Over the years when discussing my astronomy hobby with non-astronomers I have found that a great majority of them believe that it takes a great deal of money to get started. Nothing could be further from the truth. A few inexpensive aids and your eyeballs are all you need to get started in the fascinating world of amateur astronomy.
Whether or not you want to purchase a telescope one day you will need to learn your way around the sky. The first thing all amateur astronomers, myself include learned is the constellations. These are the signposts that allow us to easily navigate our way around the heavens and to locate the targets we wish to observe. A comfortable chair, dark skies, and a planisphere or all sky chart are all that are required for this. A good planisphere can be purchased for under $15, a sky Atlas is somewhat more expensive but you will use both as long as you are involved in amateur astronomy.
Another activity that requires nothing more than your eyes, and a comfortable chair, is meteor shower observing. There are many meteor showers throughout the year such as the Perseids and Geminids among others. They are not difficult to observe but you do need a dark sky, and be sure to bring a comfortable chair or chaise lounge, warm clothing, and some hot drinks (no alcohol, it ruins your night vision).
Planetary conjunctions are another beautiful sight which can be enjoyed without optical aid. These occur when 2 or more planets are aligned in very close proximity to each other. There are a few more taking place in 2008 on, September 11, 12, and 19, November 12, and December 1, 12, 27, 28, and 31. These can even easily be viewed from the suburbs.
A good resource to learn the dates of events like these is by buying a subscription to an astronomy magazine or two. They are also published on many websites.
The aurora borealis and australis (borealis=north, australis=south) or northern and southern lights, are also an awe-inspiring spectacle that require no specialized equipment to view. Unfortunately, they are usually only visible in higher latitudes (above 50 degrees north and south) but have been seen as far south as Mexico.
If you have a set of binoculars these are a wonderful piece of observing equipment. Even if they are not high quality they still bring in more light than your eyes can. Low-cost binoculars can also be purchased from many retailers both online and off. I will go into binoculars and binocular observing in detail in other articles there is too much detail to go into here.
So as you can see it does not require much money or equipment to get started in amateur astronomy. Your eyes, a planisphere or sky-charts, and maybe a book or two and you are on your way.