Developing your own color negative film isn’t that much more difficult than processing black and white film, and the results can be very rewarding. Economical? That depends on what you’re paying now and a few decisions you’ll make along the way. For example, powder chemicals are less expensive than liquid chemicals. But yes, developing your own color film is almost certainly less expensive than having it done by a lab. And if it gets screwed up, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself.
The most important part of developing color film is maintaining a constant temperature. I do that by submerging my chemical bottles in a bath (stoppered sink) of water at or above my target temperature until the liquid inside is at the target temperature. Then I pour the correct amount of each chemical into its own labeled pitcher and float the pitchers in a plastic container in which I run water at the target temperature. It all works great until someone flushes a toilet.
I’ve also found that in my home (a condo apartment in Brooklyn, New York) it’s easier to develop for a longer time at a lower temperature. For some reason the on-demand boiler we have is better at keeping a constant 86F than it is 100F.
Other than that, it’s almost just like black and white processing–maybe even a little simpler depending on your personal regimen.
I would be remiss of me to not point out Moominsean’s excellent introduction to color film development. I developed expired Agfa color film many years ago with mixed results, and reading his post encouraged me to try again.
All photographs taken at the very photogenic Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.