Disclosure, I am an architect.
We recently priced for a small job with a low budget. The client said she knew that her budget was small but that she had seen what the neighbours had done without architects and thought that an architect would be worth the money. She went to a few architects, had a chat about what she wanted to do and got fixed-fee proposals and samples of recent work from each. She could then make an informed decision about whether an architect would be helpful. (She decided to go with us, so obviously felt that an architect could bring something to the project)
If you are considering doing work, why not do something similar? Each project is different and some people may not need an architect, but unless you ask, you won't know. I don't know why people assume that all architects do is force their opinion on you and drive up costs. Most architects I know wouldn't still be in business if that was the case.
Edit: The Simon Open Door initiative www.simonopendoor.ie
is great (as mentioned above). Almost all architects are giving free initial no-obligation consultations anyway though to be honest, but it's a good charity to be giving money to.