Buying 3 heaters or 6 small pad heaters plus filtration, lighting, plants and such will not be an issue. I'm 13 years settled in my career, budget well, and will be selling the "junk pile" that is currently in that space on craigslist to subsadize the project. I will save for a couple months, then start buying. I will probably start mid to end of august and finish with all the fish around new years.
I plan on getting some nice betta from thailand so that will not be cheap. Or maybe some US bred that have that wow factor. I'm a crown tail fan so most will be CT's and probably an HM or two. But my current Zeus will be the only store bought one as the stores in my area usually have poor selection.
Two 20 longs is not a bad idea either and would allow for a very nice aquascape.
I'm leaning towards 3 10's or 6 2.5's. If I go the 2.5 route I will probably not do filtration and just do weekly 100% changes. Live plants add some filtration.
If I go with the 10's I will probably get 3 penguin 100b's. Bio wheels rule!!!