Save Money on Computer Software

by Mike on February 25, 2010

Good news! You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for computer software! While I don’t have statistics to back this up, it has been my observation that the average home computer is used mostly for word processing and web surfing. If this sounds like you, below are some alternatives to the expensive software you may be used to.

At the time of this writing, most computers being purchased probably have the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system installed. (Hint: The software pre-loaded on computers causes price inflation)
Here is the cost of Windows 7:

Upgrade Full
Home / Premium $119 $199
Professional $199 $299
Ultimate $219 $319

 

The Alternative: Ubuntu Linux
Cost: FREE

 

Distributions of Linux operating systems have been around for a long time, however they have they have lacked the user-friendly component needed to gain the support of everyday users. Ubuntu has done a good job of building a stable, user friendly operating system. Ubuntu is less taxing than Windows, so if your computer can run the Windows operating system, you’ll meet the minimum system requirements for Ubuntu with no problem. You might even find it runs faster.

Installation runs smoothly, graphical user interface is comparable to windows. However, as with any new installation, there is the risk of erasing your data if not done properly. If you are unsure, seek help. If you are shopping for a new operating system you may find that you like Ubuntu. They also have a desktop CD image you can download and burn, allowing you to run the OS from a CD without changing your computer at all. If you like it, you can permanently install later.

Level of difficulty: moderate

 

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Maybe you’re not ready to change your entire operating system. Changing your Office Production suite can save you big bucks.

Here is the cost of Microsoft Office Suite:

Upgrade Full
Home / Student N/A $149.95
Small Business $279.95 $499.95
Professional $329.95 $499.95

The Alternative: Open Office
Cost: FREE

At the most basic level, these production suites are similar. Open Office does not have some of the advanced features that MS Office does (such as programming macros), but most people don’t use those anyway. Another bonus: Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents will open in Open Office! Installation is included in Ubuntu. However, it also runs on Windows.

 

Level of difficulty: Easy

Another Alternative: Google Docs
Cost: FREE

Another alternative to the Office Suite is Google Docs. Cloud computing is being touted as the wave of the future, but I’m not ready to trust all of my documents to Google Docs. However, if your word processing is minimal, it may be an alternative. There is also Microsoft Web apps which has Word, Excel and PowerPoint. I believe you need a Windows Live ID to access it. I haven’t used MS Web apps but it may be worth looking into.

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To protect your computer, you’ll need some type of anti-virus software, especially if you run a Windows machine. This is not to pick on Windows, however the fact remains that all technical and security aspects aside, malicious users realize that the majority of users are on Windows. The top contenders are McAfee and Norton:

McAfee AntiVirus Plus $39.99 Norton Antivirus 2010 $39.99
McAfee Internet Security $49.99 Norton Internet Security $69.99
McAfee Total Protection $59.99 Norton 360 / Ultimate Protection $79.99

The Alternative: AVG
Cost: FREE

AVG free gives you basic anti virus / anti-spyware protection. It does not hoard system resources and upgrades are also free. There is a premium version, but when I was using Windows, I’ve been satisfied with the free version.

Level of difficulty: Easy


Update: Tom from Canadian Finance mentioned another free anti-virus alternative. Thanks Tom!
Another Alternative: Microsoft Security Essentials
Cost: FREE


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If you’ve ever tried to do more than crop or rotate and image with the default Windows options (such as MS Paint), you’ll quickly learn you’ll need image manipulation software.

Upgrade Full
Adobe Photoshop CS4 $199 $699
Corel PaintShop Pro $69 $99

The Alternative: GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program)
Cost: FREE

Unless you are a professional graphic designer, you probably don’t need Adobe Photoshop. It is a powerful program, but basic & intermediate image editing can be done for much less than $700! Using Photoshop for basic editing is a waste of money. There is so much untapped potential! It would be like buying a computer and only using the calculator function. PaintShop Pro is not a bad alternative for the price. But, if you can brave the learning curve GIMP is free.

Level of difficulty: intermediate / advanced

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Perhaps you don’t want to substitute your software. Many companies (especially larger ones) have Hardware & Software Employee Use Programs where you are buy from vendors at deep discounted rates. Typically, this is limited to the “home”or “professional” versions (no enterprise software) of a product and you are only allowed to install on one computer while you are an employee of the company. If you leave the company, you are expected to uninstall the software. I took advantage of this program through my former IT company a few years ago and purchased Microsoft Office 2003 for $20. Vendors vary from company to company, check with your HR or Benefits department to see if your company offers any such deals.

Have you saved money on your computer software?
Have you tried any of the programs listed above?

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chong Kong Hui October 21, 2010 at 3:28 am

Was OpenOffice user, but due to productivity concern switch to paid version at reasonable price. Must get a balance point, can’t just save for the sack of saving.

Was AVG Free user too but still switch to Paid version (also the reasonable price version).

Probably the different is productivity!
.-= Chong Kong Hui´s last blog ..How to Setup Children Education Fund by Invest in Property =-.

2 Matt Jabs May 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Ubuntu, and OpenOffice, Gimp, and several different free antivirus programs are all great, $ saving options. I use them all… and actually prefer most.
.-= Matt Jabs´s last blog ..DFA Link Rally: I Bought a Scooter! =-.

3 Andrietta March 4, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Thanks Lakita for the information. Didnt know about openoffice. But I do use AVG. And I will say I have had it for years and have been virus free. On the other hand my company chooses to use symantec for its antivirus program.. and just last month I recieved a virus that nearly shut down my laptop. Go figure.. I work for fortune 500 company. And when the IT department went to clean my machine off.. guess what they used… LOL! AVG, Ad-Aware, Malware bytes… etc.. the TOP free antivirus protection software available. I asked why didnt our top dollar anti-virus software catch it… their response… “it sucks”… LOL!

4 PF Journey March 4, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Andrietta,

Thanks for the laugh! That’s funny! It goes to show you that we shouldn’t always dismiss something just because it’s free. Thanks for stopping by!

5 James March 3, 2010 at 2:34 am

You could also have a look at SSuite Office for a free office suite. They have a whole range of office suites that are free for download.

Their software also doesn’t need to run on Java or .NET, so it makes the software very small and efficient.

http://www.ssuitesoft.com/index.htm

6 PF Journey March 3, 2010 at 7:40 am

Thanks James! That is another one I haven’t heard of. Learn something new everyday!

7 Joe February 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm

I am completing Grad school this semester and the fact that I am a student, i have access to tons of software at an incredible discount.
MS -XP -$0.00
Office 2007 $11.00
…and the list is long most of this is Microsoft partnership with institutions of higher learning. If you are a student check your school IT department or inquire at the school bookstore.
.-= Joe´s last blog ..Time to write your will =-.

8 PF Journey February 26, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Excellent point Joe! When I was a student I had deep discounts and I loaded up on all the software because I didn’t like working doing lab hours. That meant Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, Macromedia Director, Visual Basic and Dreamweaver to name a few. There is no way I would have been able to afford those without student discounts!

(Sidenote: If I thought about finances then like I do now, I probably would have used the labs more often and saved the money, but that’s another story altogether!)

9 Victor February 27, 2010 at 2:10 am

Ya’ll are lucky there. In Russia MS (and others) doesn’t really offer this discount. They just make noice about that, but in reality…
But lots of Adobe stuff I was able to buy through eBay at huge discounts, NIS there costs two, sometime three times cheaper than at BestBuy…
So, one thing that worked fine for me at saving money on software was eBay. We saved lots of money. I mean lots of money! 🙂

10 Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog February 25, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I was using the free version of AVG for a couple years. Not only is it free, but less bloated and resource hogging than the others. I did recently switch to Microsoft Security Essentials though… also free and highly rated in testing!
.-= Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog´s last blog ..How To Become A Coupon King (Or Queen) =-.

11 PF Journey February 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Tom ~ Thanks for that! I haven’t heard of Microsoft Security Essentials. First chance I get I’ll add an update.

PS: U.S. vs Canada Women’s Hockey tonight….no matter who wins I’ll still be your friend 🙂

12 PF Journey February 25, 2010 at 10:07 am

Pete ~ First of all congrats on the Ebook release! I’ll be getting my copy soon! I implemented most if not all of the tips and tricks I’ve learned from your blueprint series. I didn’t know about the Export to PDF feature with Open Office….all this time I’ve been looking for Ebook software for my dance ministry ebook and its been right under my nose….bonus!

13 Jason @ MyMoneyMinute February 25, 2010 at 10:01 am

I’m a fan of OpenOffice & AVG. There’s virtually no learning curve to ’em, and is a great alternative to MS Office.
.-= Jason @ MyMoneyMinute´s last blog ..Tax Refunds: Does Size Matter? =-.

14 PF Journey February 25, 2010 at 11:49 am

I’m hooked on them now! I used to do some DB programming in MS Access, but I don’t do that much anymore and when I do, I’m sure I’ll find an alternative. I must admit, I do miss MS Publisher from time to time…

15 Peter February 25, 2010 at 9:19 am

I use several of the free versions of software that you listed above. AVG is my main anti virus program and it works great. I haven’t had a virus infection in years. I think that has more to do with the kind of sites that you’re surfing, and safe email and browsing behavior than anything else.

Open Office is awesome – I just used it to create my e-book that I just launched because it has a great “export to PDF” feature. Free software – and it has some great added benefits!

I haven’t tried ubuntu, but may give it a shot just for fun on our old computer that’s just sitting in storage. might be fun just to play around!
.-= Peter´s last blog ..Announcement: Blueprint For How To Make Money With A Blog E-book Is Now Available! =-.

16 Victor February 27, 2010 at 2:04 am

For printing from ANY program to PDF. The best thing I’ve ever seen was Bullzip PDF Printer – free, fast and quite reliable! So, I didn’t even know that people miss this feature in Office – had it covered long time ago… 🙂

17 PF Journey February 25, 2010 at 8:41 am

Victor,Why do you assume that I wasted time? I’m work in the IT field and I actually enjoy learning new computer tricks, hacks, etc. However, I’ve only listed the ones with the lowest learning curve as I realize everyone else will not enjoy the adjustments. Switching from Windows to Ubunutu is like switching from Mac to PC or vice versa. There are some interface design differences but they can be overcome. Besides, if you are mostly surfing the web, word processing and email…honestly the Operating System you use does not matter.Time / Cost: A professional version of Windows is $300. Even if you get paid $100/hr that is 3 hours…less than the time it takes to install any of the software I listed. The average hourly pay is less than that so I’d say it’s worth it.Too bad about your information lost. It is worth noting that can occur even with paid software, no program offers 100% protection. But AVG should not be dismissed just because it’s free.

18 Victor February 27, 2010 at 2:01 am

Sorry for being silent so long (I was traveling teaching Biblical finances management in the other part of Russia)
Where in the world did I say that YOU wasted time? What I am saying is that AVERAGE user will have lots of time spent before they learn operating the “free” system if they’re used to using Windows. I live in hi-tech since 1989 and when I tried to switch to Linux – I realized, that my family time costs more, then $200 saved on Windows.
Your point about people who don’t do nothing but surfing the web from home – I don’t know, may be that works for them, but why then mess us with PC? Buy PSP – it has browser build in and no need for aditional software at all…
Sorry, if I was miscommunicating my point – didn’t mean to offend anybody – just to reason about time vs. money – it is NOT easy to switch when you mostly work by shortcuts, hot-keys and stuff. Most of the time money are cheaper then time in this regard.
Someone else mentioned Adobe Photoshop as an example in comments – it is not home software. And in most cases Google Picasa will give you everything you need to fix your photos. Sure you can save tonns of money here…
Once again, sorry, if my English doesn’t convey what I am trying to say in Russian mind… 🙂

19 Money Reasons March 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Victor,

I’ve also been in the tech industry for a long time, and I agree with Lakita (or Kita 🙂 )!

Linux use to be just for techno geeks like myself, Heck, even I didn’t like it… But the Desktop version from Ubuntu is very easy and straight forward. I setup my 6 year old daughter with a computer that uses Ubuntu as the operating system and she gets around fine (although I have to admit my daughter’s a pretty smart cookie)…

AVG is good too, if you don’t look for trouble by opening every email attachment that comes your way.

I love Open Office and use on my main PC. It’s truly great!

I haven’t done much with GIMP other than download it and reduce jpg sizes, but it looks pretty cool!

I know I’m really really late to this conversation, but Ubuntu is such a great product, that I think it deserves a 2nd look by people that have tried Linux in the Past, and didn’t like it!

One more thing, Ubuntu come with a lot of software packages as part of the installation, for example Open Office was part of the install…. Pretty cool huh!
.-= Money Reasons´s last blog ..What I Have Learned To Date From Blogging! =-.

20 PF Journey February 27, 2010 at 8:28 am

Victor,

No worries! Some people will appreciate the alternative and some will not….its all a matter of choice and priorities. No offense taken! Your welcome to express your opinion 🙂

Kita

21 Victor February 25, 2010 at 7:19 am

And, BTW, you’ll be believing that free antivirus protects you up to the first attack – after losing lots of info, I just had to swith back to software I am paying for (no names – I am not for ads here)…

22 Victor February 25, 2010 at 7:14 am

Many times when people say “Free” they tend to lose a grip of such a thing as time wasted learning new tricks and gimmick of new software and (more important) new OS. If you switch to Ubuntu – I guarantee you’ll waste lots of time and effectiveness of your PC usage will drop way down for at least a month or two – I wonder, how much does your hour cost to cosider such a “savings” as saving? When we’re talking about new software for old users, we have to concider time-cost of switching… And since every new version of old software you’re used to using inherit most of the shortkeys|tricks|gimmicks and stuff, most of the times, it’s cheaper to upgrade, not to switch to totally different soft. Even more so switching to the totally other OS.
One thing we can be sure of, we can save installing this kind of soft for our kids – they don’t care what they will learn – it’s learing for them, not re-learning… 🙂

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