Of course there are ways of getting photoshop through illegal manners, which I wouldnt advise, my mate got it, was missing all the things such as HDR, panorama etc and if im not wrong it had a nice little virus chilling with it :L
You could look into adobe lightroom, its amazing!!
For now, my neat little advice would be:
Get the cs5 30 day free trial
when that runs out, get a photoshop elements 30 day free trial
when that runs out, get an adobe lightroom 30 day free trial
When that runs out, get a capture 1 30 free day trial
That way you have 4 months of free editing, and youll be able to find out which software you like the best
Hi photoshop elements is a good buy but get version 9 or 10 as they have the layers mask option, which is a must in my book. Failing that you could could try The Gimp its free and very powerful editor, down side is you have to get used to using it yourself but theres always someone who has done this on youtube.
before i got really in to photography i started out editing some ones photos thats how i got to were i am today
like graham & rob have put Adobe software takes some beating when it comes to doing any retouching of photos or editing but theses any so much you can do with a jpg file once its had all the settings done by the camera but it is a good way to learn how to edit photos
there is some software thats free to down load from the web called gimp now to me this software is really good to say its for free before you spend your money on software like Adobe and end up not using it much looks like photoshop in the lay out of it and things you can do with it
this software is used but lots of people around the world and as lots of videos on line on youtube and other web sites on how to use it & how to do different things to your photos
so as you put you want some thing thats not going to cost a arm and a leg well gimp won't cost you a penny any the time to down load it and later on you might wanna move up to Adobe software but like we all now money don't grow on trees