I started by using free ones. Blender is free though it has a serious learning curve. Softimage XSI mod tool 7.5 is free too and it is the exact same program that they make lots of video games with. There are lots of other free ones to learn with. Then you have to find tutorials and stuff. But you can definitely play with free software that is very high end before you buy anything.
I thought about starting a Clare fan club, but I chaned my mind when I thought about the duties and responsibility that would come with been part of a fan club. Maybe some day if no one does one. hint, hint, hint