Invoking Golum for this one, because I'm so excited about my new bike!
I spent a solid day going to three different bike shops, waiting until I found the perfect fit. This was it! My bike is a Schwinn Searcher and it was even on sale! I had a budget of no more than $500 for the bike, not including accessories. The total for the bike was $350. Score! I had $600 saved for the total bike purchase, figuring that it would cost around $100 to get some basic accessories. I totally under budgeted for the accessories, which means it was a good thing that I saved as much as I did.
I determined that I needed five key items in addition to the bike itself:
1. Women's seat (soooo much more comfortable than the standard seat)
4. Panniers (aka saddlebags)
5. Tire pump
The bell, rack, and panniers are mandatory for commuting to work in the city. In addition to these items, I already had a helmet and clip-on light from when I owned a bike a few years ago (it got stolen, but these items weren't on the bike at the time, thankfully!).
In the future I might go back and have some fenders installed, and perhaps grab a pair of gloves. Otherwise, I'm pretty set with equipment and clothing.
I'm looking forward to starting my daily commute to work!