I am a brand newbie, too, and I bought the Wacom Pen/Touch Bamboo Craft tablet for 119.00 at Best Buy. It came with BOTH PSE 7 (I know, 8 is out, but in reading the reviews, it didn't seem like I would even miss not having 8) and Corel Painter Essentials 4 (which, to be honest, I haven't even looked at). I think this will give me a chance to learn about both, then when I have at least some idea of what I am doing, I can buy the bigger/better/newer version of either one later. New editions seem to come out every year, anyway.
I have been using the PSE 7, and while it has a very steep learning curve, I like it a lot!
Good luck, HTH,