What camera would you recommend for getting into basic photography?
Have you considered an iphone? The photo quality is really good and the latest is 8 megapixel. You won't leave it behind, and given the price points of cameras, not a bad deal if you are talking about taking pictures of family and friends. If you want to take a larger variety of pictures and you need more features, like optical zoom, try the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS. It is fast, simple, and cheap.
"But I don't have the expertise to know at what point spending more money isn't going to do me, as a camera newbie, any good. Any thoughts?"
If you want to stop spending at couple of hundred, go with a quality smartphone or a small point and shoot. If you consider spending more than 300, you should wait, get comfortable fiddling with the settings of a point and shoot (take a class), and then buy an Cannon or Nikon DSLR. Beyond that, it does not make sense to burn $600-$2000 on a device you are not committed to lugging around.