I was never able to afford the $6000 or whatever for a real licence before, so I ended up just buying the CS5 master collection from the Molino in Cusco, Perú. $4. I didn't feel so bad since I had paid someone for the programs, whether it was Adobe or not.
But as soon as they came out with the creative cloud thing, it's been awesome. $50/month or whatever (though they are open to a good barter if you call them, my assistant photographer is only paying $25/month) and you get every program, always up to date, anything new is yours immediately. By the time I've paid enough to match the previous cost of one of their programs, I'll already be using the next version. I haven't even paid as much as I would have had to for Lightroom 4 alone, and now I've got Lightroom 5 already. No extra charge.
In my opinion, this creative cloud stuff was an awesome call on Adobe's part — for people in my position. They basically f'd all the hobbyists.