Stay Productive and Connected on the Cheap

Since no one else wanted to do it, I got dubbed Carpenter Realtor’s “technology guru” (pause for laughter).  Along with that illustrious title I get asked often if we have any kind of “inside discount” on Microsoft Office, or Dell computers or what have you.  No, I don’t.  However, I do let people who ask about some of the alternatives I know of.

OpenOffice is a great, free alternative to Microsoft Office.  It is a productivity suite that includes alternatives to Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access.  I use some pretty large, linked spreadsheets and OpenOffice opens them with no problem.  I have yet to find an alternative to Microsoft Publisher – one that actually opens and creates Publisher files – so you’ll have to spring for the $99 stand-alone package if you have to have it (but if you’re a Carpenter agent you should use iContact to make your flyers!).

I do know of a way to get good deals on Dell computers.  I have bought many, many refurbished Dells and have had no significant problems.  You generally get at least twenty percent off what the laptop or desktop would have cost new and since you are buying a product already sitting on a shelf you get the added bonus of having it ship immediately.  Dell’s website has a link for “Dell deals” and one of the links is Outlet.  Shop away.

If you’re looking for a Mac, Apple has an education discount for those of you with kids in school or college (or for those of you who may still be in college?), and for the past couple years they’ve given away a free iPod Touch with new laptop purchases.

Don’t need an iPhone but want to be mobile and hostile without the $100 AT&T cover charge?  Try a no-contract, all you can eat, plan from major carriers reselling their services cheap.  Walmart sells two plans that use Verizon’s excellent network.  $30 a month gets you 1,000 minutes, 1,000 text messages and 30MB of Internet data or $45 gets you unlimited minutes, messages and data.

Sprint sells their network as Boost Mobile where you get unlimited talk, text and Internet for $50 a month or, if you’re a Blackberry fan, $60 a month for unlimited talk, text, Internet and Blackberry service.  You have to buy the phone for anywhere from $100 to $150 from Boost.  Walmart sells simpler phones from $30 up to touch-screen models all the way up to $280.  Considering that you’ll pay $99 a month for a contracted unlimited plan with the major carriers, you’ll save a boatload of cash over a typical 24-month contract period and you don’t have to sign any contracts.  You can walk into any Sprint store to buy Boost Mobile phones or pay for monthly service.

Need home Internet cheap?  If you don’t need to download Paramount’s entire movie catalog twice a month you can get by with AT&T’s $14.95 “naked” DSL (no phone line required) for up to 3MB download speed.  Comcast has an Internet plan they don’t generally advertise that is $24.95 rather than $42.95.  It is much slower than the standard speed tier (capped around 1MB download speed) but is perfectly fine for browsing the Internet, checking email and telling everyone on Facebook that you just got back from the grocery store.


Posted by: George Christodoulou

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