OMG So good to hear from you! Yep we're back! lol Was so glad when a friend of mine gave me his fish cause that meant we had to get the tank really going again. Just been so broke.
It's great to hear from you, too! I was glad to see you are still around in the hobby. And trust me, I understand broke. We are down to a one income household and it's been challenging in this hobby.
Cryptocorynes is the full name of the plant if you are looking for it, but everyone understands crypts. Sagittaria plants might work for you as well (dwarf sag is one I am thinking of) and also vals (Vallisneria).
40 watts is definitely doable, that's what I started out with. I just left my lights on longer. I wouldn't get a T5HO bulb at all if you are wanting to stay low tech, stick with T8s (what you have) or regular T5 (just not High Outputs!). I shopped around on auction sights and even craigslist and found some great lights. Also, since you have a 55, you can get two 24 inch lights to save money. And look at homedepot. Karackle just rewired her light with a light fixture from there and saved a bunch of money. I am sure when she gets back from vacation, she'd be glad to help out.
Slate tile from lowes, a stainless steel screw and you are in business (countersink the screw a bit). Put it under the gravel. You should look into something called "Turface" and do a search on kitty litter (Special Kitty unscented brand). Yes, I just said kitty litter. Both are great substrates on a budget. I've personally used turface and love it, others hate it, just like every other substrate/gravel. Kitty litter is similar to turface. A little lightweight, but I like that.
Learned this from Frank on ADA - a quick way to remove gravel is to use a shop vac (if you have one or can borrow one). Makes it easier (remove fish and water first, ha!)
Love the golden gourami, by the way! Very adorable.
And welcome back. You've been missed.