The Rebels are pretty good cameras for the most part. Being all plastic (lensmount included) they won't stand the daily beating that an EOS 1 or Nikon F5 can take. For a starter AF Canon, they can't be beat. (except perhaps for a nice used Elan II or 7) I bought a used Rebel G as a second body and have been very happy with it.
As previously stated, lenses and person behind the viewfinder have much more to do with better shots than the body. All of the "Rebel lenses" (35-80, 28-80, 75-300) are pretty much junk. If it has the plastic mount avoid it like the plague. If you can't afford the L-series (myself included) stick with the standard USM series EOS glass. When I bought my Elan IIe back in '96 I spent the extra bucks and got a 28-105 instead of the 28-80 that Canon usually has as part of a package deal. It is far and away my favorite lens.
Where you should really try so save up and spend the big bucks is for a long (300mm+) telephoto. A cheap long lens is about as useful for long shots as a PhD camera (Push Here Dummy, aka point and shoot) As another post said, some of the higher grade independent lenses (Sigma APO, Tokina ATX etc) are pretty good lenses for a lot less money. I have a Tamron 200-400 which is sharp as a tack up to 350mm, beyond that it gets slightly grainy. Even that isn't near as bad as say, a Canon 75-300. While not a "budget" lens (around $700 new), it's worth putting away come cash for.