I've been shooting film since childhood and I bought an Epson V600 scanner ($200 new but I paid $100 b/c I had gift cards) in January for the same reasons you mentioned - the cost of having film professionally developed and scanned is a bit steep for a career-transitioning hobbyist and it was keeping me from shooting as much as I'd like to. I know several professional wedding photographers who drop more than I make in a year on film processing, which makes sense for a self-employed individual who can pass the cost on to the client for the necessary money-time tradeoff. It's well worth it, but isn't within everyone's budget.
I also develop my own film. It's not as difficult as it may seem and once you've got past the startup cost of buying all the necessary equipment, it's more affordable than sending off to a lab. It just takes more time. Sending your film to a lab or developing and scanning yourself is more a money-time tradeoff than anything else. Whichever one makes sense for you is going to depend on which of the two you have more of. And whether you find such a thing rewarding or just a chore. And how annoyed your roommates may or may not get with your constant hanging strips of film from the shower curtain rod to dry.
At first, with my Epson, I had the same issues you had with scans coming out with wildly varying color balances. I've since learned that to make my scans consistent, I must avoid as many automated scanner settings as possible. I manually adjust the input and output levels of each frame to capture the full dynamic range of the negative and leave the rest alone - absolutely zero white balance or color adjustments. This has given me much more consistent results.
I also save my scans as TIFF files for maximum flexibility in editing and aim for a flat scan that captures all the data I need instead of having a good looking scan in the first place. Then I edit the scans the same way I would any raw file in Lightroom. There's a learning curve for sure, but once you've figured out how to get consistent results out of your scanner, and how to pull the exact look you want out of those files, you'll be surprised how close you can get to the quality of professional lab processing with a dinky $150-200 scanner.
So my quick tips would be:
- Use as few color adjustment settings on your scanner as possible.
- Use your scanning software's histogram/levels adjustments to create a flat file with no clipping in the highlights and shadows. It may look dull and gray but that's what makes the file highly editable.
- Save as a lossless format such as TIFF rather than a compressed format like JPEG. Achieve the look you want in post, not in the scanning software. Then save the edited file in whatever format and resolution you prefer.
- Consider shooting medium format if your scanner can handle it. 35mm negatives push the limits of the resolving power in flatbed scanners. It's much easier to get great sharpness out of larger negatives.
- Always reference photos you like the look of when editing. It's easy to make a small adjustment and be tricked into thinking you've gone far enough just because it looks drastically better than it used to. Editing is tricky that way.
- Get tons of practice. You'll find your own best practices by experimenting.
- Don't sleep on black and white. It's much less hassle to develop at home than color negative, grayscale files are smaller and scan more quickly than color files, and giant prints of gritty b/w medium format negatives look amazing.
Mamiya C3, 80mm f/2.8, 120 Ilford Delta 3200 [under]developed in Caffenol, scanned on Epson V600
Mamiya RZ67, 110mm f/2.8, expired 220 Kodak Portra 400 developed in C-41 press kit, scanned on Epson V600
Nikon FG, 50mm f/1.8 Series E, 35mm Kodak Tri-X 400 developed in Caffenol, scanned on Epson V600