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.

The federal government has informed me (and others) that it will be sending out a check for $600 to aid me in my financial endeavors some time in May.

Owing to the fact that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to (and neither do six hundred of them), I’ve decided to chronicle the story of my $600 tax incentive from the time I get the check until it’s completely gone. In order to track the money properly, I’ve decided to cash it right away and keep track of the cash so as to not mix it up with money I receive from work. (If you have better ideas, let me know, but starting a separate account for it costs too much money.) I’ll post my experiences here with a “600 and falling” tag.

Posts will probably feature such exciting narratives as:

Paying my cell phone bill.

Deciding between Banquet or Hungry Man frozen dinners.

Philosophically wrestling with the urge to blow it all on booze and women.

Half-mad diatribes on the state of the working poor.

Occasionally blowing small sums of the money on booze and women.

The ins and outs of discount meats and pet care supplies.

And so on.

The check should come within the next few weeks, so watch for updates. For now, take a few minutes and read the story that inspired me to whatever modest action comes out of this project.