1.) Get a star chart. I recommend "Cambridge Star Atlas" by Wil Tirion and "Bright Star Atlas" for binoculars or "SkyAtlas 2000" by Tirion and Sinnott for 6" or larger scopes.
2.) Get several beginning books. I recommend "Nightwatch" by T. Dickinson, "Skywatching" by D. Levy, "Turn Left at Orion" by Consolmagno and Davis, and "The Backyard Astronomer's Guide" by Dickinson and Dyer.
3.) Get a subscription to Sky and Telescope or Astronomy magazines (or both).
4.) Find a pair of binoculars (preferably as big or bigger than 7 X 50 size). Choose your light polluted backyard at first (equipped preferably with a planisphere) and learn as many constellations as you can. Then, find a dark sky site and do the same with your star charts. Trying to find constellations in dark skies as a beginner can be a bit daunting. Once in the dark sky, explore the Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy (M31), the Orion Nebula (M42), and the Pleiades (M45), just to name a few.
5.) Once you know your way around the sky and have read your books, look for your first scope. Only then will you have an idea of what you truly want to do. You'll know if astrophotography is of interest. You'll know if you like deep sky better than Solar system objects, etc. You'll know how to balance your budget between the actual scope and its accessories, such as eyepieces and mounts. All of these factors will impact the choice of scope.
Until you've done these, my advice is to SAVE YOUR MONEY. By that time, you'll be in a position to spend some bucks on a great scope that will fit you like a glove. Alternatively, you can go out and purchase a $300 scope and get right to it, though I don't believe it will benefit you as much until you learn this other stuff first. Dobsonian reflectors in the 4.5" variety are very fashionable for the beginner because of their price; however, I do not recommend them because the eyepiece is too low to the ground and you'll soon be looking to replace this scope. But if you insist on purchasing a cheaper scope right away, I would suggest investing in a small refractor like an Orion Shorttube, since you will always have a use for a small, portable scope, even after you realize that you need something bigger.
But if you fail to heed my warning and decide to purchase a scope right away, remember to budget for some additional accessories as well, most notibly, eyepieces.
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