Smart Spending and Smart Saving Tips
with Jane Furnival

Jane's Tips


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Computers for free

If you don't need a computer, don't buy one. Use one for free at your local library or sign up for evening or day classes at your local College of Further Education, where you are also eligible to use their computers, free, at most times of the day.

This saves huge sums on buying kit, subscribing to the internet and getting repairs or help when the things go wrong. If it goes wrong and it belongs to someone else you can just walk away and come back tomorrow when it's fixed. 

When I wrote the Daily Telegraph’s Happy Shopper column, I had many reader complaints about Dell computers. Sadly, Dell’s after-sales service still appears to disappoint. Recently, a writer developed a simple fault on her computer - it was 'number locked’ which meant that she had accidentally pressed a key which produced numbers rather than letters when she tried to write. The Dell ‘helpline’ failed to diagnose this elementary problem and some hours later she informed them that after following their advice, she had erased substantial amounts of important information. They did not reply to letters claiming compensation for her loss until her union, the British Association of Journalists, sent a legal letter, at which point, months later, they settled out of court for several hundred pounds.

John McKeone - proprietor of emailed  with some really practical and cost-effective computer buying tips.  He says: The first question that you need to ask yourself is - ‘What do I want to do with my computer?’  Most people just want a glorified word processor that will go on the Internet. In this case you can find an older brand name model low-spec machine from around £300 (inc VAT. includes a mouse and keyboard but not a monitor) from I have bought a couple from them now and both machines are still going strong and are very reliable. The only things to watch out for with these guys is the £10 delivery charge and the prices shown are often ex-VAT.  

On the plus side they have a wonderful and patient technical department for geeks like me!  Monitors: Many people already have a monitor from an old PC that will work perfectly well on a new PC. Now there are only the nice flat-screen monitors, but  there are some bargains to be had with the old style CRT ones.  Again have some good deals.  If you are looking for a second hand monitor try the car boot sale.   If you can’t find one at the boot sale try . They have monitors from about £10 (not including VAT or delivery).  There are lots of other computer bargains on but they are mainly aimed at people who build and maintain their own computers.

Software: Most people buy Microsoft Office when they buy a computer for an extra £200-300.  There is a perfectly good free alternative office suite called Open Office,  which offers a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation developer, database and organizer, and there are many add-ons available.  Open Office will open Word, Excel, Powerpoint etc. files and does most of the things that MS Office does, and some that it doesn't, such as saving to PDF format. It is available for Apple computers and for PCs running Windows or Linux.  Open Office will also save to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint formats or you can create a PDF file.  Adobe Acrobat editor would cost another £200+, but the reader is free.

With some programmes there are what is called an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) copy.  This is a legal copy of the software but does not come with any instructions or fancy packaging.  Often these OEM versions are much cheaper than the ones in the shops (eg. MS Office, MS Windows, Norton Antivirus).  A site that sells some of these is .

PS: I have had reasonably good service from Dell in the past: my new laptop developed a crack in the outer casing back in 2003.  I called Dell and they got someone to call me back from one of these foreign call centres.  They sent in a carrier to collect my laptop and within a week it was back and mended. 

See Jane's top tips on VideoJug: Cheap Cooking Ideas, Saving Money On Your Shopping, Budgeting Tips, Identifying Shop Tricks, Reducing The Cost Of Air Travel, Saving Money On Mobile Phones, Saving Electricity, Offers And Bargains Explained, Cheap Cleaning Alternatives, Reducing Your Car Costs



© Copyright Jane Furnival 2007, 2008