I have a tablet but I don't use it, my fiancé uses it instead and he really loves it. In fact he very rarely draws traditionally now because it's more convenient for him to just sketch, ink and colour all in one place. No scanning involved. Our tablet is a Wacom Bamboo and it cost about £60, it's a great little tablet.
I wouldn't. You have to run before you can walk. If you do get one, realize that it won't make you a better artist AT ALL, but will only add some convenience to the art that you're already creating. It won't give you anything you lack already.
Wacom bamboo tablet. Gosh... one you get used to that thing is impossible to let it go. I have been using it for a month. It takes time to get used to the fact that you have to coordinate between the screen and the tablet, but once you get used it saves time and art supplies in the long term.
BlackTigress-TLB, a Wacom Bamboo Capture is an excellent graphics tablet, and comes with Photoshop Elements which is more than sufficient for a beginning digital painter. It retails for about $100, but I'm sure it can be found discounted on sites like Amazon. You don't need an Intuos to start with, and many professional painters continue to use the Bamboo line long after they can financially justify the 'professional' Intuos. You certainly don't need a Cintiq to start painting. If you're interested in a tablet device (different from a graphics tablet in that it is a stand-alone computer that accepts pen input), there's a fair amount of choice. The iPad is good, and has a huge variety of art apps. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has fewer apps (though it does have Sketchbook Pro, which is one of the best) and it has the advantage of having a dedicated Wacom stylus (much better than the styluses you get with the iPad because it's more precise and has pressure sensitivity). There are also Windows tablets like the forthcoming Surface Pro, though that's twice the price of the iPad and Galaxy Note. Hope this helps.
Just realize that you may have a hard time getting used to it. More than a few artists have given up on using them over the years. I definitely wouldn't go high end on it until I got used to it enough to know that I could use the thing.
Other people have very little trouble, I think it may have something to do with how one is used to drawing and how much patience one has in learning the different hand eye coordination needed to use a tablet.
Look into the 'Yiynova MSP19U'. Its like a Cintiq but costs around $570 instead of $2,000. A Cintiq is basically an Intuos with a screen on top of it lol . I know Amazon.com sells them but they sell out fast.
if you want a regular tablet (without a screen) Id look into Monoprice tablets. Theyre very cheap.