I wish I had some of this money you are talking about. I have about 1500 credits at Lt Commander 1 and have never purchased anything. I do have some stuff in my inventory to go sell but pretty much most of everything I have gotten as rewards and stuff I could actually use.
Im at Commander 4, and I have little over 200k creds.
On the easy button front, yes, game gets a lot tougher, I spend my time looking for missions I can do, without getting blown up.
Romulans are tough,and cant wait to start taking on dominion. What i did last night , I cleared some of the Clearing missions in lower sectors, to be able to do some of the Commandder 5 and 6 missions that im getting. On every encounter, I found myself using all my BO abilities, to be able to come out of the fight with at lease 50% hull.
Granted, im still using some LT. Commander gear, like consoles, But I refuse buying gear on the AH becuase everything is so inflated.