If it were me, I would invest in a mountain bike compact triple crank set and the tools to do the job. It sounds like the crank would be more that you want to budget, but the tools could be cheaper than what the dealer would charge you to do things.
Why are you advising the author to throw money in the toilet? Your advice is very expensive compared to changing the chain rings. The mountain bike triple you recommend can get down to a 22 tooth inner ring. He currently has a road triple crankset with 130mm bcd for the outer and middle positions and 74mm bcd for the inner ring. He can put a 24 tooth ring on his current crankset. There is so little difference between a 22 and 24 inner ring that its not worth talking about.
I previously advised that the most economically sensible choice is to just change rings, so we agree on that. However, you error in dismissing difference between 22 and 24 ring as "not worth talking about". It is not the two tooth difference, but the percentage difference in gear inches that is determinative. It is significant enough to determine choice.