Rod selection is totally dependant on what type of fishing you'll be doing. I love thompson and thompson and really like st. croix for trout, and like orvis rods for salmon and salt water. As far as going cheap, or cheapish, I highly recommend any kit type setup (rod/lined reel combo) from l.l. bean or a low end orvis rod - these won't be quite as cheap as something you could pick up at say a cabelas or bass pro - but ll bean rods are pretty darn good...and most importantly they have a life time guarantee - both bean and orvis will send you a brand new rod for any breakage or failure, including if that falure is due to your dog chewing on it or you backing over it with your truck. Save up just a bit longer and get one of these brands (maybe there are others with the same guarantee?) and you'll never need to buy another rod of that weight again IN YOUR LIFE.
I recently sent an old 9wt orvis rod in after slamming a truck door on it. This rod was top of the line when my father bought it for me around a dozen years ago - technology has now rendered it equivilent to the bottom of the line Orvis rod. Orvis sent back their new top of the line rod because when mine was purchased that's what it was (a drastic improvement over my old equipment, and pricier than mine was to boot), and let me pick the action and how many pieces I wanted. Obviously doing business like that, I can't say enough good about them. Only thing that would swing me towards bean for you is they are likely cheaper at the middle/low end, and their reels may carry the same guarantee (not sure - check into it).
Only other advice is go somewhere with a casting pool or some facility where you can test everything out. There are a ton of variables in fly rods of any weight. Once you find a few rods you like that fit the budget, try them with every action and flex point and reel combo possible. Try a few different casts and a few different mends, and make sure you spend your money on something comfortable that you will be able to learn on happily and use effectively once you know what's up.
...then, get yourself a good set of nail clippers and let the wind knots begin
Oh and if you're headed for the salt and plan on throwing around some big 'ole weighted flys like clousers and whatnot- an unbreakable pair of sunglasses and plenty of bandaids will be good to have around for a while
Have fun man!