I've been interested in amateur astronomy ever since I was a kid reading about the Voyager missions. I was amazed at why they discovered about Jupiter and Saturn and then Uranus and Mars. I stared out with a cheap 4" Newtonian, which after a while I let collect dust, and I have recently become more interested again. I finally bought an 8" SCT in 2002, and I've been very happy that I have.
Here are a few suggestions I have for beginners, even though I don't consider myself an expert:
Another tip that is usually suggested to beginners it to buy a set of good binoculars, and start learing the sky that way. A set of binoculars is a good instrument to have, since they are easy to carry around, and quite a few celestial objects look nice in binoculars, such as open clusters.
Another suggestiton is before you go out and buy any scope, be prepared for the size of it. It will be very disappointing if you go out any buy that monster scope that can see the faintest galaxies, but you don't bother to use it because it is a pain in the ass to take out. I happen to live in an apartment, and storage space is a little limited, so I can't go out and get that monster scope I would love to get, so storage space is also an issue to keep in mind.
The eyepices you get with some low end telescopes tend to be very low quality. If that is the case, I would suggest going out and getting a couple of good quality Plossl eyepieces, it will make a huge difference.
Personally I also prefer a finderscope with a wdde field of view, and a large enough objective to see some faint stars. I changed the finderscope on one of my telescopes from a 6x26 to a 9x50. It helps star hopping a lot.