I have a lower end NewHome (put out by Janome) that was 200 locally, so prob go for about 100 online for similar) that is a nice beginners machine, I also have a Craft Master 5000 (again put out by Janome) which is the equivulant of the NewHome 3000 (I believe) which can be found at Hancocks. I bought mine online for not quite 500$ but it has QUITE a bit of the bells and whistles. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE
My CM5000 and it's a workhorse of a machine. I've used it almost every day for the past 8 months I've had it for MANY different projects, but mostly sewing diapers. I JUST got a Simplicity Frontier serger as a gift (and a mighty heart warming gift I may add). So far I like it, I'm still learning how to use it though, but it was awsome to make 30 hankies in less than 45 min.
in rolled hemming style
I've also serged 4 layers of cotton fleece (sweatshirt fabric) w/o it skipping a beat. I only wished it had a scrap catcher
but I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth, this was an unsolicited, totally unexpected gift and I LOVE it) and I've even serged on elastic (it has an elastic attatcher), but that was just playing around, it would be awsome for things like the edge of skirts/panties or such where the elastic is on the edge and it's ok for it to be exposed to the skin (I use cotton swimmers elastic mostly). It'll be interesting to see what all I can do with it
Luck in your search, Reese