How to save money on software

Whether we like it or not, our lives are becoming increasingly digital. As a result, our dependency on software is growing by the day. No wonder both consumers and businesses are increasingly looking at how to save money on software. Meanwhile, software companies are reaping the rewards of this burgeoning market (expected to be worth $650bn by 2025). Make no mistake, the software market is growing at a rate of knots and that’s partly thanks to the rise of subscriptions.

Years ago, you could buy a perpetual license for a piece of software and own it forever. If you wanted to upgrade to a new version, that was up to you. Nowadays, most modern software providers don’t offer lifetime licenses at all. Subscriptions are the new, preferred billing model for which to sell software. This is the new age of “software as a service” (SaaS), pioneered by the likes of Adobe about a decade ago now.

SaaS has become the new norm and, with it, both consumers’ and businesses’ software spends have increased. But are there ways to cut your software costs?

Ways you can save money on your software purchases include;

  • buying software on Black Friday
  • sharing a license with a friend
  • finding free alternatives
  • checking for student discounts
  • completing your task in the trial period
  • subscribing to annual over monthly plans

How to save money on consumer software

B2C software sellers benefit from healthy profit margins, as such they can afford to run some pretty aggressive promotions (50% off is far from uncommon in the consumer software world). Typically, Black Friday (late November) is the promotional period when these discounts are are at their most generous. If you can’t wait until then, it’s always worth Googling to see if there are any active coupon codes available.

Sharing a license

Each software vendor’s licenses work differently. Some are quite liberal when it comes to the number of devices and activations a single license can be used across, and some even offer Family licenses. So you could try splitting the cost of software with a friend. If you’re not going to be the license administrator then make sure your fellow license sharer is someone you can trust because they might later revoke access to your device.

Note: check the vendor’s End User License Agreement (EULA) to ensure sharing a license is not in violation of their terms and conditions.

Find a free alternative

As a student, I didn’t have much money and I really begrudged paying for Microsoft Office. However, I felt that I needed Word for writing my essays, and occasionally required Excel for some basic analysis. In hindsight, I realise that I absolutely could have done without Office, and made do instead with Google Docs and Sheets which are both free. My point here is that there are loads of free software out there. Sometimes, the free version of software A is just as good as the paid version of software B. Be careful to avoid downloading any software containing malware by checking reviews and doing your research.

Check for student discounts

If you’re a student then I have good news! Software companies are increasingly offering big discounts for students and occasionally even offering their software to students for free so make sure to check the vendor’s website carefully for such offers.

Complete your task in the trial period

Sometimes you’ll find yourself needing to perform a one-off task for which a piece of software you don’t own is needed. Gladly, the majority of software businesses offer trial periods to allow people to evaluate the software. So start your trial, and make sure to complete your task before the trial expires. If it’s a trial that requires you to enter your payment details then remember to cancel your trial before the trial period expires or you’ll be billed!

Subscribe to annual over monthly plans

If you’re certain that you need to pay for software and will be using it regularly over the course of a year or longer then here is a good tip. Typically, it’s 15 – 20% cheaper to subscribe on an annual basis, rather than opt for the monthly plan.

Love Mac desktop apps? Try SetApp

If you’re a Mac user with several subscriptions to various apps then you might want to try SetApp. SetApp is a single subscription costing $9 / month that gives you access to a bunch of different software from across different providers.

How to save money on software as a start-up

Depending on industry, the modern start-up will likely use ten or more different pieces of software from the first few weeks of its inception. Some of these will be free, some of these will be paid for. Unless you’re drowning in seed funding, chances are you will be looking to keep software costs to a minimum. Understanding which paid-for software is critical to your success at the various stages of your business is vital. Start-ups using free plans of certain software can quickly run into limitations as their business scales, and founders and CTOs should be mindful of this. For example, Slack, the popular business messaging app, offers a free plan for small teams but message history is limited to 10k messages only.

You can check out 15 of the best apps for start-ups here.

How to save money on Enterprise software

If you’re the CTO of a large business looking to procure Enterprise software on behalf of your organisation then you’re in a fantastic position to negotiate a great deal with pretty much any software vendor, based on economies of scale. This is especially true if it’s nearing the end of a quarter and the salesperson you’re dealing with hasn’t hit quota! However, if the idea of negotiating with software salespeople sends a shiver down your spine, you can even outsource the negotiation to companies like Vendr who broker the best possible deals for their clients.