After four weeks of solid daily guitar practice, my fingertips now have calluses upon calluses. It finally dawned on me that my strings probably need changing. I stopped by the music store after work and asked for some help. I picked out some Elixir polyweb - custom light strings / .011 -.052 gauge. I believe the old ones I had were .010. The guys swapped out the strings in about 15 min and I was out the door. I had to pay quite a bit more since it's Vladivostok but I didn't have the experience of changing them myself and was nervous about messing the neck up. After getting home and tuning it up, I have to admit the new strings feel so much better. No slide squeaking, they're soft to the touch, and best of all, they feel lighter than my old ones. I was afraid they'd be too big and bring a whole new level of pain to my practice.
So in future, if my playing is poor it won't be due to the strings.
Cost for the strings here in Vlad $46US - ouch (Amazon $13US)
Labor $7US - decent
Since this was the same shop that fixed my electric for nothing, I had no problem paying extra as a courtesy for their help. But I'll be buying strings online in future.