For the past three years, I've found myself not only willingly running 26.2 miles through all five boroughs of New York City but spending a lot of cash to do so.
The TCS New York City Marathon entry fee is $255. If you complete the "9 + 1 program," which is one of the few ways to guarantee yourself a spot at the starting line, that means finishing, and paying for, nine qualifying races.
When you factor in training, the experience as a whole is pricey and time consuming. Last year, for example, I spent a whopping $522 on race entry fees — plus whatever I spent on socks and shoes, protein bars, anti-chafing products and transportation to and from races.
It might sound senseless to pay hundreds of dollars to suffer through a 3+ hour-long race. But hear me out.
For one, running the streets of New York City with the 50,000 other participants, surrounded by the throngs of spectators who line the streets, is surreal. It's an experience that will leave your cheeks just as sore from smiling as your calves are from running.
I also like to work towards something. There's nothing more satisfying than setting a goal, putting in the hard work and then achieving it. With something like a marathon, the hard work — that part in between signing up for the race and completing it — can be long and tedious and often means months of training. But that makes the finish line even sweeter.
Finally, racing is something I've 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 my 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. And money experts suggest you 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."
Sure, dropping hundreds of dollars on road races is not for everyone. But, for me, it's worth it.
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