In the current climate of belt tightening, shelling out cash for software or services like online storage may well be luxuries you can't afford. Or, you may prefer using free software from small or independent developers regardless of your finances.

Here's part one of our Mac money-savers. In part two, we'll reveal a dozen must-have free programs for your Mac.

Free stuff from Apple!

You can get a number of things for free from Apple, and, crucially, they're worth having. We're not just talking about software, either. For example, in Apple Stores you can go to any Mac on display and go online for free, check your emails and even log in to iChat or MSN and have a conversation.

The same goes for using other Apple stuff, and you can generally pick up an iPod or iPhone and try before you buy. In the bigger Apple Stores there are even seating areas where you can take your laptop, plug it in and use its WiFi.

Free music

The iTunes Store has been phenomenally successful as a way to buy music and movies, and quite often you can get free content through it as well. Podcasts are always free, but sometimes bands will make a track or a music video available as a free download as a way of promoting other material. Generally they're only free for a limited time and there can be geographical restrictions.

There are also weekly promotions, such as free music Tuesdays, where between one and three songs can be freely downloaded by logged-in users. More recently with the launch of the App Store in iTunes, you can also download a host of free games and applications for your iPhone or iPod touch. These are helpfully gathered together in a section you can access by clicking the All Free Applications link in the App Store.

Some developers of more advanced App Store applications also tend to make their products free for a limited time to boost popularity, then revert to charging a nominal fee after a set period of time.

There's also a link to iTunes U, which lets you download thousands of pieces of educational content such as lectures and videos on a wide range of subjects from universities and thinkers across the world.

Free applications

iLife has come free with all new Macs for a good few years, and it's a fantastic suite of programs. When Apple released iLife '08, the company found that some people weren't as keen on the new version of iMovie as the older iMovie 6 HD, as it has a very different way of working.

So Apple made iMovie 6 HD available as a free download for those who have a copy of iMovie '08. It can be downloaded from www.apple.com/support/downloads/imovieHD6.html and has much lower system requirements.

Apple also makes thousands of free widgets available for you to run in Dashboard and enhance your system. They can be found at www.apple.com/downloads/dashboard sorted by category with a typically slick Apple interface and a Top Widgets list to help you see the most popular.

On the Apple Downloads site you'll also find categories of applications, many of which are free, and also freeware plug-ins for apps like Aperture, Final Cut and music software as well as demo versions of some programs like Aperture.

If you're buying from Apple, you may well find that in its online store there are usually special offers on where, for example, you might get heavy discounts on a printer when bought with a Mac. Students or those working in education often do even better as there are frequently special offers, like a free iPod when you buy a laptop.