Best advise I can give is get out and handle as many guns as you can. When you find one that "Fits" you will know. Double check resources for reliability. The forums are a GREAT place to start! If possible shoot the exact model you are looking to buy.
After all of that is said and done, get the gun you want. Save up a little extra to be sure you are happy with your choice.
You will not need to spend $1000 to get a good quality gun, but you may want to consider saving another $200 to broaden your choices some.
If you need suggestions I recommend checking out some of the other "First Gun" threads. There is a TON of good info on this site, but a lot of it is spread out a bit.