This is one area where I buy what I want, when I want. But I don't go nuts.
For clubs, it's usually one new club per year. Last year, I bought a new driver. This year for me was a new putter and hybrid. Shoes every couple of years, new bag every few and new irons usually once in every 5.
In the USA golf equipment is relatively cheap compared to the UK, you probably pay in dollars what we pay in pounds( about 30% more).
That said, if you're starting out look for some good second hand clubs, and reward your improvement with a new set when you are committed to the game and have more idea of your capability and motivation to carry on. Try and get a feel for whether you prefer graphite (more expensive) or steel shafts.
I usually get all of my major equipment at X-mas from my rabid golfers grandfather and uncle. I am currently saving up for a new putter, I still need to do some research to see which one consistanly good.