Thank you all for the great input.
I took the advice above and I went out and bought a Kreg Jig complete system since I figured it would help out seeing as I'm a rookie. At some point I do want to graduate to rabbets and dados though. I also picked up a 12" dewalt 96 tooth blade for my miter saw (at more than half the cost of the Harbor Freight saw I'm putting it on, haha). I played with the saw for a bit today learning the different cutting angles on some old 2x4s with the stock blade. I found out that you can miter or bevel to achieve the same thing, though mitering is easier. I'm questioning my decision to lay out more cash, albeit not much, for the larger saw.
I went by Lowes and they had by far more options as far as wood goes than Home Depot. They were also priced per board instead of per foot, which makes estimating costs and materials easier.
My first project is going to be a fireplace mantel made from poplar and trimmed out. I've already cut out the sheetrock and used the Kreg Jig to install a few horizontal cleats in between the studs to give myself something to attach the mantel to. Tommorrow I will be purchasing the materials. Whats the best way to fill the holes left by the brad nails?
I've got the rough plan for how I am going to frame out the washer/dryer pedastals using the Kreg, but I have a question on covering the frame with plywood. What is the best way to get nice, clean, straight cuts with a circular saw? I have always been shakey at best with one of these. Also I am due for a new 7 1/4" blade, what is recomended for ripping and cutting 3/4" plywood to create clean edges? Can one blade do both?
One drawback to my new hobby is I now find myself reverse engineering every piece of furniture that I come in contact with. Even worse, my wife is doing it too. The list has grown into bookshelfs, toy boxes, entertainment centers, garage cabinents, etc. I bought a few tools and now my wife seems to think I can build anything she sees on Pinterest.
No regrets... yet.