This is a subject near and dear to my heart. I would suggest a barbell and some weight. We have chain sporting goods stores here, one is called Big 5, the other is called Copeland's. Either has weight sets that go on sale for about .50$ per pound. Which means that you can get 300# of weight, a bar, and collars for about $150.00. If you hunt around you can find used stuff much cheaper. I would entirely recommend agains a bench.
A set of squat racks, your 300# of weight, and a relatively cheap chin up/ dip cage is all you need to start. You can do a tremendous number of exercises with minimal equipment. You can do deadlifts, cleans, snatches, clean and press, front squats, overhead press, curls, straight leg deadlifts, hack squats, and one handed overhead presses and curls with just your barbell and weight. If you want really good equipment, look at www.ironmind.com
. For "cheaper" stuff, you can either make your own racks and stuff, or go to discount stores.
A few of the other guys on this site have more experience building their own equipment and more versatile lifting. One of the things I like to do is see how many different things I can come up with for the least amount of money. One book you may get a kick out of is "Rock Iron Steel" by Steve Justa. I have it on the desk right next to me as I write. You can do alot with a little money.
You may also find it more fulfilling to not have highly polished chrome and fancy pulleys and cables and paint jobs. Just a stack or heavy hard weight that you throw from the gound to over head in as many ways as you can figure out. Take a look at some of the old time strongmen and wrestlers. They were tremendously powerful and did not have Smith machines, pulleys or Nautilus. Take an old duffle bag and fill it with sand. Pick it up any way you can and put it over your head any way you can. Drop it and repeat.
All of these types of exercises do not necessarily have to make you bigger, but they will make you stronger. Personally, I do not want to be bigger, just stronger. If I could weigh #175 with a five hundred pound deadlift, I would be stoked. I am 6'0" tall. There are many methods out there for increasing strength without necessarly making you huge. We can start another post on that topic later.
Good luck with this project. One word of warning, it is addictive. The nice thing is that it does not have to be an expensive addiction.