After a long time of consideration, research, scouting and reconsideration, I've finally gotten my hands on a Hori Real Arcade Pro VX SA. Cost me about $180.
It's a huge sum of money for me since I don't usually spend much, but I don't think any other large expenditures will be popping up for me any time soon, and I should be using the stick for a long time. Also, the stick feels awesome. Sanwa parts really are like sex to your fingertips.
I've only tested it for a couple of matches so far, and I still need a little more time to get used to it, but I'll probably be using it a lot more tonight. It's kinda like a belated birthday gift for myself, and also a bit of consolation for my crappy exam results. My future may still be bleak, but hey, at least I'm enjoying the present, right?