Chances are that if you have a desktop computer, you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, whether for work or pleasure. So why shouldn’t your office be as comfortable and efficient as possible? Although upgrading your computer can often take a long time (especially these days), you can spend a lot less to improve your workstation itself in surprising ways.
Here are ten ways to upgrade your workstation for under $100, presented in no particular order. Most of them are under $50 and much under $25!
A chic desk rug
It doesn’t matter what kind of mouse you use or what kind of desk you use it on, you need something in between to protect them both. A $10 mouse pad will do just fine, although gamers will probably want something bigger. But why stop at big when you can get something huge, like this 36-inch wide Corsair mat that fits under your keyboard and probably your lunch too? It’s only $20. I splurged on this fancy felt rug from Etsy, and it’s so comfortable, I don’t think I can go back to a normal rug.
If you work in an area where you don’t have to worry about disturbing others, a decent set of speakers is a great quality-of-life improvement. The Edifier R1280T is a must-have for great sound on a budget. As of this writing, it’s on sale for $99.99, fitting right into our lineup. Our guide to the best budget computer speakers has plenty of other top options as well.
A good microphone
A ton of people have found themselves in more video calls these days. While you can get away with an inferior webcam, a bad microphone (or, heaven forbid, just using the one built into your laptop) can be a major barrier to communication. You want a USB mic to be heard. Blue’s Yeti Nano packs the same technology that made the original model the go-to for podcasters around the world in a much smaller, cheaper package.
Our roundup of the best USB microphones for streaming includes several other killer options for under $100.
If you have a bulky pair of headphones and/or a game controller at your desk, you need a convenient place to put them when not in use. The answer is, stick them underneath or to the side, out of the way but still easily accessible. I love this double-stacked 3D printed version that hides under the surface of my desk.
A monitor arm
Your monitor takes up a lot of space. The same goes for the support that supports it. But it doesn’t have to be: get a VESA-compatible arm in a variety of form factors and attach that suction cup to the back of your desk. This is especially handy if you’re using a multi-monitor setup or a laptop. (Just make sure your monitor has a VESA mounting area on the back before you buy.) Reclaim that lost real estate, so you can use it for something like…
wireless phone charger
All recent iPhone models and most high-end Android phones now come with Qi wireless charging. And if you buy a charger directly from your phone manufacturer, it is very expensive. Since Qi is an open standard, you have tons of choices for chargers and charging stands. Personally, I love this series of chargers from Target’s house brand. They hide the charging pad in a nice bamboo desktop organizer (available in three sizes!) and include two bonus USB charging ports.
Of course, there will always be things you can’t charge wirelessly. (Or times when you can’t wait for Qi to be ineffective.) To keep an outlet handy at all times, I’ve used this Belkin mini surge protector for years. Not only is it an easy way to charge laptops, tablets, and other gadgets (easily attached by Velcro to the edge of my desk), but it’s also a great travel companion. Keep it in your bag and you’ll be the most popular person in the crowded airport wall outlet.
Speaking of things you can never have too many of: USB ports. Desktop users can (and probably should!) expand their ports via PCIe cards, but anyone could use a solid hub. This $23 one includes USB-A, USB-C, HDMI, and even flash card readers. But there are endless choices for inexpensive USB hubs, so be sure to shop around and find one that suits your needs. Our guide to the best USB-C hubs can help point you in the right direction.
Lighting up every inch of your desk with just the LEDs built into your keyboard isn’t actually so good for your eyes. This $50 monitor lamp is sort of a 21st century version of those old green accounting desk lamps. It will comfortably illuminate whatever is in front of you, without glare directly in your eyes or your monitor, and it comes with a handy wireless controller.
Look, I don’t want to be a snob. But all those cables strewn across your desk? They are really messy. You should clean them immediately. Luckily, it’s both easy and cheap: cable guides, reusable Velcro ties, and sleeves for large packages are easy to find. One of my favorite upgrades to a standing desk is to add large trays in the back, perfect for a surge protector and all your wall warts. Install it correctly, and you’ll only need one power cord (and maybe an Ethernet cable) running from your desk to the wall.