It doesn't have to be expensive, but it certainly can be. If you stick with extract brewing or doing all grain via a brew in a bag method the start up costs aren't huge. One of the most significant start up items is the kettle, do you already have a fairly large pot? Stainless steel is generally preferred, mine is aluminum and I'm happy with it, quite a few folks are using the enameled steel pots and those are working out for them. If you have something three gallons or bigger you can get by with extract brewing.
For $60 (plus shipping) you can get this
kit from Midwest Supplies that will really be everything to get you going in terms of hardware requirements. There is Austin Homebrew Supply that you might be able to get cheaper shipping from since they're in your home state and I believe I've heard some folks refer to a couple of local homebrew shops in Houston. If you can get your hands on some food grade plastic buckets and pick up some pieces from your LHBS and/or hardware store you can probably get it done cheaper. Folks on the list have referred to bakeries as a good place to get your mitts on some free food grade buckets, make sure you get the lids too.
You'll need ingredients, this is more expensive with extract brewing but it's an easier way to get into the hobby. It also requires less equipment than all grain which is preferable if you're in an apartment. Extract kits at Midwest (I keep referring to them because that's where I shop, no other reason) are generally between $25 and $35 dollars (plus shipping).
As for bargaining, you'll probably need to give something to get something. If you're buying craft beer currently this might save you money, but you're not going to outdo the big commercial breweries cost wise. If you go to the bar you could try and substitute the time and/or money spent there with brewing at home, she'd probably like that. Other than that, I dunno. I just bought SWMBO a new house so she had no choice but to let me start brewing