i'm in a similar situation
I'm planning on buying a boat with a friend who I've sailed with for a couple years. We both had sailing dinghies growing up but have sold them and are looking for something we can do some serious cruising on. Between the two of us we have plenty of "sweat equity" and know-how (my friend works for pacific seacraft, and we have a mutual friend whose family owns a canvas shop). We're both college students now and broke, and we've determined that the best way for us to get a good boat on a budget is to buy one that needs work. These are usually better deals because the owner probably quit sailing, or bought a new boat and just dosen't want to deal with it, so they're willing to sell cheap.
Anyway one peice of advice, probably the best way to get a good boat on a tight budget (obviously this is not possible for everyone) is to move to a sailing town and get a job at a local marina, or boat yard. You'll meet alot of people who you might find are surprisingly willing to help you find, or work on a boat. And you just might find that $1000 "just get it off my property" gem of a bluewater cruiser.