I spent over $500 to run the 2017 NYC marathon—and it was completely worth it

All smiles at mile 16
CNBC Make It

On Sunday, November 5, I ran the 2017 New York City Marathon. I not only willingly ran 26.2 miles through all five boroughs of the city, but I paid $522 to do it.

Despite being the biggest marathon in the world with a field of 50,000 runners, the NYC Marathon is not easy to get into. You can either raise funds and run for a charity, which I did last year, earn entry through the lottery, or complete the "9+1 program," which is what I did this year.

It meant finishing nine qualifying races and volunteering at one by the end of 2016. It also meant shelling out a lot of cash.

After digging through my 2016 bank statements, here's what I found it cost me:

First, to be eligible for the 9+1 program, I had to join New York Road Runners. The membership cost $40, but it also meant discounted race-entry fees.

Next, I signed up for all nine races — ranging from a one mile sprint down Fifth Avenue to an 18-miler through Central Park — simultaneously. That alarmed my bank's fraud information center, which called my phone. After I confirmed that, yes, all nine road race purchases were intentional, another $277 was docked from my bank account.

Roughly one year and nine races later, I got an email saying I could apply for guaranteed entry to the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon ... after spending another $255, that is.

It took $522 — plus whatever I spent on running gear, protein bars and traveling to and from races — to get me to the start line on Sunday. That's a lot of money I could have put to work. Trust me, I know. But it's an expense I can justify, and here's why.

For one, running the streets of New York City with 50,000 other people, and surrounded by even more cheering fans lining the streets, is surreal. It's an experience that will leave your cheeks just as sore from smiling as your calves are from running the next day.

And money experts tell you to spend on experiences rather than things. As The New York Times' columnist and author Ron Lieber tells CNBC Make It: "All of the best psychological research on money and happiness tell us that spending money on experiences brings more (and more lasting) happiness than spending money on material objects."

Secondly, racing is something I've actively made room for in my budget. After all, it makes me happy and is an investment in my health.

When it comes to spending money, my philosophy is: Figure out what expenses matter the most, make room for them in the budget and then cut back everywhere else. I prioritize racing and travel but hunker down when it comes to other expenses.

As research shows, how you spend matters, and, oftentimes, is more important than your overall income or how much you spend in total.

Sure, dropping hundreds of dollars on road races is not for everyone. But, for me, it's worth it.

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