20 Affordable items under $20 that make your home office look like it belongs on Pinterest
You don’t need expensive desks and chairs to make your study look good.
As a student with not much money to spare back then, my workspace at home was a scratched up wooden desk – given to me as a hand-me-down. It had some shelves for storage and a keyboard tray that was jammed. It looked kind of sad, to be honest.
But I still use the same desk today, except now I actually look forward to working at it. It just took some decor, the right lighting and splashes of colour.
To help you achieve your dream workspace design goals I’ve put together a list of items (from $2 – $20) you can buy, as well as pictures from Pinterest give some inspo.
1) Get wooden boxes or trays to hold your stationery
Daiso has plenty of neat wooden boxes in the gardening section. They’re meant to hold plants, but work just fine with stationery like staplers, pen holders, and so on.
Pro-tip: Add a coat of varnish you can get from a DIY shop to give the boxes a refined finish.
2) Use a phone holder to charge and keep your phone neatly (Price varies)
Anything that helps reduce cable clutter is useful to me. Plus points if it’s pretty too.
What to get: You can trawl e-commerce sites to find hundreds of them. But here’s a simple metal phone holder in various colours that helps you tuck the cable away neatly. It costs $6.90.
3) Get a dedicated tray to hold all your loose papers ($2)
I can’t be the only one with random papers all around right? My mess is slightly more organised now with all random papers going to that one tray.
What to get: The answer is Daiso once again. It’s got two dollar plastic and wooden trays meant for holding your documents. I’ve seen some pretty nice patterns too.
4) Keep your stuff in a pushcart ($18.20)
A little cart you can roll out from under your desk would be super helpful with organisation. You can keep stuff like your snacks, extra supplies, or even your printer there – neatly tucked away out of sight until you need it.
What to get: A wooden one is pricey, so get a metal one instead. Try this one I found on Lazada for starters.)
5) Have an orderly file system in place ($2.90 – $9.90)
Ever have the problem where you have a lot of old but important documents that you can’t throw away, but don’t need to use them anytime soon either? Rather than stowing them away in drawers, get some boxes and label them to be more organised.
6) Keep your favourite snacks in mason jars (<$10)
Food makes me happy, and when I’ve spent hours working, a snack keeps me awake.
What you need: Get a couple of jars from Daiso or IKEA, then fill them up with snacks from from the nearest convenience shop. Value Dollar sells snacks at a cheaper price too.
Pro-tip: To keep yourself from over-eating and depleting your hoard, keep healthier snacks you’re not likely to binge on. Think – almonds, trail mix, preserved fruits (as opposed to cookies and popcorn).
7) Use a carafe so you won’t have to keep getting up to refill your glass ($7.90)
To be honest, a water bottle works just fine, but a carafe makes the space more chic, am I right?
What to get: A standard carafe from IKEA can be bought online for $7.90.
8) Get a glass dome and put a plant in it ($12.90, not including the plant)
Get the Beauty and the Beast vibe going with this getup. You can put a lot of different things in a dome to make it look fancy. A single rose, a fern, a moss ball, it’s your choice.
What to get: You can get the glass dome from IKEA, and a fresh plant from there too, if you head down to the physical store.
9) Get little plants that don’t die easy ($1.50 – $4.50)
My favourite plants are succulents. They’re elegant, hardy, and barely need any sunlight. If you’re worried about killing your plants in a dome, get one of these guys instead.
Where to get them: Local plant nurseries sell them at $1.50 – $4.50 a pop.
Pro-tip: Succulents can die if you water them too much. Some I’ve needed to water only once a week, and there’s one I haven’t watered in a month but it’s going strong.
Water yours only when you see that it becomes stiff and ‘crispy’ to touch. If it’s soft and shrivelled, its been overwatered and you need to leave it alone.
10) Use dead flowers to add some life to your space (<$10)
Or if you don’t trust yourself with even succulents, just get plants that are already dead. They’re beautiful too.
What you need: Assuming you don’t have a fresh bouquet, go to a supermarket like Giant and buy baby’s breath and African marigold (both of them dry well without many petals falling apart.) A couple of stalks should set you back around ten dollars. Tie them up with a rubber band and dry by the window.
11) Have a jar or bowl of potpourri to keep things smelling sweet (Around $6)
Potpourri bowls look nice in addition to smelling good. You can top them up with a few drops of essential oils every now and then to refresh the scent.
Where to get them: A bowl, potpourri mix and scents can be bought easily enough from Daiso for $6, but if you wanna DIY, just bake fresh flowers and citrus fruits on a tray then spritz them with a scent.
12) Or take the easy route and buy an electric diffuser ($10 – $20)
I love these cute little diffusers. Unlike potpourri you get to sort of turn the scent on and off whenever you like.
Where to get it: You can find a cheaper variation online on various e-commerce sites as they are pretty popular and ubiquitous.
13) Line mason jars with paper and keep stationery in them (<$10)
Ever had that problem where your stuff doesn’t match? That random coffee mug that keeps yor pencils probably clashes with everything else you have.
So get some mason jars and roll patterned paper into them. If the paper’s stiff, no glue is needed.
What to get: Everything you need for this can be bought from Daiso, including the jars, patterned paper, and ribbons. It’s just up to you to choose the colour scheme.
14) Put up a collage on a dedicated board to brighten things up (From $19.90)
Collages are great, but they look kinda sloppy if you don’t plan them. So get boards to keep your things nicely organised.
15) Put stuff on shelves (From $5.90 per shelf)
Shelves are a nice addition to any workspace, and you don’t necessarily need to put a lot of things on it to make it look good, like in the picture above.
What to get: Shelves can be bought from IKEA from $5.90.
16) Or put up some nice pictures so you won’t have to stare at a blank wall (Around $20 or less)
Maybe shelves are a hassle. A slightly easier DIY project is to put framed pictures up on the wall. You don’t need a lot of pictures either either. Four frames are enough to create a nice look too.
What you need:
- Some $2 photo frames from Daiso (they have an assortment of photo frames in different sizes)
- Your fave pictures
- A printer. Or just print them for about $0.50 a piece at a nearby photo shop
- 3M Command Strips to stick frames on the wall without chipping the paint ($5.95)
17) Use a nice rug to cover your chair ($14.90 – $19.90)
If you’re reading this article about budget decor, chances are your chair isn’t exactly pretty to look at. So throw a rug over it, and your problem is more or less solved.
Pro-tip: Wanna shave off the price further? Get a colourful shawl from Chinatown or Little India for cheap and use safety pins to make a sort of jacket that stays on your chair.
18) Use a nice mousepad. Really. ($5)
Okay I know mousepads are redundant, especially if you’re using an opaque table. But it adds to the aesthetic and helps with your colour scheme.
What to get: A high-quality leather mousepad in the right shade is expensive, so get this one from Lazada, which comes in a variety of colours.
19) Keep little trinkets to add a personal touch
This is subjective, but as for me, I enjoy keeping miniature things like tiny perfume bottles at a corner of my desk shelf.
I don’t have any tips on where to get trinkets, but just keep an eye out when shopping and you might find cute and cheap stuff to decorate your space with.
20) Brighten the area with some ambient lighting (Price varies)
Rather than a study light which is kinda glaring and evokes memories of nights spent mugging for exams, get a nice table lamp with soft ambient lighting.
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