I generally view things the same way.My opinion on solid body guitars is that once you take away the bridge, pickups, electronics, tuners, shielding and nut (all of which can be upgraded, and people upgrade these on more expensive guitars too) all you are left with is a neck/fretboard/frets and a slab of wood. So all you have to do is find a cheap guitar with a neck and fingerboard that suits you.
Even frets can be worked on or replaced.
If I spend $400aud on the Ash SX, then $300aud in parts to replace the saddles, shield it, replace pickups, electronics and etc. for a total of $700aud and some elbow grease. Cheapest mim Tele in Australia is about $1,000 and I would probably still need to do some fret work, replace pickups and etc. I would replace these things with the same things I would put in the SX.
So what am I really paying for? Quality control, a bit more time and effort on the fretboard and marketing. If I am willing to do the quality control and time and effort on the fretboard myself on a cheaper guitar, then all I would be paying at least $1000 for would be a name on a headstock. I don’t really care about the status of owning a Fender/G&L/whatever you poison, I just want a guitar that sounds good and I like to play.
On the topic of 'budget guitars', you may wish to keep an eye out for some of the Grote models. They also get a pretty favorable reception by the owners here. They are distributed primarily by Amazon here in the US, but I think you folks in Oz can order directly from the factory website (maybe Amazon too?)