I've seen Novak Smart trays (original version) sell on eBay for around $25... and you can make your own discharger for about $10 in bulbs.. making your own would also give you some practice at soldering!
I agree that things are making a change to going LiPo for racing.. but the jury is still out on just how long they last... I have both... but the LiPos can cost as much as 3x the amount of my NiMh packs... sounds like you are on a budget.. so you can go with the "bleeding" edge of r/c and take the risk.. or go with proven proformance.
Everybody keeps saying how much better their LiPos are than NiMh.. I'm not seeing it.. ya they are way more convenient... but as for proformance.. I don't think so..
I have said before in many posts.. I usually get about a year out of my NiMh at race level.. and I race every weekend.. and usually some practice in there. At a year.. the packs are at the expected 80% of voltage.. so the packs that were in the begining 7.4v at 5min (disharging at 20amps) are then somewhere in the neighborhood of 6v.. and volts = speed this you can especially notice in stock racing.. mod not so much because the speed is mostly from the motor.. you can gear it up a little.. or turn the timing up if brushed.
I think the folks that are seeing the big difference either have had some really crappy packs, used them for past their prime, or didn't really take care of them to good..
LiPos are also lighter.. my Orion 3200 is around 8oz and a 4200 EP NiMh is around 16oz.... so you will feel more punch because of weight when using the average LiPo vs. NiMh pack...
A good say 4200 EP NiMh 6-cell pack can have 7.4v @ 5min with a 20amp discharge. A typical Orion 3200 LiPo only has around 7v @ the same time and discharge...
So.. it's your call and your dime.. for me the jury is still out..