I have only been in the hobby for two years and I think my best purchase was a protein skimmer, it greatly reduces the number of water changes you have to do as well as improves the health of your tanks, I like the seaclone ones, their inexpensive and seem to work well.
As for maintenance, yes certain things need to be done every day, adding calcium, emptying the skimmer cup (can actually be done every two or three days if your lazy like me). Most maintenance however should be done on a weekly/ monthly basis such as water changes, dosing chemicals, top offs (it sucks when your sump pump starts making weird noises at 3:00am), testing, and setting bristle worm traps (some bristle worms are good but if not kept under control they can become a terrible infestation).
Lighting depends on what corals you want to keep, I have found that PC lighting works fine in aquariums with soft corals, I have a 4*55watt on my tank and that seems to keep the soft corals healthy.
For substrate, any aggregate sand should work sometimes its called live sand.
Other advice, some people say stat with a large tank other say start small, I would chose something middle, 30-60gallons is fairly manageable. RODI water is a must, which is a good thing as most aquarium shops sell it for around $0.50 per gallon so its cheap and you have an excuse to go to the aquarium store once a week. Get a good test kit, pH, phosphates, nitrates, nitrites, ammonia, calcium, dKH are all things that need to get tested. For fish, I started out with tank bred percula clowns, and they are doing very well, also chromis are good (and cheap). I think the best advice though is to become friends with your local aquarium shop.