How To Make A Homework Station On A Budget

If you live in the United States, your kids should be just about settled into their school-year routine again. How’s that homework thing going? Did you get their homework station all set up before classes resumed?

If not, have no fear. It’s never too late to give your kids’ homework routine a much-needed boost with a custom-designed homework station.

With the girls entering 4th and 2nd grade this fall, I knew this was the year we finally needed to trade their preschool-sized art table for a  larger project center/homework station. I managed to keep the cost way down through some of my favorite money-saving home hacks (more on those below).

I had every intention of setting up Homework Central before they went back to school in August. But as longtime readers may recall, our basement and kitchen flooded last May. And as Instagram followers know, the soonest the contractors could start the several weeks of work it took to repair the damage was the first week of school! Hence, Kimmie began school doing her homework in the dining room, surrounded by boxes of stuff evacuated from our kitchen.

Alas, it’s going to be some time before our house is fully put back together. But I’m happy to report that the girls’ new homework station finally made its debut last week. Read on to learn how you, too, can set up a budget-friendly homework station/project center for your budding scholar-artists!

Do your kids have a functional homework station? The older they get, the more they need one. Here's how to get there without spending an arm and a leg!

How To Make A Budget-Friendly Homework Station

In designing a kid-friendly workspace that would meet both their current needs (more art projects than homework) AND serve them down the line, I tried to think long-term. As I thought about what kind of space would best grow with them, and what their needs were both now and in the future, I narrowed it down to these crucial items:

  • A good-sized work surface, big enough for both girls to use at once without getting in each other’s way
  • Accessible yet out-of-the-way storage, for both daily needs and school-related supplies
  • Places to write on and store reminders, whether jotting notes and memos or sketching out larger ideas
  • Ample power supplies for charging devices and powering essentials (lamps, a printer, whatever)
  • Seating, light, and a space for trash

Your family’s personal needs may vary slightly from these, but chances are good your family’s homework station will need to cover most if not all of these bases. But how to do so without breaking the bank? Well, here’s how I covered these basics while keeping the bottom line well in check:

1) A work surface

Ideally, as with any kids’ art table, one that’s centrally located. I wanted the girls to have enough quiet to do their work, but easy access to grownups if the needed help.  This also means we can supervise their online activities, which is rule #1 of tech use in our house.

I had been considering an updated door-on-file-cabinets-style desk for the girls, since this is what I used in my student days. I figured it would be easy enough to find a hunk of countertop or a flat door, and some matching file cabinets or pieces of narrow cabinet, at our local Habitat ReStore. (If you’re not familiar with them, Habitat ReStores sell surplus and salvage building supplies for a fraction of the retail cost.)

But I feared the classic file-cabinets-supporting-door wouldn’t leave enough leg room for them to both use it simultaneously. However, I totally lucked out on the day my mama and I went shopping at the ReStore in June. Our ReStore also carries a decent inventory of castoff home and office furniture. And my mama spotted a beautiful table-style desk, whose finish matched our oak cabinets. It was blemish-free – AND it cost only $15!

If you don’t have similar luck, other budget-friendly desk alternatives include a card table or (if you have space) a 6-ft or 8-ft folding table. If you don’t already own one of these, check thrift stores or yard sales. You may need to cover the surface, especially if it’s damaged; I’ve done this with Contact paper before. Even if you buy one new, you can often get these inexpensively at warehouse club stores or discount department stores.

2) Storage space

The desk we found was perfect for giving the girls plenty of workspace on top, and leg room underneath. But it had one serious shortfall: lack of storage space.

Left foreground = our old cabinets; center and right = our new additions!

However, on the same ReStore trip, I spotted two oak cabinets that are almost identical to what’s already in our kitchen. They were in super shape, and cost only $10 each! Since our post-renovation flooding repairs included reinstalling some damaged cabinetry that had to be repaired offsite, I had the renovation guys install the new cabinets at the same time. The cabinets provide plenty of space for spare school supplies and similar items.

I also hauled out an old collapsible three-tier wire rolling cart from our garage. I still hope to repaint it at some point, but for now it works perfectly well. It keeps crayons and markers handy, gives each girl her own separate “space,” and tucks under the table when not in use. Cost to us was zero since we already owned it, but I bought one similar to this at the ReStore last month for $5. I lined the top tier with some dollar-store bins, also repurposed from elsewhere in the house. Ditto the white cans from their old art caddy.

Next I snagged a pair of matching hot-pink file bins at at thrift store, for 50 cents each.

Finally, I decided to splurge on a desk riser, which creates a low shelf with storage underneath. The one I chose is large enough to spread across the entire back of the desk, and matches the table and cabinets. I scored one on Amazon’s Warehouse Deals for 10% off because it has a small blemish on the wood.

Side note:

Amazon’s Warehouse Deals are one of the best-kept secrets on their site. If you ever see an option to buy something “used” that seems like it shouldn’t be sold “used,” it’s worth investigating. Chances are it’s a customer return or dented package in super shape, and you’ll get a discount PLUS free return shipping if it doesn’t work out!

Also check out (lower right) the girls’ coasters, a.k.a, Corian samples from building surplus. Cost: 20 cents each!

3) Plenty of power

One of the biggest family problems I wanted to “solve” with the girls’ new homework station was creating a designated charging space for our devices. Our kitchen is literally the center of our home, which makes it a good charging space for our devices. But we were always fighting over outlets before, between the girls’ school-issued iPads (!), the family iPad, my work iPad, Daddy’s iPad, our various cell phones, our emergency power packs, and the girls’ LeapFrog LeapBands (which are like fitness trackers for kids).

I solved that problem with this amazing power strip/surge protector. Like most power strips, it has a half-dozen outlets. But it also includes six USB ports! Not only was it reasonably priced, but it’s perfect for all our charging and power needs. I tucked it under the edge of the riser, and made a small charging station on top with an old metal letter-holder I already had. The letter-holder neatly stacks four tablets upright in a tiny amount of space. And we still have outlets and USB ports to spare for future needs.

4) Someplace to jot notes and reminders

Based on my girls’ history, I knew they needed an easy way to doodle while protecting the surface of their beautiful new homework desk-table. For this purpose, blank-pad desk blotters were a no-brainer.

I used 3M mounting strips to attach the message board to the cabinet without drilling!

You may be familiar with executive desk blotters that contain calendar pages. However, starting back in college, I had a desk blotter that had large blank sheets of paper instead. It was great for doodling and jotting notes, as well as having a ready source of large sheets of paper when the occasional need arose.

I located an affordable option online with refillable pads, so I ordered one for each girl. They promptly decorated their workspaces, and have been super at keeping their doodles on the paper. They LOVE having ready access to a place to draw, and to larger sheets of paper for bigger projects!

I also wanted to create a space to jot calendar notes, tack up important school papers, etc. I was torn between getting a small bulletin board and a small marker board. Then I spotted a marker board with a cork border at one of my fall consignment sales. At $3.50, it was a no-brainer.

5. Lights, seats, and a trashcan

It turns out they don’t actually need task lighting at their desk right now; the nearby ceiling light is bright enough. BUT I picked up two task lamps for super-cheap at the consignment sale anyway, again for about $3.50 each. (I think I’ll put them on my own new project tables in the basement.)

The matching desk chairs are cushioned for comfort, and tuck nicely under the desk when not in use. And best of all, since they came from my husband’s single days, we already had them on hand. Cost = free! (Cushioned folding chairs, or secondhand chairs from a thrift store, would also work. Or exercise balls. In late summer and fall, office supply chains often have deals on student desk seating, so keep this in mind if you want to buy something new.)

And every desk or workspace needs a trashcan. I reassigned an extra one from elsewhere in the house, so this was also free. Small trash cans are inexpensive enough when new, and super-cheap when used. Or you can repurpose a basket, large flower pot, whatever; just line it with a plastic bag from the store, so nothing falls through.

The final verdict:

The girls have now been using their new homework station for about a week, and it’s definitely a hit. Kimmie has been finishing her math homework in record time, and Essie has done a different creative project on her half every day since she first saw it. They are THRILLED with this workspace that is designed to grow with them through high school. I’m thrilled that it all came together for just over $100. Given that I could have easily spent that on a desk alone, or on ONE desk chair, I consider this a real bargain!

What about you? Have you set up a homework station for your school-age kids? Let us know about it in the comments!

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39 thoughts on “How To Make A Homework Station On A Budget”

  1. Pingback: How to Have A Home That Makes Everyone Happy - Super Mom Hacks

  2. What a great idea and put together at such a low cost, which is important. I never knew about the Habitat Restore’s before and now I know there’s one in the next town over.

    1. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE them!!! I got two cabinet bottoms and a flat tabletop there to build myself a sewing table for our post-May-flooding refinished basement – $35 total and it looks gorgeous/suits its purpose perfectly!

  3. Considering my child is special needs, and I don’t believe she is receiving the help she needs as she brings home all failing grades of 20’s and 30’s (in Kindergarten mind you), I’m keeping a file of all of her school work to create a case file to support her. But there are so many my under bench storage, drawers, and surfaces are covered and it’s only October! Would love some great ideas/”hacks” on storing all this pesky homework without having to purchase an entire filing cabinet. 😉

    1. Oh dear. Having an exceptional child is a battle and a half in and of itself. Yes, you definitely need to be on top of that paperwork for when it’s time to confront your district. Have you tried a large looseleaf binder, or an accordion file? We’ve tried both with varying results – whatever you use, so long as it’s all in one place so you can find it when you need it, that’s what matters most!

  4. This homework station turned out so amazing. My kids need a little more organization when it comes to homework time. It tends to be all over the place – so this would be so great!

  5. This is a great idea! We live in a small apartment and I have o possibility of installing something like this anywhere at home. My children (3 and 6 yo) craft and do homework on the kitchen table, that’s where I blog too! When it’s time to eat, we clear the table and put everything in a cupboard. That’s forcefully quite budget friendly lol.

    1. Haha totally! Yes, living in a micro-space forces a lot of utilitarian repurposing and mandates neatness on a daily basis! 🙂

  6. Wonderful, useful tips. Recently I re-decorated my bedroom and since I have my office in there too, I need to find the best budget way to make it stylish and work friendly as well.

    1. Maybe some of these will work? (I also have a post a few months back on making a workable home office 🙂 )

  7. Ok, reading this has definitely given me food for thought. My oldest just started kindergarten and we don’t have a homework station. For what homework he does have, he just sits at the kitchen table but I think that can be distracting for him. I think we definitely need to find a quiet area and get working on a homework station for him as I think it will be more and more essential the older he gets.

    1. That is what Kimmie (and then Essie) did for several years, dining room table – only then they’d have to clear up everything so we could set it and eat dinner – and even though it’s a somewhat isolated room compared to the kitchen, it was still distracting for them! But this table has totally solved that problem – yay!

  8. The homework station turned out great. This should be perfect for your girls for many years. I love finding things for cheap or using items that we already have to make functional areas around the house. We did a pretty budget friendly desk/homework station for our son a year ago, and the biggest cost was a new desk but we managed to get one on sale, everything else we already had in our home.

    1. So glad you liked it, Sarah! And way to repurpose things on your own homework station! I am SO hoping this lasts mine for awhile…

    1. Well, maybe this can be a tiny inspiration for how repurposed stuff + thrift store finds could help you get your office space a little more established? Happy bargain-hunting! 🙂

  9. Great ideas, great budget and looks great! A win on all accounts! Thank you for sharing, I love to do home projects on a budget too!

    1. *Thanks* If only I could get the rest of our post-flooding house messes sorted out so they looked this good and organized lol…

  10. I work from home! I have a stand up desk and I work in the closet of my actual office (which doubles as the gym because I mean, my brand is healthy living so it makes sense, LOL). I love my space. It was somewhere different when we initially moved into this house a few months ago but… #WaterDamage – LOL!

    1. Oh, no, you’ve been dealing with water damage too? Here we are down to TWO MORE DAYS OF ODD JOBS to finish cleaning up after last May’s flooding, and my mama called this AM (from several states away) to tell me HER basement is flooding! I *love* that you have your desk set up in the closet, though – one of the houses we almost bought had a similar setup in my would-be office that I loved! (The pervasive smoky smell in that house, not so much…)

    1. Thanks! So glad you liked them! (Now if only I could get my own home office back to looking more like this, less like a dumping ground for things evacuated from our flooded basement 4.5 months ago…)

  11. I am so glad to see this, my husband and I were JUST talking this weekend about getting a desk for our oldest and making a homework area for him. He just started kindergarten and homework is optional right now, but he still needs somewhere to sit and work on it because he does it most nights.

    1. Aww, so glad the timing was perfect, Stephanie! I don’t know if you’ll be able to pull off your entire brood K-12 on one setup (she says, hoping and praying that this one will get us through the next decade!) – BUT, this will give you some ideas to start thinking about, even if you wait a few years til everyone has regular homework before you go all-out on something this size! 🙂

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