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Buying a new computer can be exciting, but not when it’s out of necessity, and definitely not when money’s tight. Who enjoys forking over hundreds of dollars for computer software? Even when we want to have fun and buy a game, the cost can be off-putting. Computing, frankly, can be pricey.
I like to save money however I can. One way I’ve saved hundreds, possibly thousands, is by using Linux. For much of the past decade, I have not had to spend money on the software I use on my laptops. But that’s only the beginning. Let’s break this down.
The overwhelming majority of the code that runs on a Linux-powered computer is free and open source. That means you’re free to use and edit this software however you like. It’s also free. You don’t have to pull out a credit card to buy an office suite, image editor, or accounting program when you’re using Linux.
Unless your classes require a specific application, you can head to college without having to budget money toward computer programs. You can keep up with finances for taxes without having to add a line item for the cost of the accounting tool itself. You can edit videos and put together slides for a presentation without having to worry about whether you already have the necessary programs. Simply open up your Linux app store and search for what you need.
Free OS Updates
If you have access to a solid internet connect, you can update your Linux operating system for free. Until recently, the same wasn’t true on Windows and Mac. Mac OS X updates costed money until the release of Mavericks in 2013 (and people using older Macs still had to pay). New versions of Windows were more expensive than Mac OS X and didn’t always come with changes that people wanted. Windows 10 is the first version to be available as a free update.
In either case, these companies can choose to change their mind and start charging again in the future. On Linux, charging for updates is antithetical to how the entire community functions. You can be sure that you won’t have to pay for the next version (which is not to say that you won’t be given the option, as you may notice when downloading Ubuntu or Elementary OS).
The Older Your Hardware, the Better
Commercial operating systems encourage us to buy a new laptop every few years. To take advantage of the latest features, you often need a machine made within the past few years.
On Linux, the opposite is true. While Linux runs faster on newer hardware, not all new computers are able to run Linux out of the box. Developers often need time to work around restrictions, and to support for hardware that they did not have access to ahead of time. Sometimes they’re never able to get around the absence of necessary drivers. Older hardware tends to have all the kinks worked out.
This Lets You Buy Used
While you can’t head to your typical big box store and walk out with a Linux computer, you can order one online. But if you’re looking to save money, you can walk into your local thrift shop, buy whatever old machine running Windows XP for $100, and install a new version of Linux.
You Can Also Use Your Existing PC for Longer
If you already have an older laptop or two lying around, even better. Just because it couldn’t handle the update to Windows 7 doesn’t mean it’s good for nothing. There are many versions of Linux that will allow you to do much of what you used to. With enough imagination, that old machine may be good for more than you ever expected.
Create Your Own Set-Top Box or Media Center
Set-top boxes are a cheap and accessible way to replace cable. They take up less space on in a media console, are often easier to use, and will typically save you money. But as affordable as they are, there’s little reason to buy one if you have an old desktop lying around. Even if you don’t, a Raspberry Pi starts at the same price as a Chromecast and can do so much more.
Install Linux, hook the box up to the back of a TV, and enjoy a broader experience than you could get from Roku or an Amazon Fire Stick. Search for shows more easily using a wireless keyboard, and view all the local content you want thanks to all the storage space available to you. To get started, check out XBMC or Plex.
The same PC can also serve as your media center all over the house. Share files over LAN that other PCs, mobile devices, and even some set-top boxes can access. You can also make that content available over the web and cancel your cloud storage plan.
Game on the Cheap
People may associate PC gaming with Windows, but there’s plenty of fun to be had on Linux. Sure, the library isn’t as big (which may be a perk where saving money’s concerned). That said, you can find great games on GOG.com and Steam. These distributors always have a sale going on, allowing you to build a sizable collection without spending much. Your money can go even further if you wait around for Humble Bundles.
Whichever route you go, make sure the game supports Linux before jumping on a deal. And don’t forget to grab your favorite controller if you’re not a keyboard and mouse fan.
Depending on what your interests are, you may not have to spend a dime. There are quite a few quality free and open source games out there. Alternatively, you can play all the old Windows and DOS games you want. With the direction modern gaming has taken, these options might be what your heart yearns for.
Linux uses don’t stop with the games themselves. You can turn your computer in a game server and invite others to play.
You Don’t Have to Replace Your Current OS
If you’re not already a Linux user, you don’t have to switch to enjoy the above perks. As long as you have a second computer lying around, a world of possibilities remain open to you. But after you grow comfortable with Linux, you may see little reason to buy another Windows PC or MacBook once your current one grows outdated. Linux will bring it back to life and keep the good times rolling!
$1,000 saved, right there.
What ways have you saved money using Linux? What areas have still cost you an arm and a leg? Any advice you would like to share for people looking to save money with Linux? Hit up the comments below!
Image Credit: Visual Generation via Shutterstock