Current Balance: $600.00 $300.00

Well, it turns out my quest to document every last penny of the six hundred dollar tax incentive check the government sent me is going to be easier than I thought: I only got 300. The IRS did half the work for me! Thanks, Uncle Sam!

I don’t know what I read wrong or what changed, but I could have sworn I got a notification saying I was eligible for 600. Well, it’s just one more battle lost in the psychic war between me and pieces of paper with important numbers on them.

(P.S. Does anyone else find it awesome that George Bush is book-ending his presidency with $300 checks? What did you lose for six hundred dollars over the last 8 years?

a. Dignity

b. Self-Respect

c. Civic Pride

d. Your Job

e. Six Hundred Dollars)

I’m going to stick to my original plan: cash the check and document the money spent as I spend it, down to the penny. I’m betting it doesn’t last through the summer. Not because I’m hard up or I won’t be able to control my spending; I’m in a much better financial situation than I was when I started this column. I have a steady job, my rent’s up-to-date, and my bank account is in the black.

However, the national trend is in the other direction. Food and fuel prices are up while wages are down. The economy has ground to a near halt, posting only modest growth which most experts link to the incentive checks, according to a recent NY Times article. Jobs are down across the board — except in food service. Luckily for people like me, most Americans still don’t know how to make a sandwich.

I’m not sure what my government wants me to spend the money on to help stem the tide. I know I need a bike and a sleeping bag. I know my wireless and electric bills are past due by at least a month. I know I owe my friends and loved ones for everything they gave me when I was really hard up last month and the month before that. I know I want to lie naked on a beach with a rum drink in one hand and body parts in the other.

Even sandwich makers have dreams. Johnny, start the counter.