The Hardware (Step 1)
Finding hardware for my purposes was relatively easy. Since I don't need to do anything especially processor-intensive, I can get away with a pretty low-grade machine. I'm lucky enough to work for a software company, so I bought an older system from them for under $250 (including a monitor, etc., and a Win95 OEM I'll never use). People who don't work for software companies can still find a good deal on cheap hardware these days. Check used computer stores in your area, or even thrift stores, etc. Here are the basic specs for my system:
That's all there is to it, really. And if I ever need more power, I can always upgrade hardware as needed.
On to Step 2 ->