I'm a physicist. About ten years ago, a professor told me that he payed three times the price of his laptop for Mathematica, because he needed it. Depending on the subject you're working on, Mathematica could be indispensible for scientists (other scientists have it if you don't, and they will publish before you).
In 2013, I don't know if this is still true, since there are a lot of good free alternatives to Mathematica. I must admit, there is still a problem that I don't know how to solve, and Mathematica does, but maxima and sympy didn't know how to do it when I last checked. But I'm lucky and my symbolic computations are reasonably simple. My impression is that having Mathematica, if you know how to use it, is like having a team of math PhD's as slaves, so it's great when you can afford it.
I am certain that there are a lot of results that wouldn't have been found without Mathematica.
Regarding MSOffice... I used MSWord 95-98 until about 2000, 2001 I think. Then I discovered TeX, and I never went back to MSWord or anything like it. The only reason I used it was that I was in Eastern europe, I didn't pay anything for it (I'm not even sure I really understood I was supposed to pay something for it), and I didn't really know there was anything else available.
I never had any use for anything else from MSOffice, and I honestly don't understand why anyone would want to use it, taking into account that if you want to migrate between different versions of MSOffice you have to use OpenOffice or LibreOffice...
With my above comment I intended to point out that there are usage cases where it does make sense to pay more for software than for the hardware (the dude I replied to said there can't be such cases). I cannot imagine anyone convincing me that MSOffice or any similare software is worth more than an average laptop, but I can imagine someone convincing me that Mathematica, or Maya, or some other specialized software is worth much more than a laptop.
In fact, I believe MSOffice is worth at most what LibreOffice is worth, since more people complain about MSOffice than LibreOffice... but I'm a nerd/hippie/communist/whatever, so my opinion may not matter.