Originally Posted by pretzelsz
(plus it would have a built up slime coat or whatever with it so it is more efficient).
This isn't really the case. A skimmer only takes a couple of days to break in. To be honest, Coral Magazine published a very details study in a late 2009 issue that basically proves the breaking in process to be a total myth. Anyhow, if you can find a good deal on Craigs List or eBay, go for it. I think the Remora will be a good skimmer for you.
You can start with water, rock, and sand. It would be best to not add livestock at this point anyhow, and give the tank a good month to mature. The longer the maturing period, the more established the microfauna will become, such as copepods and amphipods in your sand bed. This will create more long term stability for you.
Have you seen marco rocks? They are a dry rock supplier and will save you a lot of money. I have ordered 4 or 5 times from them over the last year and have been very pleased. You might look at this offer: 40 Pound box Key Largo Rock, <br>40 Pounds Bahamas Aragonite Sand<BR>pay shipping on rock only - KL40-40
Ideally you would use more sand than this, but if money is a real issue then you could use a 1'' or less layer of sand to save some cash. 40 pounds of dry rock will go a long way towards building your reef, and you can slowly add cured live rock, starting with say 5 pounds of live rock and then adding another 10 pounds or so as you go along.
If you do order from marcorocks, I would encourage you to ask your LFS for some help in seeding the sand bed. Ask them for a handful of the crushed rubble at the bottom of the live rock vat. It is useless to them, but it contains life that will seed your rock & sand. Don't tell them you ordered your rock and sand online!!! Just tell them you need to seed a new tank and ask for a handful of live rock rubble. The more crushed and sand like the better. My LFS provides this for free.