Fish are work. There's no easy way. But, if you cycle, you're looking at a lot of work in the beginning and then very little work thereafter.
I have my 16 cycled and I do a 15 minute water change weekly. I either siphon or vacuum out 3 gallons into a bucket, pour the new water back in, done. Monthly I clean out the filter, replace the filter media if necessary (I go by the instructions that came with the filter) and that's it. I have it all scheduled through Outlook's calendar so there's no guesswork. It pops up on my comp and yells at me.
I test my params weekly but really, if you're good with the changes and don't make any major changes to your aquarium, you can check params monthly once it's established and stable. I'm just very careful about my tank. (Years ago I kept guppies in a 10 gallon and I killed the poor things with neglect. I don't wanna do that again.)
As far as price, the conditioner lasts a while for the changes and the test kit should also last a while. Filter media is a couple of bucks a month. Setting up a new tank is really the biggest expense. Big sales are coming this week, so do what you can really.