My friend is incompetent with the internet, and wanted me to ask you guys if you could recommend any banjos or mandolins under 500$ USD (each, not total). I figured the acoustic section was more relevant than the others. Thanks guys!
You should check www.musiciansfriend.com. They typically have the lowest prices on string instruments, and you can usually find the models on the site in a local music store. That's how it was for my new Jackson Dinky. I found it on musicians friend and went to GC and found it in the store for the same price.