The range I go to uses recycled balls they find on the course, every brand imaginable. Most of them are pretty beat up and water stained but they fly far and you can even draw them sometimes. I imagine some of these have been hit hundreds of times. Still okay for the average hack.
The best buy I've ever made was a mid-60s Ping Anser for $2 at a flea market. I later picked up half a set of Cobra SS-i irons (4, 7, 8, PW) at the same place for $10.
I've since spent more on a Ping PP58 grip ($8.50) and a headcover ($20 for a Stitch bonesman, which may qualify as 'bad' ) for that putter, but it all looks nice in the bag.