Is doing retro stuff expensive and hard? Big question with broad meaning. But focusing it down to point of discussion..
Doing retro stuff in today's modern ecosphere (let's take vintage gaming on a vintage pc) means hauling a lot of baggage around. You've got to build that retro-rig and that isn't going to be a $100 I'm done proposition. No. You may spend $100 on a SoundBlaster 16 ASP & WaveTable Daughtercard alone!
You might get lucky and get one for free from crookslist. But waiting for that deal may take 6 months or longer if ever.
I might suggest emulation, but not everyone has the patience to set up a proper rig. Or want to. AND THAT'S OK! Emulation fidelity is only increasing. And guess what that means? More hardware requirements. A fast i3 is now (IMHO) about the minimum, give or take a few MHz here and there so to speak.
So.. Yes.. IMHO retro computing is only getting more expensive as time rolls on. Doesn't really matter what hardware you're getting into.
I spent a good $500 - $600 on restoring my old 486. Maybe more. (the wife is nodding knowingly) This included acquiring some spare parts, shop materials for cleaning, replating some screws, gold plating connectors and front panel emblem.. Examining each solder joint in the lab, time in rigging up an off-board clock battery that is better than OEM yet conforms to OEM specs in terms of charge and discharge currents and voltages. And then personal time spent running diagnostics and verifying settings and jumpers and dipswitches and that sort of thing. Researching documentation and drivers and making sure everything came together.
Thank the lord that everything passed save the parallel port loopback tests. They mysteriously failed till I acquired a working loopback tester. The one I got for this purpose was from CablesOnline, their ebay store. It was sold as new, but in reality it was used and not even wired as a loopback tester. So careful if you buy from them.
I wasn't too concerned and immediately expected the tester to be at fault as I had just used a Zip Drive on the port. And that's pretty extensive as far as bi-directional data goes!
Ohh it was all fun. Especially watching the system tear through each test and report 100%.
But if you go all out to near perfection - then it's going to cost you in time and money. Much more than saying ohh I got this <insert vintage item here>
All that remains to be done is remake a set of labels for all the ports and button it up.