I pretty much take a wading staff with me every time I wade, but I don't always use it. So, I am a very big fan of the collapsible style since they are easy to carry along with you.
I used one of the off brand aluminum staffs for years. I think I got it from Bass Pro, and the last time I looked they still had them for about $30 or so.
TFO offers two styles of wading staffs an Aluminum version and a Graphite version under their Springbrook label. A couple years ago, my wife needed a wading staff so I got each of us a Springbrook graphite wading staff. I think they are about $90 these days. I have never used one of TFO's aluminum staffs.
Comparing the two staffs, the TFO graphite staff does feel more solid and stable than the off-brand Al staff, but I never felt "unsafe" with that Al staff. The graphite staff has a "nicer" feel to it while using it in fast water. The TFO staff is better made, it fits together smoothly and more importantly at the end of the day it is easy to take apart. If I ever had to put a lot of weight on the Al staff, it would sometimes get stuck together and could be a pain to take apart. I've never had any trouble with either of them coming apart while wading. Of the two staffs, the Al packs up in shorter lengths and it is lighter. I have no doubt that the graphite staff will out last the Al staff, but it is still going strong long after I decided to upgrade. But I do like my newer staff.
Bottomline, yes, there are lower cost wading staffs available that work well. I'd suggest wandering in to a shop and putting your hands on a few of them, you can tell really quick if the staff feels secure or not. And then like everything else in fly fishing, you just have to ask yourself "how much do I want to spend"?