I have never owned a chameleon, but I am very enthusiastically looking into obtaining a few to start a breeding hobby. I have always been interested in herps and Chameleons caught my eye recently. I have looked thru many many adds on many websites and researched many different species/locales of chameleons. I have found that the Veiled Chameleon, which show good color, are a hardy animal, and very available in the hobby, come at a very reasonable price to buy. Some I have found to be available at as little as 35 dollars. HOWEVER, I must say this, from what I have found, read and researched, and as others willl surely tell you, the cost of a chameleon as a pet is not determined by the price that you pay for the actual chameleon. You must have a very suitable environment for any chameleon, which does not come too cheap. You must have lighting, food, vitamins, supplements and much more, and these all cost money. So, in actuality, I believe that the price of the chameleon should not be your determining factor in choosing one, but you must consider that in order for the chameleon you obtain to live well, it will put you back a few bucks. So, good luck, and as I said before, this is not from my own personal experience, but from what I have read of others'. Hope this helps a bit.
I suggest you buy a leopard gecko.
Sorry but the number one thing that really annoys me is when someone buys a chameleon and three months later says it is sick, what can I do? I can't afford to take it to see a vet. If you are already on a budget then you won't be able to afford vet fees unless your circumstances change. You may not need a vet during the first year or even the second but from my experience, you will need a vet guaranteed if your chameleon reaches old age. Wild caught chameleons are cheaper than captive bred but those ones need a vet from the word go.
Also chameleons have high maintenance needs (example their uvb tubes need to be regularly changed) and to buy all the equipment needed up front can cost four times what the chameleon cost.
I agree with the others. I only spent 30 dollars on each of my Veileds, but I atleast spent close to around $500 on lighting, food, materials for cage etc. and I only had them for a couple weeks. Not to mention all the time I put in aswell.