Hobby user here... If you think it is expensive, try out an open-source version... GNU Octave . It's free. It's very similar, albeit not as supported, and you get the source code to compile and use as your heart desires. I was using Octave for a while-- and it's pretty good. However the business case for Matlab got me to finally fork over the $$$ even though it does the same basic functionality. Here's how: I was intent on developing my own home-grown toolbox(es) to do a specific task (neural network functions with specific interfaces to play around with...) It would have taken me a month to do this on my own on Octave given my schedule. The home grown may have been tailor-made and "better" in some respects.. However, for the $150 home license (glad they finally added this option!), and the $50 for the NN toolbox.. (and a few more fifties for some other toolboxes I found helpful) I can't justify NOT spending $200+ to save many weeks work. The guys at Matlab are awesome. They do a great job and the support is fantastic. If you are hell-bent on saving every nickel-- use Octave. If you can rub a couple hundred bucks together for a home license, I'd do that (and I did). --And if I ever had a business case where I required it for business, I'd pay for the full license if it were using it in that capacity. There are lots of options.