Sephiroth: Yeah, I'm sure the economy has put the brakes on a lot of customizers and collectors. If anybody needs base bodies on the cheap, I always recommend visiting your local thrift stores, you never know what you'll find. More than once I've come across a figure I've always wanted for pennies on the dollar. Yard sales are another good place to look. Seeing as how they're gonna get chopped up, repainted, etc., it generally doesn't matter if the used figures are a little worse for wear.
Cherry Bomb: Yup, anybody can participate in the contests. You don't need to do anything other than be a member at Figure Realm and follow the submission/contest rules/guidelines.