Create Your Home Office Oasis

by Washington Federal Team on December 20, 2011

Have extra space in your house? Converting an unused area into a home office can have multiple benefits. You will save money over paying for traditional office space. You will be able to spend more time at home. You’ll potentially increase your home’s market value and possibly qualify for a tax deduction.

Location-Location-Location 

When determining a location for your home office, think about any unused or under-utilized space. It could be a garage, a spare bedroom, a furnished basement, or even a dining room. Whatever the space, it must be considered for functionality and privacy.

You don’t want an area to be too small for necessary equipment and furniture. You also don’t want it to be in the middle of your household’s daily traffic patterns and hectic pace. If a prefabricated room is not an option, look for creative alternatives. Consider blocking off a portion of a room with an opaque screen. For instance, a second-floor landing or walk-in closet are both excellent alternatives. The space will need to be well-lit, have adequate storage, Internet access, and sufficient power.

Creative Budget-Friendly Tips

Once a location is set, it’s time to create your home office. It would be easy to outsource this project, but that would be expensive and impersonal. Instead, try these five budget-friendly tips, and tackle this task yourself!

  1.  Be creative. A home office doesn’t have to be an exact replica of a corporate alternative, and there’s no need to go through a costly renovation. Be creative with what you have. If a space is open, rather than hiring a contractor to put up walls, use screens or bookshelves to close the area off.
  1. Be your own interior designer. A key advantage to working from home: You don’t have to conform to standard office decor. Figure out what inspires you! Choose cheerful, inviting colors that would make you want to spend time in the room. Decorate the space with your favorite artwork, personal photographs, and knickknacks from family vacations. If a traditional desk chair isn’t ideal, find an alternative that works for you — just avoid selecting anything that reclines — it hinders productivity.
  2. Use what you have. Setting up a home office doesn’t mean you have to run to Staples and spend a fortune on supplies. It’s more than likely that much of what you’ll need is right in the house. An unused table and discarded lamps can quickly become the building blocks of your home office. Breathe new life into an extraneous arm chair with a slip-cover of your choosing, and repurpose accessories from other areas of the house.
  3. Be thrifty. If there are items you need to purchase for your new home office, be thrifty. Avoid buying new items, and instead, check out local resale stores — most of which have charitable affiliations. Also, consider scanning Craigslist or newspaper ads, as both can be excellent sources for gently used affordable furnishings.
  4. Avoid land lines. If you have a cell phone, adding a land line is both costly and unnecessary. Simply increase your monthly minute allotment and save money while simplifying your method of contact. To avoid the need for a fax machine, invest in a printer that has scanning capabilities.

Qualifying for a Home Office Deduction

To qualify for a home office tax deduction, there are several criteria that must be met:

  1.  The space must be used solely and regularly for work. Basically, this means that your kitchen cannot double as your home office and qualify for a deduction.
  2. Working from home must be a necessity. If you choose to work from home for your own convenience, but your employer does provide an on-site office, you cannot file for a deduction. However, if your employer mandates that you work from home, or you are self-employed, you will qualify for a home office deduction.
  3. Make sure all businesses comply with the above mandates. If you are operating more than one business out of your home, make sure that each endeavor meets the space-use and necessity requirements. If any one of your businesses doesn’t meet the guidelines, then none of them will qualify for a deduction.

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