I usually try to mention an Open Source alternative whenever I reccomend someone buy some software. Though OS software isn't usually as high quality as the professional stuff, it usually works great for people who are not professionals. There is usually tons literature out there on OS Software, and great support forums where you can get any questions answered within hours or even minutes.
Oh... did I mention is 100% FREE?
Here is a great website that categorizes most mainstream opensource softwares available, and gives you a short description of what they do.
Just a little tip to young graphic designers, I once used OS software to make enough money doing freelance to buy the Adobe Suite. :) If you can't afford to buy the Adobe software, you can get by with this stuff until you can save up enough money to buy it.