Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Happy Dread of the PFD

Well, it's about to be that time of year again. The time when it's advisable to avoid Walmart, Target, Costco, Sams, Best Buy, Toys R Us - and any other place that sells anything.

For those who don't know about the Alaska PFDs, they are not personal flotation devices (and, yet, for some people, I guess they kind of are - of a economic type). They are the Permanent Fund Dividends.

The PFDs are about to be deposited into bank accounts all over Alaska on October 3rd. People who receive the money generally lose their minds. The impulse shopping will commence. Or maybe I can't call it 'impulse shopping' if people have been sorta, kinda planning it from the second the amount was announced.

I was at the library two days ago when it hit the news that eligible Alaskans will be getting $900. People reacted in various ways. Some of them shrugged because they know what they have to do with theirs and it doesn't include the luxuries of saving or taking a vacation. (Mine, for instance, is going straight for medical bills and car repairs.) Some folks got on my nerves with their complaints about the "small" amount. Other people went right into shopping mode. I swear I saw the Amazon and Best Buy websites popping up on computers all over the library.

I use my dividend the way my sister and mother and I always did before. Needs come first, saving comes next, whoo-hoo last. (There was usually very little to whoo-hoo about.)

When the kids were still at home, my mother, sister and I would pool everyone's PFDs and use part for the house (paying extra on the mortgage or replacing a dying appliance). Part would go for stocking up the freezer with enough stuff to keep the kids in school lunches for months. The year that two of the kids decided they wanted to be the Dizzy Gillespie and Robert Mapplethorpe of their high school, we sprung for an band and photo supplies. (And the fees - you never count on the fees that come with any extracurricular school activity.) For our kids that were teenagers, we'd give them fifty bucks of their dividend to hold. If they were younger, they got a hotdog with everything the next time we were out somewhere. The rest of the money went in the bank.

We used to get criticized by some friends because we didn't give our kids their whole dividend. My mother shut them right up. She'd tell them that our kids got their dividend all year long - when we paid their medical bills and fed and clothed them. The love was free, but because we weren't their bio-parents, they weren't covered under insurance from our jobs. Let a kid break an arm and need the local E.R. You can go damn near bankrupt.

All our kids are grown now. The ones who live here and get a dividend are dealing with their own families to take care of. So far, they've remembered how we raised them and always use any extra money well. If we taught them nothing else about the PFDs, they know to avoid the stampedes going on outside every major retailer in town.

What do the rest of you plan to do with your dividend? Save, spend or split?

Peace
--Free

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