Over the last few years, obtaining pirated/cracked versions of expensive software has become less and less worth my time. I've got too much to do in my life these days that when I have free time, I don't like spending it either tracking down a key generator, a crack, hack, workaround, or just trying to get a pirated version downloaded via bittorrent to work properly.
As such, I've been weaning myself off of the name brands and slowly migrating over to free and open source alternatives. These programs that I use are of course free, and often times are just as robust, and most of the time, more stable than their $300 counterparts.
Alternative to Microsoft Office: Open Office.org
Open Office does all the things MS Office does, it supports MS Office files (both reading and writing) and is smaller, sleaker, faster, and more stable.
Alternative to Photoshop: The Gimp
Alternatives to Windows Media Player (Although technically free, WMP is an extremely bulky pain in my ass): VLC Media Player, Media Player Classic (My Favorite, even more basic and easy to use than the popular VLC, great for simple, quick dvd playback)
Alternatives to Nero: Infrarecorder
I just found this last night. Free, extremely lightweight and fast. I may never use nero for basic cd/dvd buring again.
Check out more at Osalt.com (Open Source as Alternative)