In this Instructable, I will show you how to assemble an inventory that should contain everything you need for basic electronics projects including components, tools and technical phrases. I will also suggest projects that I felt helped me further my knowledge and understanding when I started in electronics.
Step 1: Components
There are many types of component that are important when building circuits such as LEDs, capacitors and transistors. All of these components are available at RadioShack or other stores and they are key components for a beginner. 555 Timer - A type of IC (Integrated Circuit) used to provide time delays, as an oscillator or a flip-flop element. The 555 timer is cheap and easy to use so is ideal for small projects.
Metronome Batteries - Devices used for storing chemical energy for transformation into the electrical energy that powers the circuit. They feature a positively charged terminal (anode) and a negatively charged terminal (cathode).
555 Timer @ RadioShack
Batteries @ RadioShack Capacitors - A component used to store energy in an electric field. They come as electrolytic and ceramic variants and in many different sizes. The unit for capacitance is the Farad and capacitors also come rated with voltage.
Sunrise Alarm Clock LEDs - (Light-Emitting Diode) A semiconductor light source. Electrons combine within the LED releasing energy in the form of photons (ie. light)
Capacitors @ RadioShack
LED Throwies Resistors - Implements electrical resistance as a circuit element. These are usually used with LEDs. There are fixed and variable types that can be affected by factors such as temperature and light.
LEDs @ RadioShack
Resistors @ RadioShack
I found this useful when making large LED arrays for determining which resistors I needed:
http://led.linear1.org/led.wiz Voltage Regulator - An electrical regulator designed to automatically maintain a constant voltage throughout a circuit. A specific type of transistor.
USB iPhone Charger Wire - Metal strands used to carry electrical current.
5V Voltage Regulator @ RadioShack
Wire @ RadioShack Switch - Able to break electrical circuit.
Switches @ RadioShack Transistor - A semiconductor used to amplify and switch electronic signals. They are often found in integrated circuits.
Transistors @ RadioShack
Step 2: Tools
A fully equipped tool kit is definitely necessary for creating electronic projects. A small bag or container is useful in making your kit fully portable, which enables you to use multiple workstations. Breadboard/Protoboard - Used for prototyping electronic circuits. They don't require soldering so the board and electronic components can easily be reused.
Breadboard @ RadioShack Soldering Iron + Accessories - An essential tool in constructing circuits. The hot soldering iron melts the solder on the joint between to components to form an electrical joint.
Soldering Iron @ RadioShack Zip/Cable Ties - Useful for binding cables into a neat form.Heat Shrink - Provides support and insulation for wiring.
Heat Shrink @ RadioShack Sugru - Silicone based putty that sticks to objects for multiple purposes and cures over time.
Sugru.com Multimeter - Electronic measuring instrument that can measure values such as voltage, current and resistance.
Multimeter @ RadioShack Work Light - Provides useful light for working on electronics. Screwdriver Craft Knife - Small, sharp knife. Especially useful for making precise incisions. Glue Gun - Strong adhesive that uses a heat element to melt glue onto a given area and melts very quickly once applied.
Glue Gun @ RadioShack Multi-tool - Versatile hand tool with multiple functions.
Step 3: Useful Links
Here are some other sites that will give you more information about basic electronics:
Basic Electronics by randofo
How-to Breadboard by amandaghassaei
If you find it too hard to source or too expensive to buy the individual parts, I would recommend buying a complete project kit which would include everything you need for that particular project as well as assembly instructions.
After learning the basics you can move on to more advanced electronics such as Arduino or Raspberry Pi. Both of these mediums offer easy ways to learn electronics and programming as well as strong communities that are willing to help beginners.