Oh my goodness, talk about opening Pandora's Box
. There are so many options: bamboo, other woods, aluminium, steel, coated metal, plastic, bone, casein (milk protein), glass. . . I actually have some of each, and use each for different things. There is sort of a general rule that you use rougher needles (such as bamboo) with more slippery yarns, and smoother needles (such as coated metal) for more textured yarns. For metal needles, Susan Bates is very good, as are Addis. For wood, I have been very happy with Harmony by knitpicks and for bamboo, I do like Crystal Palace, and Lantern Moon for other woods, as well, and winterrose has some beautiful exotic woods, but her sizes are very limited. The other thing to consider is straights, dpns, and circulars. If money is an issue, keep in mind that you can use circulars for flat or round knitting, but straights only for flat knitting. I personally don't like the interchangeable sets, although plenty of people love them (I find that they come loose as I knit with them). Do you have an LYS or friends who knit, so that you could try a few different types and then make a decision? One last word is that most needles will last a life time, if you don't sit on them or otherwise compromise their integrity
. Meaning, it's worth the investment over the long haul.