Homebrewing is actually one of the cheapest hobbies out there. Overall, people spend quite alot less making their own beer or wine than pursuing other hobbies. Will you be able to make beer for less than store bought? Yes, if you are only counting the ingredients. Some companies sell $100 kits that seem like great deals, but if you look carefully at the components...they are nothing more than some 5 gallon plastic buckets and a few other small items. If you count in quality stainless equipment, then the answer will likely be a resounding no...at least in the short run.
So, at this point you're probably thinking "maybe I should just buy my beer and save some cash"...if that is how you feel then I would say go with what you know. Others won't be so easily scared off...because true brewers have a passion for learning the secrets of making great ales and lagers, and want to be the masters of their own breweries.
Now, I will make some comparisons that should help ease the painful news that homebrewing is not going to be cheaper than buying store bought, but it is going to be ALOT cheaper than pursuing many other hobbies. A "hobby", after-all, is defined as "An activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure." - and as we all know, things that are pleasure related (like vacations) simply must be written off in our minds or we will never be able to enjoy them!
Take boating for example...that's a hobby that can cost you as much or more than a new car, and then there is the storage issue. Racing - that also requires quite a large investment in cash and constant replacement of parts, which can get expensive. Some people work on antique cars...where parts may be hard to find and are likely pricey. People have swimming pools installed in their yard for $30,000, and may not actually get much use out of them most of the year. In those cases, it really is difficult to quantify just how much your enjoyment is worth versus what you paid...
With homebrew, it is a little easier to quanitfy...because you can actually calculate how much your homebrew cost you to make, and then add the cost of equipment on top. If you are using quality equipment, it might make you feel a little less excited because then you will see you arn't really saving money by brewing beer yourself (unless you are a fraternity or brewpub).
Most likely, you are not running a professional brewery, so there really isn't any point trying to determine when you will "break even", or "turn a profit". Probably the best you can do to justify the expense, is to write it off in your mind, and at the same time know that quality equipment does hold value, for resale later if you ever leave the hobby
Homebrewing seems to attract people that make comparisons based on what a bottle of beer costs, rather than looking at the big picture. Those kinds of people are advocates for plastic bucket kits. Is it really a good deal when you make beer for free if it ends up tasting like plastic?
You won't find too many successful professional breweries using plastic to ferment or brew in...no...the best breweries generally use the best equipment available.
You might also want to ask yourself "Can those plastic components do what a brewtree can do? Will they last as long as a BREWTREE and produce world class beers? Will the plastic components be easy to use, filter your water, be valve driven, have an e-z dump mashtun and also be clean in place?" Again, the answer is a resounding "no"...
As usual, I turn to professional breweries for insight. The equipment is an area that microbrewers and megabrewers want to work flawlessly...seamlessly integrating with the rest of their components so they can focus on what makes them successful...the beer itself. Professional brewers don't have the time or patience to be equipment repair techicians, or to be brewery design experts/builders. They rely on companies that have been building and selling and improving their systems for several years, so they get a high quality brewery that works flawlessly.
Our goal has and always will be to provide top quality (the best) brewing systems available at the lowest price possible. We have focussed on continuous improvement of the brewtree systems, as well as all of our other brewing related products. Our motto is "improving homebrewing through innvoation" and we live by those words.