Several years ago, I decided to learn to can. Canning has been a blessing for us! I now can have convenience foods. After a busy day, when I have forgotten to plan something for dinner, I can pull a couple of quarts of soup off of the shelf, throw together a sandwich and call it dinner. I can have home canned beans ready for burritos in a flash. I haven't run out of jam since I first began making it (though there is a downside. I can not enjoy store bought jam any longer...it's gross!)
Jars are one of the biggest expenses when beginning canning. At up to $12.00 for a dozen quarts, they are a big investment! I found this stack of jars for half-price at Walmart a week or so ago. Who can pass that up?! I bought a few for a friend, too, who had mentioned that she was out of jars. Make sure to watch for clearance things at the change of the seasons!
An even better way to get jars is to simply ask around. When I began collecting jars, I asked friends and acquaintances if they had any taking up room in the garage. I asked on our homeschool loop, Craig's List and Freecycle, too. You wouldn't believe the number of jars I received simply for the asking! Yes, they were dusty and dirty. One group was even disgusting, all buried in a filthy shed for decades. But they wash. Bleach works wonders. Hundreds and hundreds of jars for free are worth the work!
I was also given a full set of water bath canning tools, the big pot and a ton of rings, all for free, and was able to purchase a wonderful pressure canner for only $15. I got my second pressure canner on E-Bay for less than $50-with shipping.
Tattler lids are another thing to consider. I haven't used them, but have heard that they work well. They would be a good investment for the beginner canner. I bought a large supply of standard type of lids through my co-op, Azure Standard. Their bulk price is better than I could get them at the stores, locally. Then, a friend in North Dakota mentioned that her little general store sold them very inexpensively. She bought a case of each for me and shipped them in a very inexpensive manner. I have lids to last for years. :)
Canning can be affordable if you are patient and watch for the deals.