I really would not suggest buying a new Singer. I bought one in 1999 and replaced it in 2000 with a different brand. The old Singers are great products, and if you can find one that's pre-1975 or so, then I say go for it. But the new ones aren't worth the money. The company is in the midst of filing for bankruptcy, from what I hear.
I would suggest, for a first time machine, a Janome. They are well made machines, you can buy them from a sewing shop (so you'll have free instrucitonal classes), and I know when I was looking for my new machine, the basic ones were very reasonably priced (under $250).
Charlotte, midwife to some awesome women, wife to Jason, and no longer a mama to all boys S ('01), A ('03) S ('08) and L ('10).