I always advocate cycling the tank without your fish in it--this is less work for you and it's kinder to your fish. You don't have to constantly test the tank and do water changes whenever the ammonia level creeps above .25 :)
There is a sticky here, but it's a little wordy and not very specific.. I picked out this article because it covers what I would cover if I explained it to you. http://animal-world.com/encyclo/fres...leAquarium.php
It's easiest and fastest to cycle the tank using the pure ammonia technique. You can find pure ammonia at an ACE hardware store--you want the cheap generic brand without any scents or surfactants. If you can find the ACE brand ammonia, that's what you want. :)
You should also ask for a good liquid test kit for your birthday, since you need it to cycle your tank. I use the API Master Test Kit.