I have no problem paying for software, especially if it helps school or work in a big way. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t cringe every time I need to swipe the card in order to buy an expensive package, whether I buy off a store or make an order online. Some of the titles I look at, in fact, are even more expensive than my computer — and that makes paying for it really tough to swallow.
Fortunately, there are ways for you to get around the high price of commercial software packages, whether they are office programs, accounting packages or graphics editors. Here are some of them.
Academic License Software
If you’re a student (or work in an educational institution), getting an academic version of any title you purchase is the best recourse for acquiring software on the cheap. You can get these discounted student copies from your university’s computer store, directly from the publishers, or off an academic software retailer online. The markdowns are considerable, too — many times, you can expect to pay 50% or less of the regular shelf price.
How about if you have no connections to academe? If you’re not iffy about stretching the rules a bit, there should be no problem. Some online stores will let you order student software even if all you have is a .EDU mail address (e.g. your old college emails if they’re still active; a friend’s email). You can also ask friends and family members who still go to school to get a copy for you.
Those copies of software that comes bundled when you buy a new computer (including Windows)? They’re software with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) licenses and are designed to be included as value-adds with hardware purchases. Many companies also allow retailers to sell OEM licenses in limited quantities — you can try from both online sources (like Newegg) and local stores to find some. Do note that, unlike regular retail titles, OEM software is not eligible for low-priced updates.
Some publishers bundle their software in a “suite,” which you can get for a much lower price than if you buy everything individually. If there are couple of titles you’ve been looking to get from a publisher, you should check their site for promotional bundles, as well. A new place to look for are group buying websites, many of whom work with varying publishers to come up with low-priced, time-limited bundles, provided a certain number of people decide to put in an order.