I'm not sure where you live. How big is your city?
After decades of loving music I've only started playing around with it by chance. At a Garage Sale down the street about 3 months ago I found a Korg Poly 800 Mk II in perfect shape with instruction manual and case and stand for $20. I just bought it cause it was an actual synth and was such a deal I figured I could just sell it on Ebay if I wanted to. I took it home and the little bastard grew on me. The instruction manual and Korg's easy interface made the programming curve rather painless. I rocked my friend's Minimoog (classic Model C, so jealous) like I was a superstar the other day.
So kind of excited I headed to the pawn shops, flea markets and thrift stores. When I was a kid I used to scour pawn shops for records, casettes and video games and when I was in my late teens I saw in my city.
Elka Synthex (brand new) for $1200.
ARP Odyssey for $500.
Multiple 303s, 808s and 909s for under $100.
But that was 1988-92. And anyone who lives in a big city has these same stories.
But of course this was the late 80s when I had no money. Knowing that Synthex sat there for YEARS (italian music shop that closed about 10 years ago,) I don't think it ever sold and makes me cry right now.
That stuff isn't at Pawn Shops here anymore but I did find everything below in little old Edmonton for under $500 combined. And I've only done about half the shops in town.
-E-mu Proteus 2000 (perfect, with composer card PLUS Orchestra 1 card and Techno Synth Construction Yard card)
-Casio CZ-5000 with case and free bonus SK-1
-Eminent Solina B417 (over 200 pounds! has Solina striing ensemble plus more in it. Apparently did lots for ARP. crazy killer organ with nutty arpeggiator. can trigger crazy glitchy effects. my favorite thing in the world right now. was in perfect shape with bench at thrift store for $100)
-Programma ST-530 drum machine
Sucked into sites like Vintage Synth and Harmony Central I've recently also purchased a Waldorf Q rack and Waldorf Pulse. The Q is pretty crazy and amazing.
All the while I've just been learning them, reading the manuals. Going downstairs and just experimenting with sounds for a couple of hours a night.
Taking the next step and setting up a studio, I bought an MBox 2 Pro Factory set online (not here yet.) It's also for doing my radio show at home and not having to go live every Saturday night in the future. It has Pro Tools, reduced versions of Ableton etc... I figure that will have enough in it to start me recording. No songs yet. Just sounds. When I make something I really like on the synths I just write down the parameters in my notebook. When everything is set up on the computer soon I'll start to try pulling things together.
SO VERY LONG STORY SHORT
Go buy some shit you can touch, take time to actually learn it and go crazy. Do whatever. So when you roll into software synths you'll actually know what the hell you want to get out of them and not just be another preset machine.