In addition to the above advice I recommend a 48'' mower. When I started out I almost bought a new 36'' but instead I got a used 48'' and I am glad I did. The only downside is that it won't go through regular gates so I won't take lawns were thats going to be a problem. A 36'' may sound good now but after mowing for two weeks you will wish you had the 48''.
Nozzleman, I.A.F.F. local 1774.