One of the ever lasting, and truly frustrating things about fountain pens is to figure out where to spend your money. It is very tempting to buy something new every single time you have enough in your budget.
I don’t think it is the smartest thing to do so.
The interesting thing about fountain pens is that the value you get isn’t promotional to the price. There are some pens where you get a lot of value for your buck. For example: Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari and TWSBI Eco are pens where you get a ridiculous amount of value for your money.
The TWSBI 580AL is a “better” pen compared to the Eco; at least in some aspects, but not all. While the Lamy Al Star isn’t even a better version of the Lamy Safari, it’s just a heavier version, that in my opinion is less durable, and is more expensive.
It is very easy to spend enough money in cheap fountain pens, where the total amount adds up to what you could have paid for a Lamy 2000.
Where to spend your money? Spend some money, get a few nice pens in the $15 - $30 range. You get a lot of pen for your money, especially if you go for one of the pens I mention above. It is hard to find anything that beats the TWSBI Eco or the Pilot Metropolitan when it comes to what you get for your money.
There are a lot of good pens between $30 and $150, but I would not spend much if any money there if I were you. Save a little bit longer and go for a Lamy 2000 (it’s around $150). And I have heard a lot of fantastic things about the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 (between $130 and $225; I don’t get why the prices are so different at Goulet and JetPens on this particular pen).
When you go beyond the $250 mark, that is the moment where you shop after different criteria than value. There are many very cool pens that cost a lot more than $250, but it is more about getting something very cool, instead of how much you get for your money. Are they better than a $150 Lamy 2000? Probably. That much better? I doubt it.
There are some exception to what I am talking about here, and that is custom or special nibs. For example pens with flex nibs can be very expensive. But for most pens above $250, is about a very unique design, high quality products without that much focus on what you get for your money.