Well I just did my first brew, and only days before that finished my brewstand. I guess I put mine together using a modular approach and it need not be "expensive". Of course expensive is different for all of us. Thing that helped me is a friend is a welder, so find a friend that welds or make friends with a welder. Here is a link to my story. I have around $100 into metal + some dollars for burners and regs. Go too Agri supply for burners and regs. That stuff is cover all over out there.http://snakeriverbrewers.org/index.php?topic=3900.0
Wooden brew stands are a lot cheaper to build than metal ones.
Tom, How do you keep the tops from burning? I'm liking the wood idea, at least for now.
It's a labor of love. I started out on the stovetop like most and wound up with a single tier brewstand. However it can be as simple as a propane burner sitting on a couple of masonry blocks. Homebrewing is a process that starts simply and can grow or blossom into something much more. It is what you make of it and that can somewhat pragmatic to very sophisticated. It all depends on your aspirations. In the end one should RDWHAHB.