At some point in all of our lives, we have to sit down in front of a blank spreadsheet and start totting up exactly how much we spend each month. There are all those fixed costs – car repayments, Council Tax, beer money – but a number of others we can chip away at. Who needs a pension, right? Food? An unnecessary luxury.
Or, you could save money by controlling your computing costs. Making well-informed decisions about the equipment you use and exactly how you use it has always made good financial sense, but today we all face the spectre of rising fuel prices and that much-trailed credit crunch. So, it’s more timely than ever to cut our IT cloth conservatively.
We pooled the collective wisdom of PC Pro’s staff and contributing editors and came up with precisely 41 money-saving tips, all of which you’ll find in the feature, Defy the credit crunch, on p106. It’s fascinating just how much you could save too – so much so that we decided against putting a figure on the cover as it simply wouldn’t be believable. A £50 note is only the beginning.
My personal favourite is the concept of virtualising your old PC inside your new one. It appeals to me on a number of levels. First, I’ve just bought a new laptop, as my 1.5GHz single-core home machine was bringing shame upon me and my family. I will, naturally, trawl the much-abused beast for vital files before blitzing the hard disk and selling it on to a new owner via Ebay (another tip, naturally, from the feature). But I know from past, slightly bitter, experience that at some point in the future I’ll need to find an old email or obscure file that I somehow failed to transfer.
Second, there’s the sheer showing-off factor. The thrill of being able to casually move my mouse from one operating system to the next to the amazement of onlookers isn’t to be ignored. And for virtualisation innocents like myself, David Fearon reveals just how easy it is to do in this month’s In Depth.
And third, I simply want to: I’ve spent the last three years listening to various analysts talking sagely about virtualisation, to which I’ve nodded sagely in response. But I’ve never done it. Even though I know I really should have started virtualising my every environment already, having a legitimate reason to play around has much more appeal than just fiddling around with disk images in VMware.
I suspect it’s the big, flashy ideas like this that will spark most people’s interest. Another good example: the fact that it is genuinely cheaper to fly to America to buy certain software – we use the examples of Adobe and Microsoft, but they’re hardly alone – than to just buy it in the UK. The prospect of hopping on a plane and spending two nights in New York packs a lot more glamour than switching off your router at the plug every night.
And those are only two of the big ideas. There are serious savings to be made by dumping your BT home phone line, using voucher codes when shopping online, buying at the end of the month and following our tips to grinding a better deal out of your mobile network provider. Assuming you’re not tied into a long-term deal, it’s also entirely possible to switch ISP and save money in the process.
What I suspect will really make a long-term difference, though, is changing our habits. Small steps first: what a difference it would make if everyone started to consider running costs rather than just the headline price when making buying decisions.
It’s a lesson that’s well-trodden by heads of IT the world over. I’m not suggesting that the initial buying price is ever to be ignored, but over the total life of a printer, PC or server that initial outlay is going to be a fraction of the product’s total cost. Anyone in charge of IT budgets will dig out their own blank spreadsheets and make that calculation.