i bought my first guitar a few weeks ago and have been trying to figure out the same thing. my ultimate goal is playing some of my favorite songs, but i'm also determined to learn good technique and some of the theory behind it all. unfortunately, i just don't have the time to commit to regular in-person lessons, so i'm left scouring the internet and bookstores. to that end, i've come across a few things that seem to be working well for me after my first few weeks...JustinGuitar.com
- great online video lessons...starts with the absolute basics and builds on both technique and theory as you progress. the 'beginner course' seems very good and has been working really well for me so far. he starts by introducing various chords, teaches proper technique for playing them, throws in basic theory as you go along, then provides relevant practice exercises and songs. the process is very well structured, the videos are excellent, and Justin (the instructor) has a great attitude that keeps things interesting. his detailed video demonstrations are great when you're trying to figure out why your playing doesn't sound like you expect. while the video content of some advanced lessons is still a work in progress, there's more than enough to get your started... and it's all completely free. i definitely recommend giving it a shot.Ultimate-Guitar.com
- enormous resource for tabs to learn all your favorite songs. the amount of stuff on this site is pretty incredible, and it's constantly growing. the few songs i've delved into so far have been very good and it saves you money over buying books that contain the same stuff. the only downside is that many of the best tabs are formatted for a specific viewing/editing program that has to be purchased...might be worth it in the long term though.Music Theory for Guitarists
- picked this book up after seeing it recommended in many places around the 'net...covers from basic to advanced theory all in a way that's relevant to playing guitar. you start off with the basics of learning to read notes and rhythm, then moves into intervals, chord structure, scales, harmony, and more in a very concise, easy to understand format. there are written exercises in the book, as well as a CD full of audio examples and ear-training exercises to help you practice. while i'm going into guitar with a fair amount of music background already, i'm finding this book very easy to understand and relevant to things i'm learning elsewhere. there's a huge amount of information for such a short (~100 page) and inexpensive book...highly recommended.Guitar All-in-One for Dummies
- i'm normally not a big fan of the 'dummies' books, but this one is actually pretty good just because it provides so much information in one place for a low price...combines eight different guitar/music 'for Dummies' books into a single text to cover guitar basics as well as some genre-specific skills. i picked it up on a whim because it was on sale for ~$20, and it's turned out to be pretty useful so far. it's not something i'm reading cover to cover, but it's a good reference.
those are just a few of the things i've found useful so far. they may or may not work for you in meeting your goals, but i feel like these resources are helping me learn more than just how to play my favorite songs by ear. in any case, good luck with your playing. i've only been at it a few weeks, but i'm having a blast with my new hobby (now that my fingers don't hurt all the time)