Re: First EVER!!! surround sound system.....what do I need?
In your situation and budget, I would google "Sound and Vision", which is a magazine (online too) which has many reviews and a "best of" section in all price ranges. "Audioholics" is also an excellent site, as is "Secrets of Home Theatre".
Your best buy will unlikely be a HTIB (home theatre in a box) and see what fits your budget. Read the reviews too.