Where to go from here?

My computer turned 4 years old today. It's been a fun time, but it's definitely getting old and I definitely want to start thinking about new hardware.
Here are my current specs:

AMD Athlon x2 6000+ 3.0ghz
320gb HDD (barely any space left however)
3GB DDR2 600 RAM
ATi HD4770 (upgraded, was previously a 8600gt)
NZXT EVO Beta case
Jetway HA-07 Ultra AM2+ MB (The original ASUS M2n-SLI broke)
Windows XP
Antec EarthWatts 430w PSU
Samsung Monitor (1920x1200)

Current performance is "passable" for gaming and such; I can deal with it, but I really do want better soon. Money is tight and I don't have much to spend at the moment; however, I do have some, and chunks of upcoming paychecks will be put to the cause. I was basically thinking I could do one of three things:

1) Update my current PC lightly (buy a new processor and maybe an SSD or GPU preemptively to transfer) and just save up the rest for a new PC later on
2) Constantly upgrade my PC and graudually turn it into a new machine over time
3) Just deal with what I have as-is and save up for a totally new PC later on

Microcenter near me has a Phenom x4 840 (used to have an 830 but they sold out apparently) for 60 bucks, which seems like a very smart idea that I could capitalize on near immediately and should lead to a great performance boost for cheap. Beyond that, should I even bother updating the PC? I was thinking of saving up and buying a second hand first-gen i7 system or a SB i5 system (or CPU/mobo to build off of) in a couple months on the cheap and that'd probably suit me well enough. I probably will recycle the old parts I didn't transfer over and have a hand-me-down PC for someone who doesn't game.

Of course, either way I'll be buying a bunch of components. This is why I'm wondering if upgrading is even worth it beyond a new processor; a better GPU will probably be CPU bottlenecked (but I could move it to a new PC), getting an SSD implies I'm installing Windows 7 on it which at this time I have no reason to (no need for 64-bit), more RAM is pointless in DDR2 and DDR3 implies a new motherboard (which would mean I would be stuck on AM3+ unless I can catch a good deal on mobo/procesoor combo otherwise), HDD prices are obnoxious, making me wait anyways...

Basically, what I'm asking is if/how much should I focus on my current PC and what I should aim for in a new PC if I plan to recycle some of these parts (case, maybe GPU, HDD although planning to buy a secondary, PSU, monitor). Any suggestions?

I'll fill this out too:

Approximate Purchase Date: March for new PC? Over time preferred

Budget Range: 500-600ish USD total, can flex depending

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Mid-end gaming, general use. Looking for 60fps games at 1920x1200 with some AA (2x) and medium to high settings.

Parts Not Required: Case, PSU, Monitor

Preferred Website(s) for Parts: Newegg.com for new parts, but willing to shop elsewhere and also shopping preowned locally and nationally

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: None, should work with a secondary Linux install at least passably with hardware acceleration

Overclocking: Yes, if possible

SLI or Crossfire: Maybe

Monitor Resolution: 1920x1200 single monitor

Additional Comments: Lower power preferred, would prefer not to use more than the 430w I have now, but this isn't necessary
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  1. Well for 500 bucks you can at least start a solid build, if not complete one.
    First thing, your going to want to build around AMD Socket AM3+ or Intel socket 1155.
    AMD is planning on releasing updated bulldozer chips in the future on AM3+. (Whether you trust what AMD tells you about their chip release dates anymore is up to you.)
    Intel is releasing ivy bridge in Q2 2012 on 1155, and sandy bridge is the current line of very nice chips for 1155.

    CPU: Intel Core i5 2500k (Very fast quad-core, overclocks like a beast on air.)

    Mobo: Any z68 chipset, socket 1155 mobo. (Preferably with PCIe 3.0 for upgradability later)

    RAM: Cheap trustworthy 8GB DDR3-1333 kit.

    Graphics Card: Good $150-175 graphics card. 6870 as an example.

    TOTAL COST: $500-600

    If you have the cash now, I would suggest just going ahead and buying those parts, then adding on better SSD/HDD, case, PSU, air cooler later on.
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