Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Post: Behind the Piano

I love this guest post by Carol Alexander ... it shows that you have to think outside the box when it comes to saving money. I am in her position (well, not behind the piano!), and my writing desk is small and is up against a living room wall where I can be near my homeschoolers. I love her tips on saving on office supplies, especially!

By Carol J. Alexander

In twenty-three years as a stay-at-home-mom, I have learned that you make money by saving money. Because most people already own a computer, paper, and pencil, a writing business requires less start-up than the average network marketing scheme. But one step into your local office supply mega-store could undo that in an instant. With so many years’ experience making ends meet by bargain hunting, using what’s on hand, or doing without, it is only natural for me to apply these principles to my business. Let me show you a few ways you, too, can put more of your earnings into your pocket.

I save a tremendous amount of money by buying a year’s worth of office supplies during back-to-school sales. I purchase copy paper for $2.50 instead of $4.50 and spiral notebooks for a dime. Pens, pencils, notebooks, and folders all sell for next to nothing this time of year.

For larger items, I decide ahead of time how much I want to spend and do not buy until I find my price (or better). I also practice delayed gratification by saving cash for the purchase. Then, I track the sales. I use the Internet to compare brands and to search for rebates. I watch the advertisements in the newspaper. Most large-ticket items like computers and electronics go on sale in August and for the holidays. I recently purchased a laptop and printer. I shopped for something that would meet my needs, was a quality product and was within my price range. After the sale prices and rebates I paid less than $400 for the pair.

I have saved my business the most money in the design of my ‘office.’ An article in a recent writers’ newsletter discussed outfitting your office in these slow economic times. Most everything the author suggested I cannot afford to do. Also, in a popular book for writers, the author cautions the reader against starting out too big, too fast. She shares that she only recently graduated from her modest 10’x10’ office in the spare bedroom to something more spacious. Let me assure you, if I had another 10’x10’ room in my house, I would rapidly separate some boys. My money saving office measures precisely 5’3”x3’4”.

You wouldn’t believe what I fit in 17 ½ square feet. I have a comfortable, ergonomically designed office chair my husband picked up at a thrift store for $5 and an old kitchen table that I use as a desk. I also have a bookcase that holds the books I use constantly, an inbox (for putting works in progress), some catalogs and journals. A few flower pots sit on the shelves to hold paperclips, sticky note pads, pencils and a stapler.

On the other side of the piano (Oh, I forgot to mention that my neat little space is behind the piano!) sits a small filing cabinet and on top of that is the printer. And that is all I need…for now. Granted I’ve only been pursuing this writing career for a few years; but I earn money. I am published in national magazines. I am happy with my progress.

So, when can I turn the spare room into an office? I don’t anticipate having a spare room until my now 16-year-old son moves out. So, until then, you can find me behind the piano.

Carol J. Alexander writes from behind the piano in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Her articles have appeared in Urban Farm, BackHome Magazine, Grit, Home Education, The Old Schoolhouse, and several different parenting magazines. She is also the author of two e-books for homeschooling parents: Seed Catalog Curriculum: 50+ Lesson Plans Using Seed Catalogs, and Planning a Homeschool Graduation. You can find Carol, or her books, at her blog


  1. Thanks for the opportunity to share, Kerrie. Now, my office is a little disjointed as my router broke and now I have to plug the laptop into the cord which does not reach to behind the piano. But, true to my word, I will shop around before buying a new router.

  2. Great advice Carol! We can certainly get away with less than we think, while still being productive.

    Nice to meet you, Kerrie! Thanks for hosting Carol. :)



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