The tools I consider essential in a work shop, in this order:
Some people would substitute a bandsaw for the router table, it is probably a tie in my mind.
But here is the rub: There are work arounds that will accomplish the same thing for each of those tools. Those work arounds increase your skill, and will probably make you appreciate the tool your currently missing all the more, when you finally buy that tool. But in my experience people get frustrated and quit the hobby when they don't have the proper tool. That probably speaks more to our "gotta have it now" mind set, but never the less if you get frustrated by failure, it takes all of the fun out, and then you quit.
Long way of saying, buy the best table saw you can afford. Used if your handy and can do some repairs, new if your not, it is one of the few tools you can actually be better off buying used. With the table saw and correct blade and a couple of jigs, you can joint, resaw and dimension your wood. A decent hand plane or two will take care of the surfacing. Then make some stuff. As your skills improve so will your knowledge and then you can decide what you need next. One last thing, the biggest and most costly mistake I made starting out, was buying cheap and poor quality tools. I told myself I was saving money. The exact opposite was true, it costs more to replace a crappy tool than it does to "buy once, cry once". Good luck and have fun!