I'm also new to the forums. I was using the Home Depot lighting with various diffusion techniques and finally decided to spend a bit more. I purchased a new Lowel DP(1ooo w hot light) for around $125, a used light stand ($25), and umbrella ($25). I position that to one side and bounce it off white foamcore (it helps to have an assistant) for fill light. Works great and is a good way to learn about basic lighting (I only shoot B & W). For small subjects (such as flowers) I prefer using a 100w halogen light ($12 at Targets) and shoot through an embroidery hoop ($1) lined with a plastic shopping bag ($0) pulled taut. The downside is having long exposures, so a tripod is necessary.
Hope this helps. Good luck!