Those "big boy" databases are divided into subscription and free. If your budget doesn't allow subscription databases, there are many free ones, such as FamilySearch and HeritageQuest (through libraries) that will supply you with many databases and hours of research. Personally, I could not manage without any of them ... subscription or free.
However, there's more! Spend a few hours exploring what is on Internet that might be helpful in your research. How long has it been since you checked Cyndi's List at Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet? There are additions almost every day and so many topics you could spend months searching through all of them. Other great sites include Linkpendium at http://www.linkpendium.com and LiveRoots at Live Roots.
There are many subscription databases on Internet for old newspapers. Nothing is greater than seeing an ancestor's name in print. The International Coalition on Newspapers digital project is at http://icon.crl.edu/digitization.htm. They supply links to both subscription and free digital newspapers.
If you have been doing research on Internet for a few years, you are probably familiar with USGenWeb, The USGenWeb Project. Go back to it and check states and counties. Some may have archived data or under different management, may have new databases. There is also Genealogy Trails, Genealogy Trails Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led, to add to your search. Don't forget the special projects, such as the USGenWeb Tombstone Transcription Project, Tombstone Transcription Project.
FindAGrave at Find A Grave: Noteworthy Gravesites not only gives dates and burial information, but many times supplies photos of gravestone or of the person along with links to other family members. Looking for an obituary? You might like to check Obituary Daily Times http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~obituary/.
I can remember when Cyndi's List and RootsWeb occupied my time completely. RootsWeb is still worthy of a visit. Check through their projects, databases, websites, mailing lists and resources at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com.
Don't let the "ancestry.com" in their URL deceive you. RootsWeb is still free.
FamilySearch has so many web pages that it is mind-boggling. And it's all free! Try their Search site at http://beta.familysearch.org. For every area you are researching, you can check the FamilySearch Wiki at https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/Main_Page. There is information to assist in your research, plus many links to information. One of my favorite FamilySearch web pages is England Jurisdictions 1851 at http://maps.familysearch.org/. You can learn more about parishes and the availability of records directly from this web page.
There are what I refer to as "sleepers" on Internet. You may not find them unless you stumble across them. It's always fun to put your ancestor's names into Google using an advanced search. Many family associations have web pages with extensive information, photographs, maps and scanned documents. While using Google, search for genealogy in areas. This can be specific areas such as a county and state or a general region.
Examples of these type of web pages is Appalachian American Genealogy at http://www.appalachianamericangenealogy.com/. This pertains to the Appalachian area of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and western South Carolina. There are a wide variety of records here including land records, cemeteries, tax lists, church records, court records and more.
It is true that genealogical research is never ending. Not only is it quest for information on names, relationships and vital information, but it is a quest for information on how your ancestors lived. This means a good deal of studying and learning if you want a complete genealogy. Takes time ... but it's certainly worth it!