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4 easy ways to cut your software costs in 2015

Ian Paul | Jan. 19, 2015
Are you paying money for software when perfectly good free alternatives exist? Here are four areas to consider dumping your annual software payments with solid free alternatives.

The holidays are over, the new year has begun, and thoughts are turning back towards normal life--and post-holiday finances. There's a reason that "Save more money" is such a popular New Year's resolution.

One easy way to cut costs is to reassess the software you're paying for and why you're paying for it. If there's anything that can be cut and replaced with free or near-free alternatives, try it! Virtually every premium program out there has a no-cost alternative or three.

Without further ado, here are four free software suggestions that can help you start brainstorming your own list of software cost-cutting measures. For a deeper set of suggestions, check out PCWorld's "Your new PC needs these 22 free, excellent programs," which has no-cost software solutions that can cover all your computing bases.

Security
Paying for anti-virus software 10 years ago was a virtual necessity. Since then, however, a slew of free AV suites have appeared. But those free suites have their annoyances, such as trying to sneak in add-ons during installation, pop-ups encouraging you to upgrade to premium versions, and more.

The best way around all of this is to just go with what Microsoft offers for free. If you're using Windows 7, download Microsoft Security Essentials for anti-virus and malware protection. For Windows 8 and 8.1, Microsoft has a built-in solution called Windows Defender that does pretty much the same thing as MSE, but adds enhanced rootkit and bootkit protection.

Try it for a while--while Microsoft's tool's aren't quite as full-featured as third-party solutions, they can definitely get the job done for everyday users following smart security practices. If you're not satisfied you can always try another free AV tool or return to your premium security suite of choice.

Image software
Thanks to Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription offerings you can get Photoshop and Lightroom for $10 a month. Yet that's still $120 you can save every year if you go with any one of a multitude of free offerings.

If you like desktop apps, check out the powerful GIMP, the lightweight Irfanview, or the in-the-middle Paint.net. If you'd like to edit your photos in the cloud try online photo editing tools like the surprisingly robust Pixlr Editor.

Password Managers
Depending on the software you choose, you can spend as little as $12 a year for a password manager that works on both desktop and mobile. But if you don't want to pay anything, try out KeePass, a free and open source option that works on both desktop and mobile.

The downside of KeePass is that you have to be responsible for your own encrypted password database, whereas premium solutions often handle the busywork for you. To use KeePass on mobile you also have to use a third-party app as there are no official KeePass mobile apps.

 

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