Office-Watch.com is always on the lookout for ways to save money on buying Microsoft Office. Here’s a summary of the tips we’ve discovered over the years.
Office 365 Home (with five software licences) is the main seller and you can buy/renew it for less than the official price.
Office 365 Personal (the single licence plan) is a little cheaper but isn’t discounted as much.
Don’t buy from Microsoft
The Number One rule is simple – Do NOT buy from Microsoft direct.
It’s been an Office Watch rule for a long time, longer than Office 365 annual fees have existed.
Microsoft always sells their own products at the highest price, full retail. Sometimes they’ve been so greedy as to add extra fees on top of the already high price. Even the occasional ‘discounts’ aren’t good value and usually beaten by the regular discounts from other online retailers.
Buying from Microsoft direct gets you the same product as you can buy anywhere else. They’re no different, better or newer – just higher priced.
That especially applies to Office 365 Home or Personal plans. Buying or renewing Office 365 from Microsoft will cost you the highest price possible.
Turn off Auto-Renewal
Microsoft pushes the Office 365 auto-renewal option very hard, not because it’s ‘convenient’ to customers. Auto renewal is a great profit maker for Microsoft because they get to charge the highest price for Office 365, with no retailers margin and on the first date that it’s due.
Microsoft’s accountants can not only count on getting the highest price from Office 365 plans, but they can plan ahead knowing how much money will be incoming each day.
We call Office 365 auto-renewal the Microsoft’s Annual Laziness Tax.
Despite what Microsoft implies, you don’t have to renew Office 365 online directly with Microsoft.
You can buy Office 365 Home/Personal from any reputable retailer and apply it as a renewal or extension of your existing account.
Office 365 is almost always discounted at some retailers, all you have to do is shop around the reputable online retailers.
If you don’t have the time, Amazon usually has good pricing because the company closely tracks their competitors.
In the USA at the moment (early January 2018) there are few discounts available. Even Amazon can only manage a measly $6 discount on the physical card shipment and no discount on the online delivery (well, 99 cents off).
Happily, you don’t have to renew your Office 365 plan by the expiry date, you have a grace period. Use it to shop around or wait for a better discount.
Home Use Program
Check with your employer for a really cheap Office licence – like $20!
Many organizations (corporate or government) have Volume Licences for Microsoft Office. Those licences include, at no extra charge, the Home Use Program.
Home Use Program (HUP) allows employees to get their own Office licences to install at home. Staff can use Office at home for as long as they work for the same organization and the organization maintains their Office volume licence.
Alas, many qualifying companies don’t offer the Home Use Program either because of ignorance or misunderstandings about the HUP .
It’s worth asking about the Home Use Program with your employer.
US military and qualifying former personnel qualify for the Military Appreciation Edition MAE which is Office 365 Home edition for $69.99 instead of $99.99 for a year.
Who qualifies is complicated. Put simply, if you can buy from your Exchange (PX), then you qualify for the MAE.
Occasionally, civilian retailers like Amazon or Best Buy sell Office 365 Home at a lower price than the MAE. But as a consistent, year round, discount the Military Appreciation Edition is hard to beat.
Note the MAE only applies for a year. If you choose Auto-renewal, you’ll be charged full price for the next year. To get the MAE discount you have to buy from the ‘PX’ again. See Traps with the Office 365 Military Discount.
Stretch your plan from 12 months to up to 15 months
Your Office software does not stop working on the Office 365 expiry date, there’s a ‘grace period’ of up to 3 months after expiry.
As we explain in Really stretch your Office 365 Home or Personal plan if you renew after the expiry date, the new year of use is counted from the date you renewed not the original expiry date.
Combine that with buying Office 365 at a discount and you can get a much better ‘cost per month’.
Offers to be wary about …..
There are some Office 365 offers that either aren’t very generous or not what you expect.
Office 365 Home or Personal is sometimes offered as a bundle with some other software. Most commonly some anti-virus software.
Be wary of any bundling deal because they are usually poor value for money.
The combined price helps disguise the real price of both. Compare the regularly discounted prices of both products with the bundled price. Often there’s little difference.
Do you need the extra bundled software at all? In the case of anti-virus software, it’s probably not necessary. Windows 10, 8 and 7 come with Defender which is enough for most people without buying other anti-virus software.
The bundled software, especially anti-virus software is just years ‘subscription’. The low opening price is there to hook you into paying annual fees in the future.
Free with computer
You might see an offer of a ‘free Office 365 annual subscription’ when you buy a new computer.
That sounds great but it’s the lesser ‘Personal’ Office 365 plan which is not what most people want.
Office 365 Personal allows just one install of Office for Windows/Mac plus Office Mobile on a single tablet and one smartphone. Chances are you’ll want the ‘five’ Office 365 Home plan.
$20 discount on Office 365 Home
A regular ‘in store’ offer is $20 off Office 365 Home when buying a new computer.
Sounds great but again, it’s not that generous. You can usually get Office 365 Home at least $20 off from a reputable online retailer.