Saving Money Buying Hardware and Software
I was recently lamenting at the prices we Brits are forced to pay compared with compatriots overseas. Nothing personal, but we're getting ripped off and I don't like it. Mind you, I rarely pay full price for anything these days, certainly not full RRP or high street prices, there's too many ways to save a few quid on hardware and software. I thought I'd share a few tips with you.
First off, no, hang on a second, I should really start by saying that online is the place for discounts, buy online! That's not to say that you should ignore in-store bargains, but generally I've found that even those 'unmissable bargains' can be beaten online, even if only with better specs than the version offered. I guess we should get the obvious things out the way:
Yes, love it or hate it (I don't have an account) there's plenty of cheap stuff on eBay, beware what you're buying though, check the description carefully (don't be one of those people who buys a box) and use your common sense (if it's too good to be true, it is). I've just bought my first thing on eBay (someone bought it on my behalf, still not getting an account), a barcode scanner, review to come. I'd be less inclined to buy any significant hardware this way and most of the software listed is copies, so you may wish to avoid.
A better place to look than eBay for me, partly because it's primarily used by businesses. As someone who has listed and sold hardware on it though, generally it offers some good prices and less (it appears) risky deals.
Another fairly broad group. Quite a few companies run cashback services, wherein you sign-up and visit a website through their link and then get back a percentage of the transaction once it's verified. I, personally, have only ever used Quidco, but it works like a charm and you can get anywhere from 1-20% back on your purchases, not bad for almost no effort. PayPay seem to have a scheme as well that I hadn't heard about, check out www.paypal-offers.co.uk.
Here's a few your may not have thought/heard of:
Many software manufacturers (not too sure about hardware) offer discounts to people in education, and this often includes teachers and employees in the education sector (although sometimes on a different schemes). Take the current The Ultimate Steal scheme Microsoft is running. It is currently offering Office 2007 Ultimate for £38.95, a product that is currently listed on Amazon.co.uk for £461.98. That's a saving of £423.03! Most schools, colleges and universities have information about how and where to buy academic copies of many apps, so well worth asking, or just plug it into Google and look for student or academic copies. Note that you often have to provide proof you are in education, although these rarely seem to be very strict and I certainly know of people getting friends and relatives in full-time education to buy a copy on their behalf.
In a similar vein to education discounts, some companies offer discounts to employees of corporations that sign up for their licenses. I have previously bought copies of various Office suites for around £15-20 using such a scheme (check if your workplace has any of these deals, typically it'll only be large corporations signed up ongoing schemes). Even smaller companies may have things like MSDN licenses that allow you to buy licensed versions cheaper than retail. Lastly, some software companies allow you to use work software on a home PC (provided your not using them both at once), I think Adobe and Macromedia used to do this, not sure they still do.
Something else to check is whether your company has any discount schemes with retailers. Many larger businesses negotiate or join schemes that offer their employees discount on a range of products, including computers and hardware. We saved 6% off a laptop with one of these schemes leading up to Christmas.
While buying brand new items is sometimes beneficial, it's always good to check what savings can be had from upgrades. Some software vendors even offer free upgrades between certain versions (or even lifetime upgrades). If you have an old version of a piece of software it is worth checking if you are eligible for an upgrade package rather than the full thing. A copy of Vista Home Premium Edition, for example, costs £199.98 (on Amazon.co.uk), while the upgrade costs £99.98, a £100 saving.
While individual components can rarely be upgraded in a PC, you can often extend the useful life of a PC or laptop with simple upgrades. These are often very easy to install and cheap to do and can make your machine behave almost like new. Probably the most obvious is upgrading the RAM of a machine. This can be cheap and if you can change a plug you should be able to cope with changing RAM, on both desktop and laptop computers. Not sure what to buy, try Crucial.com, which has a way to find you RAM by brand, or using a downloadable tool (and has great prices too, and last time I looked you could get discount through Quidco!). Other upgrades worth thinking about are hard drives (go for an external if opening the case causes you palpitations), graphics cards and optical drives (DVD/HD-DVD drives). There are plenty of installations guides online, so I won't repeat them here.
Also worth noting is simply doing a complete, fresh install of your OS can result in big performance improvements.
I've mentioned how and where I look for the best prices before, but even I find new places with better prices. Always remember to do you research on the stores first and, if you have never ordered from them before, use a credit card if you can as this offers you some protection (i.e. your money back) should it all go wrong.
Last, but by no means least, is OEM. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, essentially the people who build computer systems (Dell, HP, etc). They get special discount rates on software and hardware because they get things without all the bells and whistles a 'retail' part does, and also bulk discounts. For example, Microsoft OEM products do not come with support from Microsoft for the end user, you have to go back to the equipment supplier (i.e. Dell, HP, etc). The benefits are in the price though, they usually offer big discounts. Take the example of Vista Home Premium Edition above, as I stated, the retail version costs £199.98 (on Amazon.co.uk), while the upgrade costs £99.98. The OEM version, also listed on Amazon, costs £61.48, or £138.50 cheaper than retail and £38.50 cheaper than even the upgrade. This is a full, working version of the software, no catches. The same is often the case with hardware too, you'll find things like screws and cables missing compared to a retail version, but if you're upgrading you probably already have them.