I'm far, far from being anything resembling an expert, but I was in a similar situation a few years ago. I had a job, but I'm frugal (some say cheap
) and being a rank beginner I was looking for a decent starter guitar under $400. A friend, who is a good player, and I went to a local luthier who sold used guitars and he showed us two: a Seagull S6+ (that looked brand new) and a Yamaki Deluxe (which had been refinished but still looked old). Both were the same price - $350. I liked the idea of a new (looking) Canadian-made guitar so I bought the Seagull. My pal bought the Yamaki. I am still pretty much a beginner (slow learner at 48 yrs old!) but I know enough now to be able to tell what plays and sounds good. My Seagull is quite nice - better than when I bought it; I guess the wood is aging nicely with playing. However, that Yamaki is amazing for a $350 guitar! I tried it a couple of years later (once I learned to play a bit) and I promptly kicked myself for not buying it when I had the chance. Don't get me wrong - I really like my Seagull and it has been a solid guitar, but that Yamaki was a better deal, especially considering they seem to be very hard to find. If I could turn back time I'd buy the Yamaki since I could easily find a Seagull anytime. (Or maybe be less frugal and buy both?)
All that said, I don't think you can go wrong with a Seagull, Simon & Patrick, etc. Canadian-made, to boot!