The retrofit kits are really easy- although whenever I'm having trouble I just invite a cute, technically inclined guy over with promise of baked goods. But really though, AH Supply makes great kits, and they come with really good instructions too.
As for affording the CF lights- tell your parents how energy efficient they are! CF's are by far the most efficient (except for LED of course), and the bulbs last MUCH longer too. You have to replace standard fluorescent tubes every 3-6 months, as the red & green burn out much faster than the blue (which is why your tank probably looks blueish right now). Unfortunately, the red & green spectrum is what provides all the helpful light for your plants to grow. But I digress. CF bulbs only need to be changed every year or so, less if you don't like your plants very much.
I'm in the process of doing over all my tanks in CF- I've got 3 24" (65 watt) ones on my 6 ft tanks, and another 20" (40 watt) on my 10 gallon, so now I just need to cough up another $75 for the other tank.