I don’t mind cutting back on food cost, reigning in frivolous entertainment costs, or driving an old car until it dies on me. But there’s one category I’m completely okay with spending money on.

Education.

I don’t just mean school, although it’s certainly helpful. I’m now heading into my last semester of graduate school for an M.S. in Finance. I decided two years ago that a formal education in the subject would contribute to my career niche as a Quant Developer for an investments firm, while also satisfying my personal curiosity in the subject. Fortunately, the company I work for covers most of the tuition cost, so it’s primarily an investment of time and mental energy.

But to me, education goes so far beyond the rigid walls of an academic institution. I feel that continuing to explore hobbies and master skills that interest you is a critical component of a happy life.

So when my wife wanted to take an online photography course with me that costs a few hundred dollars, I was thrilled to jump in. Sure, there’s a lot of material available online for free, but she had followed these guys for years and knew the quality of the lessons would be top-notch (and so far they are!). Regardless of whether this skill set ends up having a financial reward, the investment in our own personal interests and development is going to be more than enough reward.

When she wanted to take another certification for health coaching, I wholeheartedly supported it. These kinds of decisions are even easier, since the return on investment from a financial perspective is obvious in addition to the personal development.

I’m also a big fan of books. I do try to take advantage of the library as much as possible since I don’t read most books more than once. But, I’ll often drop $30-$50 on software development books to grow my knowledge of industry topics I’m excited about, ranging from web development to machine learning and statistics.

Similarly, I’m pretty quick to spend a little money on online tutorials to supplement my learning on those same subjects. Most content in these areas is freely available, luckily, but there are some guided ones on Coursera and Udemy that I’ve gained a lot of insight from.

I don’t hesitate to keep my Audible subscription around. Even though I might be able to find some of the books free through library-based apps, the selection is limited and the apps are clunky, resulting in me consuming less material. I will try to find deals on Audible pretty regularly and have had good luck doing that, but I really don’t worry about those costs at all. Even if I’m spending $30 a month for two books, I’m probably spending 20 more hours listening to books than I would if I couldn’t find what I was looking for on another free app. Completely worth it.

In the future, I’d like to take a cooking course to become more proficient at making great-tasting meals at home. I’d also like to learn Spanish. There are so many things to learn about in the world, and so little time to learn them! If I have to spend a little money to achieve those things, it will have been money well spent.

I’m not sure exactly what point I’m trying to make. I guess I just hope we can all become more comfortable with spending money on learning things that are valuable to us and more indignant about spending money on things that waste our time and potential. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

What about you? What kinds of things do you spend money on that provide educational value to you? On the other hand, what things add significant educational value to your life with little to no monetary cost?