This is from my experience of stay in McLeodGanj, Dharamsala, Bhagsu, Dharamkot area in December 2013 and June 2104, a total of 20 days. I collected visiting cards and surveyed the area and not necessarily stayed in these places.
Some cheap and nice places to stay in McLeodganj are Loling Guest House (Branch of Loling Monastry), Tipa Road, just atop the main chowk area (phone 92189- 46396). Single room fees were usually 150 Rupees for a day. Kailwood Guest House, Tipa Road Pema Thang Guest House, Bhagsu road (google them to find more about them and the phone nos.).
Folks will tell you that won’t find nice places to stay in cheaper prices but that is not true. Best options are that you move up to Dharamkot and stay there with some family home. Almost everyone converts their homes into guest houses and hosts guests. Indian tourists who are more luxury oriented live near the main city/square with all the luxuries. International tourists who are often more appreciative of nature and places prefer living in these homes easier and more rewarding. You will find many people there who are living there for months paying a certain sum to families they live with. So do decide where and how you want to be before deciding about hotels and comfort of stay.
Do visit Bir, Billing Too
Do go to nearby areas like Palampur, Bir and Billing and others. In Bir, you stay at Nyingma Peace House (it would be over 1000 Rupees) or at Bhawani Guest House (google it). Do try the Pizza and other food items at the big Nyigma Peace House Restaurant (Mobile 9882 897 145). I had a nice, big pizza here and staff was good and place was nice.
That was a tiny account of money saving, travel tips on Dharamsala, Bhagsu, Bir, Billing. Do walk or run or trek from Bir to Billing (don’t hire the taxi) even if the hand gliding season is not on.