Great (original) post.
The only thing I have to add (and underscore) is the importance of driver training and getting to know your car. It's not nearly as expensive as you might think, it's a lot of fun, and it will help you to appreciate your vehicle more. And you likely can get a ride-along in a truly powerful and well-modded vehicle with a very experienced driver who will scare the piss out of you. Hell, even my dead stock 02 wagon can scare me! It's not a video game out there, you don't just hit "reset" to make your car come back to new! A STI is truly a performance bargain, and probably too much power for an inexperienced operator. I, too, look at the "I just took delivery of the STI and want to upgrade it" posts with
, especially when it's obvious the new owner might be in high school or college, and can't possibly have ANY experience handling bad driving situations -- and their "experience" might only come from playing Grand Turismo.
In New England, the BMWCCA is open to all makes, and you can do a track day for ~$200 with an instructor in the seat next to you to help you out. Toss in about $200 for a helmet and you are good to go. When you are looking at spending thousands on mods, that's really small change. And it's the best way to enjoy the car. AutoX is even cheaper, but you don't get as much seat time -- but you can be a lot more aggressive with the car at the AutoX, then be humbled when a well-setup Miata or Mini takes the day