I am a self-taught programmer. I went to school for about two years and have about twelve years experience in field. I am now completing my degree because the market's bad and I don't want to have to explain away the absence of a degree (only seven more units). That being said, programming without a degree is very possible. Some things to keep in mind:
1.) Generally first generation American's have a harder time with degreeless applicants and or the HR managers themselves (who tend to come from business backgrounds). For the first generation American's this generally occurs because there country of origin "tracks" academic students very early on. If you're bright and lower middle class or above you just go to school. Remember the American experience is very different. You are in distinguished company here. Off hand you can draw on the experience of both Edison and Gates who didn't have degrees and did very well. Some of our top minds in business and engineering never went to school.
2.) The West coast tends (in my experience) to be more forgiving of degreeless applicants. The Silicon Valley experience is all about completing and or innovating, not getting good grades. I've met more college drop outs that are millionaires here than anywhere else.
3.) Most certifications are expensive. Yes they are handy to have in a tough market, but I wouldn't concentrate on them if you have limited capital. In the long run school will place you higher in the applicant list than a cert for a dollar spent.
4.) Because of (3) consider taking one class at a time at a local community college for your GE requirements. This won't tax your bank account that much and it will let you (very) slowly accumulate credits. That's essentially the route I went. Twelve years later it will pay off. Don't worry about the time, just chip away at the requirement.
5.) You will face smart ass college students. Just remember to keep studying and proving how hot you really are. We all can study whether we have formal schooling or not.
6.) 98% of what you get in college is a strong set of connections that help you find jobs. Build those connections as if you were in sales. If someone is in an industry that you would like to work in get to know them. You are starting out at a disadvantage since the bright college kids have professors to work with who can help introduce them to the right contacts. You don't have that. You'll have to work harder.
7.) DO NOT GET A COLLEGE LOAN. The interest rates are insane. Grant? Fine if you can score it. Scholarship? Yep. Take it slow and cheap? You bet. No loans. You don't need to be in debt the rest of your life. Talk with a counselor at the local community college and see if anything fits. You'd be surprised. Also check with your local church, there's often low income scholarships offered by religious communities. Don't be a dick, that is don't go begging for money from an institution that expects you to uphold something you won't, but be open to various sources of help.
8.) The school generally doesn't matter outside of a few really big name schools. You aren't going to MIT so don't worry about that.