Here are  tips to help you purchase licensed software programs online at a price that is much less than the suggested retail price. You’ll also learn about useful sites that offer excellent deals on popular software titles. These include comparison shopping search engines, coupon code databases and sites that offer educational discounts on software to students and parents.

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Finding Software Deals on the Internet – Tips

1. Always do comparison shopping (keep reading to learn about sites that offer comparison shopping for software). Never assume that the online software store you are looking at offers the best deal just because it’s popular.

2. Always remember to check extras like free shipping; this can turn one deal better than the other one even though it may look the opposite way when you look just at the price of the software.

3. If there is a software program that you want to purchase, go to the manufacturer’s website and subscribe to their email lists and also follow their blog, Twitter feed, or Facebook page. Many companies regularly post deals and offers through these channels so you can be the first one to find about new deals.

4. Make sure to purchase upgrade versions if you are eligible. Most companies discount upgrade versions of their software for people who already own an older version, and often upgrade versions are less than half the price of the full retail version.  Run a software inventory check and you may discover software stuff you forgot you had.

5. Some companies will let you purchase a software program at upgrade price if you own a competing product, so be sure to check the company’s website for upgrade requirements before you buy.

6. Many software companies offer discounts on full versions of the software to registered users of a trial version of the software, or of the company’s limited versions of the same software or online services. They often also offer discounts on upgrades to registered owners of previous versions of software.

7. Before you buy software, always check how many computers a program is licensed to run on.  For instance, Microsoft Office Home and Student is licensed for use on 3 computers in the same household, so if you have 3 computers in your home the price of Office is virtually 1/3 of what it would be. Some programs are available as family packs (like Windows 7) so if you can use all the licenses available in the family pack, then it is usually cheaper per computer.

8. If a program is available in multiple editions (e.g. Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite or Autodesk Suite), try picking the edition that has the features you need – you probably don’t need every single feature or component of a software suite and this will help you save a considerable amount over purchasing the top edition.

For instance, I purchased Adobe Creative Suite Master Collection last year but I only need Photoshop, Acrobat, Dreamweaver and Soundbooth (occasionally) so a better choice would have been the Web Premium bundle.

9. If you are planning to use coupon codes with the order, make sure that all of the promotions can work together. In most cases, multiple discounts cannot be clubbed so if an item is already on sale, it may not be possible to use coupons in the shopping cart.

10. Corel, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, Symantec, Google (SketchUp) and many other software vendors offer large academic software discounts to faculty, staff members, and students of recognized educational institutions. These licenses are identical to the retail versions except that you cannot use the software for commercial purposes. As a parent, you can probably make use of such offers if your child is attending college.

11. You can sometimes buy an older version of the software at a lot cheaper price than the latest version.

Comparison Shopping Sites for Software

While there are numerous online stores where you can find good deals on computer software, you should always consider using a comparison shopping search engine to know prices of the same product on different stores all across the web.

There are many sites that do this for you and very often these sites themselves will offer additional discounts to users who buy the produce via their site. However, to find the best deal (or lowest price), you should not limit yourself to one comparison shopping site.

1. Bing Shopping – Bing can help you quickly find the cheapest price of anything you’re looking for, including software. Bing searches the inventory of hundreds of online stores for the best price (including popular ones like Walmart, Buy.com, Best Buy, etc.), and then sweetens the deal by offering 2% – 20% Cashback from select stores.

Although you will still have pay the regular price from the online store, Microsoft will put that Cashback money in your PayPal account after your purchase has gone through, or you can choose to receive it as a check by mail. With Bing, you can easily figure out which online retailers offer free but the search engine doesn’t show the shipping rates if the retailer doesn’t have free shipping.

2. PriceGrabber.com – Another good site to do comparison shopping is PriceGrabber.  They will list the prices from multiple online retailers in a neat table and also offer a handy shipping calculator that will show you the final price of a product once you include postage and taxes applicable in your region.

The PriceGrabber site will always show listings from their "Featured Sellers" at the top even though they may not be offering the cheapest price so keep an eye on that.

3. Shopzilla.com – One more site you might want to try is Shopzilla.com, which again searches a multitude of online stores for the software you want to buy and lets you compare the price offered by different retailers. Like PriceGrabber, you can put in the zip code and it will show you the total price for your product including shipping and taxes if any.

Am not too sure what factors does Shopzilla use to determine the default order of retailers in the list, it does give you an option to sort results by price, store name, or store rating.  Overall, Shopzilla does seem to uncover some good deals, so make sure to check it when you are looking to buy any software program online.

Online Stores That Sell Software at a Discount

Here are some websites that almost always have good deals on software:

Amazon.com (software) – Amazon.com provides excellent bargains on software that they sell themselves, and as some third party merchants are also listed on the Amazon size, you can often find the best price right at this one site.

Then there’s a special page on the Amazon.com site that highlights popular software titles that are available with large discounts but exactly for the week. Amazon.com is also getting into selling downloadable software so you don’t have to wait for the software boxes to arrive via FedEx. Right now, you can purchase games and tax software using the digital downloads option and hopefully they will add more software categories over time.

Newegg.com – Newegg is one of the first sites that people check for computer parts, and they also have a large selection of software in store.  Newegg offers free shipping on everything, so if you are ordering a cheap program you will often come out cheaper here than at other sites, as most sites only offer free shipping on orders of $25 or more.

Newegg also sells OEM versions of Windows and other programs, but make sure you are eligible to purchase these software licenses before you buy yourself a copy. Normally, OEM licenses are tied to a single computer so you can’t use that same license on another machine.

eBay.com – eBay is known worldwide as the place for online auctions. Many small companies and individuals sell software on eBay, and it can especially be a great place to find an obscure program that has been discontinued.  Make sure you exercise a great deal of caution when buying software from eBay because if the deal is too good to be true, you are probably buying pirated software. Always look at the seller’s feedback and ask questions over email before making that final bid.

Software Discounts for Students, Parents and Non-Profit

If you are a student, educator, or from the non-profit community, check out JourneyEd.com for some unbelievable software deals and discounts. You’ll be required to fax your academic proof after the purchase and they’ll ship the box once it gets accepted. You can continue to use the software after you leave school or college.

The amazing thing about JourneyEd is this low price guarantee – "Buy your software now and if you see a lower advertised price of that same exact item (including our own sale prices) within 30 days of your purchase, we’ll refund the difference."

Other popular sites where students (and their parents), teachers and schools can buy cheap software include AcademicSuperstore.com and Gradware.com.

TechSoup.org is another good site that offers donated software licenses from companies like Cisco, Microsoft, Dell, etc. to nonprofits with valid 501(c)(3) status and public libraries listed in the IMLS database. TechSoup is only for organizations and not individuals. They they even prove free premium accounts from online services like Wikispaces and Flickr to eligible organizations.

Also check the software vender’s site, as many now have digital storefronts where you can directly purchase and download software. The boxed options from other stores are often still cheaper, but it is still worth checking especially if you have a coupon for their store.  Additionally, some companies offer free software for students like Microsoft Dreamspark.

Find Coupon Codes for Software Stores

Now that you’ve found the perfect place to buy software at the right price, let’s make the deal even sweeter – apply a coupon code and you might get some extra discount or free shipping or another perk with your purchase.

RetailMeNot.com – This coupon code site seems to always have the best and most recent coupons in my experience, so be sure to check this site first for finding coupons.  They also offer numerous ways to follow their site, including twitter, email and RSS so you can always stay informed of the latest deals.

CouponCabin.com – The site has a large database of coupons for a wide arrangement of online retailers.  The majority of the coupons they list are verified and guaranteed to work, but they do list user-submitted coupons and promo code that may or may not work.

Most coupons available on CouponCabin are for online purchases, but they do also have printable coupons that you can use at traditional stores like Walmart and Target.

Coupon Mountain – This has special page that lists current deals and coupons for software programs. In addition to user-submitted coupons, they also list special coupons that offer free shipping.

Fatwallet.com – Fatwallet is another good site to check, as it provides coupons and has its own cashback system. While the cashback is not usually as much as Bing offers, it is still worth checking out as deal coupled with cashback and a coupon could turn out be cheaper.

Slickdeals.net – Although not strictly a coupon website, Slickdeals often has some good deals posted by members for numerous products including software.

For International Customers – Most software stores won’t ship outside US or Canada so in that case, the only option is that you either use your international credit card and buy downloadable software or get the software box shipped to your friend’s address in US and ask him to ship it to you.

You may however have to pay taxes in your country. For instance, I had to pay around 9% customs duty for importing a software program from US to my address in India.