Whether you are setting up your virtual home office for the first time, or making some improvements, making the most of your resources (being frugal) is always important for the anywhere worker. Maybe you are concerned about your start up costs, or your company may be cutting back on home office spending allowances. Whatever the reason, make a change and get some frugal into the mix.
Remember the slogan: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? That was how I was first introduced to being green and that is how I like to approach being frugal as well. To some frugal means buying what you need for less cost, like using coupons or shopping at Costco. For others it means do it yourself solutions. Both are great approaches. I like to start by reducing what I need in the first place, then looking for low cost solutions. Here are some ideas to get your frugal creativity flowing.
In my efforts to create a ‘zen’ office, I have purged my existing paper. The next step is to reduce what comes into your office. This could include changing all of your billing, invoicing, statements and payments to electronic format. It also includes training your clients, suppliers, and collaborators to send you information electronically instead of through the mail or fax. Going paperless leads to a reduction in:
- fax machine
- dedicated fax line
- copy machine or scanner needed
- office supplies (file folders, labels, envelopes)
- office equipment (file cabinets, stand for fax/copier)
- office space
- bandages (for paper cuts)
Reduce software costs by using open source and often free alternatives. Open Office is a favorite of mine and satisfies my productivity needs. Skype is great for virtual meetings and costs me under $50 per year. I use Google Docs for collaborating – even in real time! To track your action times try Remember The Milk. If you need to build a client list and make sure you manage those relationships, Batchbook (no longer available) is a great online CRM service. Of course there are a number of tools with the list growing every day. Many tools and services have a free version and a pro / paid version. Take advantage of the free and trial offers to test the functionality and reliability to make sure they match your needs.
I love the cloud. It allows me to access my information from a variety of platforms, devices, and locations. Now that you are paperless, you’ll be using more and more bits and bytes so having some of them in the cloud will help reduce your need for local storage. Many of the recommendations above are cloud based. Keep in mind though, you still need to have backups available for the data. One service that I’m trying now is Backupify – also in the cloud! (note: I’m using dropbox now)
There are these buildings in my town that house thousands of books, magazines, newspapers, and computers with internet access. The funny thing is I can go and use all of it for free. I can research topics on the free internet which has a ton of information. Not only that, but I can take a book (or several) home for a few weeks to read – for free! Do you have this? It’s called a public library. I think it’s safe to say that I love books more than the average person and I buy many of them (ebooks, of course). But there is opportunity to save thousands of dollars by using the library.
Another way to get fee books is to borrow from a friend. This could be in traditional hard copy, but also in ebook version! Both the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Amazon Kindle now allow for ebook lending. Not only that, but their ebook software is free for your laptop! How’s that for frugal?
Free advise is shared openly and enthusiastically amongst the anywhere worker community. We all love to connect and know that collaboration will help everyone involved. I know you have dozens more recommendations and ideas for creating the frugal anywhere worker office. We would all love to hear them. Please share your brilliance by submitting a comment.