I'm a beginner. I don't know a lot even though I once had a 75 in 1 Kit where you just connect the wires and have practiced soldering.
This is supposed to be a good book to get started and I happen to have one:
Electronics For Dummies by Cathleen Shamieh and Gordon McComb http://www.amazon.com/Electronics-Dummi ... 405&sr=1-1
You might want to pick up "Getting Started In Electronics" by Forrest Mims .
As for getting parts cheap, you can save a lot by knowing what you want to do first, draw up a plan and don't get side tracked.
Check out http://www.futurlec.com/
as they have value packs.http://www.taydaelectronics.com/servlet/StoreFronthttp://stores.ebay.com/Asia-Engineer
There are also sites that will let you get free samples and you can always write letters to companies and they might give you some products as samples.
There are a lot of good tutorials here. Brad's tutorials are what attracted me to this site. You might also want to watch his Youtube chanel because there are some good teaching videos there. My son and I were watching his video on resistors last weekend.