In a previous post, I mentioned how the numerous free antivirus and antispyware programs I tried weren't able to clean my sister's computer. But that certainly doesn't mean that software you get off a store shelf is necessarily worse than a free solution.
In fact, ever since my trial license for MS Office 2007 ran out, I've been using OpenOffice.org. OpenOffice is a free office productivity suite that apes the functionality of most of the popular Microsoft Office applications - Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. It's pretty staggering how much functionality is here, especially considering that buying a copy of MS Office will set you back hundreds of dollars.
If there is a complaint that can be levelled at free and functional software like OpenOffice.org, it'd be that its performance is not as fast as Microsoft Office. Many parts of OpenOffice depend on Java (either a free implementation or the official JRE), so that doesn't come as a surprise. Still, if you're doing light office work and not crunching enormous spreadsheets, OpenOffice is definitely the recession-friendly way to go.