Before you make the plunge, read some reviews and take suggestions from the forum. Don't aim too low when choosing a camera. I've never heard anyone complaining that the camera they bought is too good.
Don't rule out used and refurbished cameras from dealers and manufacturers.
Yup spend as much as you can get your hands on, if you love it now you wont believe how much you love it when you start.
As you get into it you will start to learn the little things and wish you bought the next model up that "had that feature that would make taking this shot so much easier and better".
You will reach that point and the convergence is predicted by what you spend now and how much you enjoy it once you start. If you love it now and buy a cheap camera, you will get to that point in 12 months or less. I am speaking from experience on this!
As for cheap, depends on where you are. Here in Australia you can buy grey imports at a good discount with small risk, you probably arent in Oz so wont give you directions as to where to get those.
Good luck my friend! Photography is an amazing hobby that will stick with you forever.