During my last campaigns, we had no good miniatures. We used four pawns (more or less) for the PCs and coins for enemies. This presented numerous problems. The pawns were mostly indistinguishable and had no clear facing. The same went for the coins, since we usually couldn't use one type of coin per enemy.
Every time I looked into miniatures, I found that they were hard to find and expensive. Painted miniatures were much more expensive. Every form of miniature (including toy men, like LEGO minifigures) was just too costly.
The pawns were turned by one of the players in response to a posting I made to our list asking if he could cut some wooden rounds. I looked into getting pre-cut rounds, finally, and found that you can buy wooden discs online for nearly nothing. I got two hundred 3/4" discs and a dozen 1 3/4" discs for sixteen bucks. It will be easy to mark these with identifiers, to paint some, to notch or mark them for facings, and so on. I think this was a pretty awesome deal.