People in general attach more to and wish to gain more of outer merit rather than inner merit. In reality inner merit is the way to Salvation.
Making merit by having mindfulness, concentration and wisdom requires no investment. We should cultivate this state of mind when we take 5 or 8 precepts and when we meditate. It is like an investment of training one’s mind for the Magga (the Path) in order to gain the result.
During the Buddha’s time, everything was easy. It was easy to be ordained. Only two robes were required. Later on three were allowed. Wherever they went, the monks only had those with them.
It was also easy for the lay followers. They did not have to take anything when they visited the temple. Being poor did not stop them. If they did not have flowers, incense and candles, they used their body, speech and mind to represent those things. We can do the same thing because the main reason we go there is to train our mind.