I personally prefer gravel over sand. Sand looks nice until it's covered with fish poop - then it looks awful. And it can be tricky to clean without sucking the sand up as well. Not saying don't use it if that's what you like - just making you aware of some of the drawbacks.
Invest in a Python type of water changer. It will become your best friend. I use the Lees brand (Python knockoff) that can be purchased at Petco. It hooks up to your sink and uses the faucet to start the suction. The water drains into your sink. Then you "flip a switch" and the clean water flows from the faucet to the tank and fills the tank back up for you. Best thing I ever bought.
As far as ferts go, I have an Eco Complete substrate and low light, and I never add any ferts. I just let the fish poop do the fertilizing. This works just fine for low light plants that don't have alot of demands. So if you want low maintenance and cheap then perhaps consider going low light. You can still have a nice planted tank with low light/low maintenance plants if that's what you want.