Saving Money Tip: Open Source Software

Last week, I was having a twitter discussion with one of my favorite PF Bloggers, Matt Jabs of Debt Free Adventure.  Matt’s a great blogger, and offered to put my car situation on his website, and I got valuable feedback from him and his readers.  Anyway, Matt & I share slightly similar professions (Although he has recently gotten a new job, Congrats Matt) in that we are both IT Geeks by day.  (I should probably stop talking about Matt & get to my post.

Anyway, Matt got me thinking when we were talking about a computer purchase.  At work (and I work for a very by-the-book employer) we have even begun using open-source software because it is so cost effective, and I thought it would be a great way for non IT geeks to use to lower costs when purchasing a new machine.  There are many different programs that you have been working on computers with for years, and probably just purchase because the program is good (or OK) and don’t know what else can do a similar function for a better cost.  Microsoft Office comes to mind here.

So, here are some ways you can save money on software when purchasing a computer

Open Source Software

Word Processing/Spreadsheets/Presentations

Standard Program:

Microsoft Office – To Order a new Dell PC with Microsoft Office, it costs $119.00, and is not the “professional” edition, which includes an email client, Microsoft Outlook.  For that, You’ll need to cough up $279.00.

For Microsoft Office on an Apple Machine, it costs $149.95 for the regular edition, and $399.95 for the “professional” edition

Open Source Alternative:

Open Office – Open office is a great program, and as long as I’ve used it or talked about it with friends, I’ve never heard a bad thing spoken about it.  It has spreadsheets, wordprocessing, graphics and databases.  This is more functionality than you get with the standard version of Microsoft office, and it’s free.  It also has a simple save as “*.docx” or whatever microsoft format you need.  It also has a save as “*.pdf” option.  You can download open office for free at their website,


For Cost Option – Microsoft Outlook included with Microsoft Office Professional Edition.

Open Source Alternative:

Thunderbird is the email client designed by the people who created the Mozilla Firefox Browser.  It’s got many of the same features as outlook, such as email search, easy set up, and integration with their calendar program, called Lightning Calendar.  If you think these sources are unsafe, think again.  Use of Firefox (the browser) has been gaining steadily over the years, and is probably safer at this point than Internet Explorer, the Microsoft Web browser.

Photo Editing:

Many of the photo editing software comes standard (a perfect reason for you to use it and not think about it).  Some of it is OK for the amateur photographer, but there are programs that do a much better job and are also free.

Picasa: Picasa was purchased by internet giant Google quite some time ago, and then was (as is google’s motus operandi) made free, and features were added like crazy.  It has a much more intuitive way of finding your photos, and also adds support for red-eye removal and tagging pictures with places and people in them.  You can also upload some of your photos on the internet to share so that grandma can see pictures of your new baby (or puppy), for free!

USB Jump Drive

You probably bought one of these to store files, thinking man, this is handy.  Well, if you’ve lost yours and don’t want to replace it, try….

Dropbox – Creates a folder on each of your computers and syncs the items in the folder across the dropbox folders.  Along with moving your files to computers, you can use files on the dropbox website.  If you’re interested in more, check the homepage for a short video on how to get the most out of dropbox.

For most users, these options would save you lots of money in software when purchasing a new computer.  There’s more products that will allow you to cut the cost of Microsoft Windows out, but I didnt mention them for 2 reasons:

  • It’s usually included in the cost of the computer
  • Other Operating System software (Linux, Unix) is typically for IT geeks like myself.

So, I encourage you to take some of Bakers advice and Unautomate your software choices.  The old methods work ok, but there are newer, better and free-er (is that a word) software options.  Explore them, you’ll save money and be glad you did.

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17 thoughts on “Saving Money Tip: Open Source Software”

  1. Have you ever considered SSuite Office as a free alternative to MS Office?

    Their software also doesn’t need to run on Java or .NET, like MS Office and so many open source office suites, so it makes their software very small, efficient, and easy to use. 🙂

  2. I havent tried SSuite Office. I’ll have to give it a look when I get some time. Thanks for the tip. Shrinking the code base and “features” of some of the softwares is not a bad thing at all times, in my eyes. Some of them are so code & feature laden that they cause problems.


  3. Open Source software is awesome. I use Open Office for all my wordprocessing needs now on my mac and rarely have any issues…. In some ways I prefer office but you can’t beat the price of free!!

    Gimp is great free alternative to Photoshop.

    • there are so many great open source packages that do what the thousands of dollar packages do easier and sometimes better. I think many people dont know they are available, have security concerns, or figure they are for computer-geek types and will be difficult for them to use. Typically that’s not the case, although sometimes it is.

  4. I met profoundly spiritual people that make a point of using open source, free source, just because it is always LEGAL. Many people just got used to download software without caring about that.

  5. Late comment, but…Why just stop with Open Source apps? Go for the whole shebang and use a GNU/Linux OS. Old, slow computers become lightning fast again with Linux, and best of all, it gets you out of Microsoft and Apples pretty but very expensive walled in gardens. Yes, it takes so readjustment, but so does everything.

    There are a trillion Linux flavors out there, here are my favorites:
    1. Linux Mint -hands down the best for newbies. Works well on newer hardware. Comes with Flash and multimedia codecs out of the box.
    2. Ubuntu -Mint is actually based on Ubuntu, but on anything other than a pretty recent dual core computer the current releases of Ubuntu will be slow.
    3. Lubuntu-for any hardware older than five years this is a good choice. I am typing this on a 10 year old Dell laptop running Lubuntu 12.04 (which is the release date, ie April of 2012) LTS. LTS stands for long term stable release, meaning it will be supported for five years, or until 04/ 2017.
    4. Puppy Linux- for very old hardware Puppy will bring it back to life. Not a good choice for newbies though, get comfortable with an above OS first.
    5. Connochaet OS-for very, very old hardware. This is designed to
    run well on a machine with as little as 64 MB of RAM and a 100 mhz processor. No, I am not joking. A modern, safe operating system with a modern webkit based browser on a 15 year old computer.

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