Yep, it's time. Even mediocre (or worse) beer is expensive nowadays. Like you said, 4 packs, 750s, sours even more so. My equipment, all in all, isn't extravagant. I cooler mash, but have some toys. But, at some point, you've bought back your equipment by buying much less commercial beer. I think the only argument that levels the playing field is the "your time is money" argument. Except, I'd be doing SOMETHING regardless with my time. Like more expensive hobbies, extra sporting events, concerts, etc. If you're a newb, yeah it'll take some time to recover your equipment costs. But buy grain and hops in bulk, get fairly efficient at what you're doing and it's a no brainer to me. If not, I love it and will keep doing it anyway.