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Are fax machines still necessary for home offices?

Is a fax machine still necessary in today's home offices?
Is a fax machine still necessary in today's home offices?
(Shamontiel L. Vaughn)

With a difficult job market to stay in and troubling numbers in unemployment, some people have gone the self-employed route by force instead of by choice. And others are looking at unemployment as initiative to finally stop dragging their feet and going after the careers they really want to have.

The Affordable Care Act made it much easier to not rely on a job for health insurance, dental insurance and vision insurance (along with other benefits), but now the self-employed have to get their home office in order. And that means deciding on whether to buy big purchase items or choosing more economical options instead.

In a work office, it's common to have huge printers, fax machines and copiers. But at home when space is more limited, buying work equipment may not be worth the money. For example, how often do companies use fax machines anymore?

In today's offices, people regularly scan documents and email them to clients. Only companies such as the IRS wouldn't dare give out email addresses. Otherwise their accounts would be overloaded with emails and questions in no time, especially around tax season. But if an entrepreneur's email address is on every business card handed out, chances are slim that this is a problem.

So why buy a fax machine?

Multi-function printers almost always include a fax machine, copier and scanner. Some even have the perks of a USB connector and a card reader for SD and compact flash cards for digital cameras. However, only one of these perks create an additional fee.

A fax machine won't work without a phone number to call. An entrepreneur can choose to skip the extra phone bill and use a home line, but then that's a fight with voicemail or answering machine rings. So the more stress-free option is to have a separate phone number just for faxing. But how many faxes are being received? If the amount of faxes is worth the extra bill, then it may be worth it.

Technology has advanced so much that faxes can now be sent digitally with online programs, such as FaxZero. This online program will send faxes to any modern fax machine. Type in the phone number, add the cover letter message and upload a maximum of three attachment pages for free. The only downside is the cover page will include an ad if the fax is sent for free.

However, for workers who aren't thrilled with that idea, $1.99 PayPal charge would send the same document without ads, up to 25 pages and priority delivery. The downside? Without a fax machine, the other company can't send a fax back to the worker so it's one-way communication. But if the worker rarely has a use for a fax machine anyway, how much two-way communication via fax is needed?

Retail stores charge anywhere from $0.99 per page to $1.49 per page to send a fax in an hour. For express rates, the amounts are even higher. That same 25-page fax can end up being a minimum of $24.75. That's the price of a phone bill, and workers would have to make sure to send faxes during their store hours, which includes travel time and gas money.

So let's say a company sends out 10 faxes but is paying $20 to $30 per month just for this fax line. The price to send those faxes for $1.99 each may be the same rate as the phone line. And if sent for free, then there's no contest at all.

Be careful with online fax companies that provide 30-day free trials and then monthly rates of $9.99 or higher (ex. If a worker is sending less than five faxes per day, FaxZero is still a better option.

Entrepreneurs are trying to make money just like any corporate company is. So why create extra expenses when there's no reason to do so?

Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all her latest Chicago finance, employment and savings tips, or subscribe to her Chicago Personal Finance channel at the top of this page.

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