With respect to instruction in photography, I agree that one needn't spend money to learn.

My parents put the idea of photography into my cranium at a young age. Each of them taught me what they knew about it that, while not encyclopedic, got me started. I supplemented that instruction with reading to learn more, chiefly from the set of encyclopedias we had, and making mistakes.

The only time I paid money for instruction was a darkroom B&W course in college, whose lessons continue to serve me.

One "tool," if you will, that I use to this day is self-criticism. Any time any photo was bad, I asked myself what went wrong, and figured out what to do in the future to keep it from happening again. In time, the errors diminished, and I now self-critique less frequently. (Of course, I still learn, chiefly new techniques and the like.)