I felt the same way about spending so much money when I was starting out. I couldn’t really loosen up and experiment because I didn’t want to waste that expensive paint. I bought both pans and tubes of St. Petersburg White Nights on ebay. They are very affordable, but so much more pigmented than any student grade I had used. I was able to paint without feeling like I was wasting hard-earned money with my beginner exercises and paintings that needed to go straight in the bin. It’s been years now, and I still use several colors from that brand.