Your 'openness' is good. I made a bad assumption in thinking that you had a 2nd floor. I now take that back. HOWEVER, I feel a lot of what I said is still of use when it comes to altering a home (in terms of resale, quality work, etc., etc..) Although the 'funds' aren't there, again, you might be able to hire a pro to do the 'rough' work and you do the finish work (as I suggested in my initial follow-up). That will save you $$$. If you have a friend who knows a little about DYI work, then pay that person a few $$$ to work w/you on the finish job.
I guess the trouble I'm having with this whole thing is that you're gonna end up skimping. I know you say otherwise but you won't hire a pro to even do the framing (if I may presume) or the electrical or the duct work (I know, I know, you're in Georgia). You ought to think of that possibility of someone calling the 'inspection cops' on ya. Again, building codes are there for a reason. I do hope you give this some real, serious thought. (NO need to reply; you're on your own.) My best to ya and hope it all helps.