I’ve seen a lot of posts suggesting Genki, which I think is a good place to start.
But I’ve also seen something that I felt like I wanted to point out.
I’m all about saving money where I can, but the price of a textbook shouldn’t deter you from getting it. Of course, buy used over new every time. Save as much as you can, where ever you can. Look at websites like abebooks.com or bookfinder.com But if you’re in need of a physical textbook, guess what, you’re probably going to have to buy one. You’re most likely already paying for WK, what’s a couple more dollars? If you’re seriously committed towards learning the language, 30 dollars is an investment that is worth taking. As others have pointed out, there are vast amounts of Japanese language tools for free too. JapaneseAmmo is pretty good for beginners. I’ve seen Tae Kim thrown around too. Just remember not to overwhelm yourself! Work through one textbook at a time. I tried working through Genki and my night class textbook and just ended up confusing myself.
You (most likely) won’t become fluent in a language within a year or two. You’ll be learning it for the rest of your life. But if you set yourself up with a good start, it’ll get easier in the future. Think of it like cooking: sure, buying new pots/pans/silverware is pretty expensive and going for groceries adds up. The start up costs are a bit high, but pretty soon, you’ll spend more money by eating out every day as opposed to cooking it at home. Same with language. Pay the 30 dollars for the textbook now, and enjoy the language as long as you continue learning it.
That to me, is priceless. Don’t put a price on knowledge.
Unless you’re the American education system, which has robbed me of all of my money and will continue to do so for the next twenty years.