I've made lots of projects out of el-cheapo acrylic. I don't know what she's talking about, about it "falling apart!" That's rediculous! I've had a hard time with very slippery acrylic yarn coming unraveled, but that was with crochet, and I don't know how to secure yarn in crochet work, so I may have just been doing it wrong. Certainly it will never break apart on you. I can't imagine what she was thinking!
It's nice in that it's washable, for sure.
If you're on a budget, you should check out the selection of yarns of all types at Smileys, and at www.knitpicks.com if you haven't already.
Don't let those snobs get you down! I love my natural fibers above all, but acrylic definitely has it's place--bright colors, washable, affordable.... I've knit many a baby item out of it, and wouldn't redo them in wool even now that I can afford to. My sister has two kids, and I've only knit one wool thing for them so far, because I know she likes machine washable stuff. (Hmmm, I wonder if knitpicks has machine washable wool? Their stuff is so affordable, it's worth looking for!) I like the softer acrylics generally, but the cheapest stuff makes for fun, colorful afghans, and probably lots of things I haven't thought of.