Lets just say that you do have to have this in order to work your cricut, however it is fantastic. You get 2 mats for great price and I use mine quite a bit. I bought my Cricut in Sept. and on my third mat. I've done alot of Christmas cards, birthday, wedding and shower cards up to this point. Over 80 to be exact so it lasts awhile, not including the other project layouts I've done.
The cricut is an awesome tool to have you can use it for so much more then just scrapbooking!. The cutting mats are a great price and as long as you keep them clean and dust and fiber free they can last quite a while. Another trick is to use scotch tape when the cutting mats are wearing down until you get a chance to buy your next set. LOVE the cricut and all the acessories!
I am madly in love with my Cricut Expression. The tips found here are on point. Cover the mat when not in use. Check the "tips" section on this site for additional info. I use diaper wipes to clean the mat periodically. It seems the really cheap wipes without aloe or lanolin work the best.