I think a big part of the decision has to be based off of what your musical influences play. I'm a big blues fan and try to play a lot of Eric Clapton sounding music which is why a stratocaster was an easy choice for me. From the Mexican strats that I've seen, they have had better quality control than epiphones. I really think the Mexican made ones are really good for the money and would invest any additional money into a better amp than springing for a Japanese strat. If you can afford it, I would say go for a Fender Super Champ X2. It's a far better sounding amp and has a bunch of voicing options that could allow you to hold off on buying any pedals for a bit.
Do either of you have multiple you could spare? I recently decided to have a security system installed in my house and few things in my house were stolen by the people who were supposed to install the system! This included my poster that was still in the shipping tube. Now I have this brand new frame and nothing to put in it. I would be willing to pay for the poster plus shipping if anyone would be so kind. Thanks!