Teleworking on the cheap

As I’ve mentioned recently, my new job allows me to work from home one day per week. They provide me a laptop to take home, but that’s it. If I want other hardware, I have to provide it.

Fortunately for me, I was able to outfit my office on the cheap.

One of my coworkers told me to search Ebay and/or Amazon for a docking station. Sure enough, I was able to locate a surplus docking station with AC adapter for $25, a considerable discount from its $150 retail price. The make and vintage of the dock don’t seem to matter much; in my searches, I found docks for almost anything reasonably current, priced reasonably.

The keyboard wasn’t a problem; I had an IBM Model M keyboard I could use. Used Model Ms usually aren’t cheap; I’ve been picking them up over the last 15 years when I find them at a low price. I also had a Logitech optical mouse I could use. If I hadn’t had that, secondhand Microsoft optical wheel mice are cheap and durable–I have two that are around a decade old now.

Monitors were more of a problem. I have a 15-inch Sony LCD that I use for system builds, so I re-appropriated that. But the only way to get another monitor was to steal the old Dell 15-inch monitor off my web server. That worked, but left me with a headless server.

Then, this morning, I scored a 15-inch Dell monitor at a garage sale for $2. It was a little beat up, but the video cable is worth $2 to me. I asked if it worked, and the seller said it worked when she last used it. So I took a chance on it. When I got home, I noticed the screen had a small chip in it, but it works well enough for a seldom-used server display, and it was only $2.

The cheapest place I could find to get an office chair was Big Lots (Odd Lots in some parts of the country). The $40 chair I bought there isn’t the greatest, but it’s adequate, and indistinguishable from the chairs the office supply stores sell for $75 and only occasionally put on sale for less. Of course, mere days after buying the chair at Big Lots, I found a chair at a garage sale for $10. Rather than attempt to wrestle an assembled chair into a two-door Honda Civic, then back out of the Civic and down a flight of stairs at home, I opted to just keep the not-yet-assembled chair from Big Lots and save the hassle. There were just too many opportunities in that scenario for something to go horribly wrong. Had the owner possessed the correct-sized Allen wrench, partially disassembling the chair would have been an option, but I didn’t even think of that option at the time.

But with some patience, and hopefully a larger vehicle than mine, it is possible to score a second-hand office chair on Saturday mornings at garage sales or rummage sales. You won’t pay a lot for it, and there won’t be many other people looking for one, either.

As for desks, I still have a large L-shaped desk from an era when computers and monitors were far larger than they are today, and it has more surface area than the kitchen counters at my bachelor-era apartment had. It’s been sitting disassembled in my basement for years, but it went back together fairly easily. I did use Phillips-head drywall screws that were a bit longer than the Allen-head screws that came with the desk. That saved me time, and it held together better that way. Cheap self-assembled desks don’t hold up to repeated disassembly all that well, but using longer screws to get more bite seemed to help quite a bit.

If you’re not like me and don’t have a desk laying around, I know I saw some of those this morning. For that matter, I saw a couple sitting out at the curb on trash day. If you don’t want the potential hassle of having to repair and/or partially assemble a used desk without instructions, desks are cheap at Big Lots too.

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One thought on “Teleworking on the cheap

  • November 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    Another solution is to buy a cheap KVM. I think I paid around $50 for mine, which allows me to use my normal keyboard, monitor, mouse, speakers, and everything else when I telework. I was lucky enough to find a spare docking station at work for my laptop, so the KVM was my only real expense. I suppose it depends on which is more important to a guy — money, or space.

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