ECW98: I have sort of bit my tongue waiting to reply to this to see how other people answered but I am going to put in my 2 cents because I think the advice given may not be the best for you.
In my opinion
the best thing for you to do would be to sort of forget all about using the orbital buffer and to clean your car by hand. Yes this may be a step backwards from modern technology, but it is tried and true.
For years I used a very similar method as to what I am going to tell you to do in the rest of the post. It worked well not only for me but when I detailed car'* for other people/customers.
Wash: Any of the mothers or meguiars car washes will work just fine. Other than smell you wont notice a huge difference between them. (so if you cant decide pick the one you like the smell of better
) I would suggest a sheep skin mit, you can get them at walmart or similar for under 10 bucks. To dry the car, I prefer a nice chamous but others like the absorber or similar products.
Clay bar: I currently prefer the mothers clay bar (~14 at walmart) over the meguiars. I have also heard good things about the blue clay magic bar (autozone~10). Either way this is one step I dont think you should skip. It will make all the following steps much easier and the smoothness of your paint will be something that you will love.
Cleaning/polishing/waxing: For this I am going to agree with 95SLE and say either the mothers or meguiars 3 step systems. I have used both many times and will say I prefer the mothers system based on ease of use and results. I think it goes on easier and comes off easier. Either will do a very nice job. Foam or microfiber applicators will be the best for applying. Again that is your choice as to which one you use. I prefer foam.
Removing the above stuff I would suggest microfiber towels. (if you are a member of costco or BJ'* you can get packs of 25 for ~15 bucks if I remember correctly).
Remember this is only MY OPINION. it may be right, it may be wrong but it will clean your car up nicely and shouldn't be too much work or money. Figure that once you have the initial costs down the products should last you atleast a year or two before having to consider buying more.
I dont think you should justify another 100+ for a random orbital buffer or any similar product until you are comfortable cleaning your car by hand. As you get comfortable and feel that you could do more for the paint of your car but your products limit you, that is when the buffer talk should begin. At the same time, you may find yourself more than satisfied with the results you get from the above, and never want to go any further.
Just my 2 cents on the topic.