For those who don't have or can't borrow a back yard, any nearby car campground (such as a state park) is good. You may not be able to crawl back into your own bed, but you can crawl into your car and run the heater. If it's snowy, just park where you can easily get out, make sure snow isn't covering the exhaust pipe, have a full tank of gas, and take chains, kitty litter or sand bags and shovel along.
I agree that not only for beginners but even for those of us with long experience, it's important to test out new gear thoroughly before taking it on a trip! That applies regardless of season. Set up that new tent, try it out, test with a hose to make sure it doesn't leak, practice putting it up and taking it down several times before taking it out on the trail.
For many of us, "shoulder season camping" (i.e. fall and spring) may not be much different from winter camping. That's certainly true here in NW Oregon!
Of course those of us west of the Cascades may have problems getting any experience at all backyard camping in snow. In two years of the 22 I've been here, it has looked like this image from December 2008:
Most years we might get an inch or two 2-3 times a winter, and probably an episode or two of freezing rain. Some years we get none at all!