite often.
  • Power strip – We have to power everything, don’t we? I picked up this Anker power strip on Amazon. It has enough outlets for laptops, monitors, and some USB ports to power up phones or peripherals for about $30.
  • Keyboard and mouse – I had a spare lying around of each, but if you don’t, you can pick up a very basic set for $15.

From here we’re talking about extras, however they can help make your home office better and better looking.

  • Mouse pad – My mouse was jumping around the screen a lot, so I picked up this Amazon Basics XXL mouse pad. It’s much bigger than I anticipated. I would suggest the regular size or XL, if such a thing exists. It did solve my jumpy problem and seems of decent quality for $13.
  • Laptop stand – This can pull double duty as a laptop riser or tablet holder. For me it helps my laptop screen be level with my other monitors and that keeps me from having a sore neck. Well worth the $13.
  • Headset with microphone – You can do them separately or use what’s built into your laptop, but separate equipment will sound better and keep your conversations more private. Caught this Razer Kraken model on sale for $40. It’s worth it. My hearing isn’t very good, but everything sounds good to me and people say my audio sounds much better to them. Please don’t use Airpods. Several people on my meetings use them and their audio is indiscernible.
  • Ethernet adapter – Wired is always better than wireless for audio and video. My new laptop doesn’t have an Ethernet port unfortunately. This model from Anker plugs in and works without any setup for only $20.
  • Lighting – This is more vanity for Zoom calls, but lighting can help you look better. Here is a tutorial with some tips for your ‘studio’. I purchased this ring light with a webcam mount for adjustable front-lighting and webcam spacing at $22.
    • These LED bulbs for $20 in bulk to have uniform ceiling lighting and in my lamp (which I reused from the garage with a new shade).
    • Background – These Amazon Basics LED rope lights will soon go around the edge of my desk to create some more texture. I’m not sure if they will stay or not, but for $22 they’re worth a shot. I purchased these clips to hold them up as the included clips are screw-in and I don’t want to move a 10′ L-shaped wood desk again.
  • Plant and decor – This helps add to the background. It’s pure vanity but like I said at the start, we’re all stars now. I picked up a cheap fake plant like this one from Amazon. Mine was $10 at Ross. I also have a pop storm trooper canvas print that isn’t hung yet from Ross for $10.
  • Rug – $25 cheapie on sale from Amazon. It’s 8×5 and keeps noise down while keeping my feet warm when I kick off my shoes at my desk.

There you go. I think that’s my complete setup for my office. It all adds up, but you don’t have to do it all at once. This collection was done over the course of a year by picking up items as I came across deals. My loose math comes to about $500 for the whole thing. That’s much less than most people have for their whole budget in articles I’ve read.

My super-budget office

Don’t buy into the idea that you need to spend a fortune for a reasonable and good looking home office where you look professional.

Bonus purchase – I spent $160 for a portable second monitor that lets me keep a second screen up when I’m not actually in my remote office. It’s very useful, especially if you work from more than one space regularly or if you’re short on permanent space.