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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

(Editor’s note: Please welcome Courtney, with plenty of free software resources. Thanks Courtney!)

As parents, we have plenty of expenses to keep the family wheel turning. Spending money on software for fun projects or staying organized or keeping our computers safe, just may not be high priority budget items. For example, if you want to build a website from scratch, you’ll first have to purchase and install Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and a bunch of other paid software programs. In no time at all, you’ll find your software bills approaching 4 digit figures.

The good news is that you can still perform a plethora of basic and complicated computer tasks without having to resort to spending high amounts of money. If all you’re after is the basic stuff, then the free alternatives to expensive software will more than handle the job for you.

Graphic Design and Photo Editing Software

A lot of us pay for photo editing software such as Photoshop, even if all we do is take some “red eyes” out, remove some blemishes here and there and adjust the brightness and contrast of images. While Photoshop is definitely the premiere choice when it comes to software for these tasks, there are free alternatives out there you should check out. Phixr and FotoFlexer for example, are free online versions of the popular software. But don’t let their free status fool you. Both programs are capable of advanced tasks, such as blending, layering and filtering. Perfect for editing important family photos.

Office Productivity Tools

Most of us can go without Microsoft Office. The full version of Microsoft Office 2010 however, can easily set you back by a few hundred dollars, making it the most expensive software of its kind. While it’s true that Microsoft Office is indeed the best software of its kind, there are free alternatives that handle the job just as well. Google Docs for example, is a free online tool that offers the same features, without the absurdly high price. All you need is a Google account, and you’re off to the races.

The average computer user often purchases an antivirus suite such as Norton, McAfee or BitDefender. These antivirus programs however, are very expensive, and require renewal every year. If you have an authentic version of Windows Vista and Windows 7, you can download Microsoft Security Essentials for free. It’s an effective tool that’s kept my PC safe since switch to Windows 7. You can also opt for the free version of AVG, which is also effective.

By Courtney Griffin, a frequent blogger and resident cheapskate at Degree Jungle, ranker of top online schools for 2011.

Earnest Parenting: tips for parents who want to save money.

Photo provided courtesy of freefotouk via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.