I think raw denim is best suited for people who wear jeans virtually every day. I don't think I'd want to mess around with it if I didn't. I know you said you don't want to shell out, but I really do think that Earnest Sewn makes some of the best washed jeans available. The construction, detailing, and cuts are fantastic. You can usually get them for around $110 on Bluefly and they're well worth it.