Don't assume that you are not getting good quality just because you spend less than you want. The H&H IM6 and forecast kits he has are really nice and produce a good quality rod. My personal preference on most kits is to upgrade the grip - I figure that the grip is the "user interface" and you want the best feeling cork you can afford.
What I did when I built my first rod, was to build something that would not be my primary rod, so that if it didn't come out great, it wouldn't be the rod that I'm looking at most of the time. However, if you take your time and aren't afraid to cut off crappy wraps and start over, you'll come out with a pretty nice product.
I'll try to post a pic later of the rod wrapper I built out of some scrap wood.