Having been involved with two high-altitude (90,000 ft+) balloon launches, getting off the ground is the easy part. Getting the payload back is more difficult. One landed in Lake Michigan and was recovered, the other landed in a marsh and after 6 hours of searching, we still haven't recovered it. (Very difficult terrain to get through).
Getting into near space can be done for less than $1,000 pretty easily. It's a great educational experience, and loads of fun. Hopefully our next launch will land in a open grassy field.