After getting acquainted with how to use a Field Guide, beginning birders will soon be able to identify the more common species that they are likely to be seeing. As your skills progress in identification, it is probably time to start using optical aids, namely binoculars or cameras to help better observe birds that might not be as tame as the typical feeder species. I sort of went the wrong direction at this point in my birding career, going the route of buying a camera first. Most seasoned birders will suggest that binoculars should be the most important tool early on, as they teach you to spend time observing the habits and features of birds while it is in view. with cameras, one tends to focus more on getting the photograph, and studying it later at home. This is a great means to help in identification, but it suffers in that one will spend less time observing the bird's behavior which is often the best clue to its identity, more so in the tougher to identify birds. For these reasons, I recommend for all early-stage birders to purchase a pair of binoculars as soon as they can. These can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. But a decent pair for starting out won't break the bank. More information and reviews can be found on these sites, here they may also be purchased:

Carl Zeiss Optic