There is nothing wrong with starting with the base model. It boils down to are the few aptions that the sahara comes with worth the extra $7500 to you. To my knowledge that Sahara doesnt come with anything extra that will make it more capable off road. Of course I'm bias because I'm not crazy about the painted fenders. I would use that money to get wheels, tires, lift, bumpers, winch, and you may still have some left over.
My mission, make it new one piece at a time!
1995 YJ 4.0L
--33" Goodyear MTR's
--4" Skyjacker lift, 2" BL (I know body lift, Sorry)
2008 jk 4 Door 6 Speed
--33" BFG, 2.5"BB