The fact that there are entire stores dedicated to selling spices speaks to the vast variety of herbs, spices, and condiments that exist. So as someone who is just starting out in the kitchen, what do you really need to get started without dropping your hard-earned money? Here is my list of basics- as you become more proficient you can slowly add to your collection.
1. Salt: arguably the most important seasoning. Buy yourself a big ol' box of salt. It does not have to be fancy- pink salt, gray salt, garlic salt are delicious but I would start with table salt which is great for cooking and baking.
2. Ground black pepper: I would not buy the cheapest version of this at the store because then it loses flavor, but also do not spend a lot on this (McCormick's is GREAT)
3. Cayenne Pepper: if you plan on doing anything with a little kick then this is a must. This is great as a chicken rub or in ground beef; I even throw it in pasta when I am bored with plain tomato sauce. - also if you like the spice I would recommend stocking up on Chili Powder (See my Wolf of Wall Street Post).
4. Dried Oregano: This adds a dynamic flavor and is very aromatic. You can use it in Cajun, Mediterranean, and South American cooking
If you plan on baking:
Cinnamon: Adds a warmness to cupcakes, cakes, and pies (and is needed for most recipes I have seen)
Vanilla Extract: No doubt the most common ingredient you need for baking and if you skip out on it, your baking suffers (McCormick again is great- you don't have to buy the fanciest one you see)
SPLURGE ITEM: Lets say you just got a bonus, I would recommend going for truffle salt (http://www.deandeluca.com/herbs-and-spices/salt-pepper/truffle-salt.aspx). It's great on popcorn, pasta dishes, salads, eggs, and meat. However, if you understandably have sticker shock, you can go for the less costly truffle oil and then just sprinkle some regular salt on your dish.
This is a very basic list and you will come across recipes that require more. At that point, you either have to make the decision to invest or skip the spice and it usually won't make or break the dish.
As always, if you have questions email me at email@example.com