It seems to me that your best option is to live on the NV side of Tahoe. About 1/3 of the lake is in NV. Honestly the NV side is probably the most attractive section of the lake, as far as neighborhoods and coastline. Real estate has dropped drastically up here over the last 4-5 years, so I think you'll be surprised to find what you can get for your money.
Personally I wouldn't live in Carson. It's only 30 minutes away from Tahoe, but it seems like a world away in just about every aspect. You'll see for yourself in January I guess. You may also want to check out Gardnerville/Minden. These are 2 little towns just south of Carson and are more family oriented and cleaner, with really easy access to Tahoe. But again, you might as well just live at the lake. There is something amazing about living up here that you just don't get living "off the hill". Sure, you'll get less for your money when it comes to the roof over your head, but you'll get soooo much more once you step out of your front door.