I played around with cross stitch in grad school, but it wasn't until I left my PhD program and took a job working for $7.35/hour that I decided I should really give embroidery a try.
But I was only making $7.35/hour! I also wasn't getting 40 hours a week consistently, I'm fairly certain my since-fired boss was taking hours off all our time sheets (a story for another day!), my bills were piling up (much like the pile of hoops in this shot10, and I was eating expired sandwiches from work some weeks just to make ends meet.
How in the heck was I supposed to find the money to start a new hobby?
This shitty time in my life is why I'm adamant about the idea of separating "essential" from "optional" supplies when somebody asks me, "what do I need to have to start stitching?"
Depending on where you live and what you already have available in your home, you can start stitching with just $5-10 worth of essential embroidery supplies. Those essential supplies include:
the shitty kitchen scissors we all have in our junk drawers (price: FREE);
a multipack of needles ($2 or $3; every stitcher I know has a different preference and trying to stitch with the wrong sized needle can ruin the experience, so give yourself some options);
an embroidery hoop (about $2);
one to three skeins of floss (about $0.75 per skein); and
fabric (potentially FREE, keep reading!).
Before you ask, "Hope, what kind of fabric should I buy?" I want you to erase the idea from your mind that there is a "right" or "wrong" fabric to stitch with and instead head to your closet. Find some old sheets that you don't use anymore, an old piece of clothing, or an old shower curtain you're storing because you get emotionally attached to objects and can't get rid of anything (this is a self-burn, my first projects were all from an old shower curtain). Try to pick something that doesn't really a stretch to it and in a color you like, and you've got yourself some free embroidery fabric!
That's it: scissors, needle, hoop, floss, and fabric.
If you're brand new, I hope this helps ease your mind when you think about the potential costs of starting this hobby.