I agree. While it seems expensive to buy a scanner, many older models can be had for a song. I recently got two adequate scanners (for someone else, one was trunking capable) at an estate sale for $50 (for both). She then sold one of her older scanners for $50 (no I'm not a retailer, it just worked out over the last few months) so now has the trunking scanner at home and a portable for her car at no cost.
If you don't need a trunking scanner (can cost double but is the future), don't get one. What you'd miss is the P25 digital audio, which the CHP is moving to and some Fed Forest stuff. If needed, we can have a detailed chat for interested parties over on the discussion group instead of here.
Look at funding this way, a (solo) trip to McD's averages about $12-15 a 'meal' (of tasty grease, empty carbs and junk). Skip a few of those purchases and then grabbing a used scanner is within reach.
It's good to be prepared and this is a great tool that help you be prepared (at least knowing which way to run and how fast). Many do weather alerts too.
The higher end scanners (like the Unidens mentioned earlier) are more easily fine detail programmed via a Windows (only) computer but can be used online via any OS. Yet for basic scanning, they're easily manipulated from the front panel. The middle of the road scanners lack some features but are simple to use. They make complex radio systems, simpler (not simple, simplER) to program. You don't have to have or know every frequency, all known systems are stored in the scanner itself.
In the slack times (which don't exist in SoCal) you can giggle at the stupid human tricks and listen first hand to the high speed chases etc., railroad, airplane traffic and more. Many business use radios and most forget that anyone can listen in which can also be highly amusing at times.
And yes, the coping mechanism depends on dark humor for survival and only emergency folks fully get that (ER staff, 'spatch, ambulance jockeys)... Humor deflects while expressing. Without that, it would be a MUCH tougher job and we'd be more nuts than required to do the job well.
Rick, I suppose some day a big study will come out looking at the humor we acquire in our jobs! They will probably tell us we are all nuts! I wish I could remember all the fire and cop jokes I often heard. My ol scene gets CHP, county fire and Angeles National Forest which is more than enough. To people that don't have scanners it may be a good investment as long as our drought continues!