I'm more of a pragmatic person myself when it comes to setting out a web page. I don't always apply all minute fixes (and most likely very time-consuming patches, which inflate the code) so that a page is completely backwards compatible to a browser released sometime 10 years ago. I make sure that the page displays all important elements and that the formatting isn't playing up or breaking, but I don't go down to pixel perfection. If a gradient or shadow isn't displaying in IE8 then I make sure the page looks clean without it.
My thought on this: it's importent that the information is getting across, and the person using this old browser has probably never ever seen the latest whiz-bang effects one can create for a modern browser (or if it would be of any importance to these people they would have upgraded). So this small group of site visitors aren't even aware of what they are missing = neglectable.
Example: on my own page I'm right now installing a slide show for the page background image; this is not working in IE (not even in 9, only in 10, which hasn't been released for WIN7 yet), so I make sure that the nicest of all slides is the fixed background image for IE.