Microchip's PICkit 2 Debug Express (Fig. 1) is only $49 but it includes everything you need to get started on 8-bit PIC development. The target board has a 44-pin, 14Kbyte flash PIC16F917 chip. It has an on-chip 8MHz oscillator, I2C, SPI, and a USART. The board has a patch area for surface mount chips suitable for hand soldering. The chip can handle an LCD display although there is none on the board or space for one to be installed. There are 8 LEDs that can be connected to IO pins.
The PICkit 2 USB-based debugger plugs into the development board and works with most other PIC development boards as well assuming they have the right header. It works with Microchip's MPLAB IDE and assembler.