If you are just getting into steno for the fun of it or if you are new to all of it and are looking into attending a school, I will tell you what I told my brother. You only need THREE things initially.
(1) student machine – I recommend the Wave (900)
(2) theory book – I recommend the Stenomaster theory book (200)
(3) student software – I recommend Eclipse (300-400) or DigitalCAT (Free)
If you are a hobbyist, you might want to start off with the software Plover because DigitalCAT is only free to students enrolled in a school. Plover is truly free, though it will not come with many advanced features. However, you don’t need these if you’re not monetizing this craft.
Also, if you are a hobbyist, you may prefer a theory that requires more strokes because there is no use in remembering short forms for words if it’s just something you will do in free time, not regularly. So I recommend StenEd for those who plan to never monetize.
Finally, the only other things you will need is tuition, which Mark Kislingbury’s school offers free dictation with the tuition cost. So that eliminates the 500 you would want to spend on tuition over the course of school. So that’s (4) tuition and (5) dictation.
The only other things you will need during school is three books: one legal, one medical, and one grammar. That’s it! The big costs come at the end as you’re about to graduate (testing fees, membership fees, and professional software/machine).
Please view my post on everything you will want to know before enrolling into a school, the questions you should ask yourself if this career is for you: here.