ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In Alaska, the amount of each year’s Permanent Fund Dividend check is more frequently guessed at than a lottery, but the mystery ended Tuesday when Gov. Sean Parnell announced this year's PFD amount: $1,281.00, just under last year's.
The early October PFD season unofficially kicks off holiday spending in the state -- but this year, retailers think shoppers will think before they buy. Electronic and TV retailers expect people to watch for a deal.
“It's not something you budget for in your monthly expense -- it's something you can say, ‘We have a family of four -- we can buy a nice TV with some of that money,’” said Richard Headman with Pyramid Audio and Video.
Electronics like auto-start devices, smartphones and iPad tablet computers are sought-after luxuries, but they’re less likely to be on sale.
“3-D television is really kind of the big buzz word for this year,” Headman said.
For others, the PFD is synonymous with travel.
“Typically I like to get out of Alaska for a week or two -- makes the winter easier to handle,” said PFD recipient Ski Dobrova.
After 31 days of summer rain, Alaskans looking for an Outside getaway can find cheap tickets in the next few days as Alaska Airline releases its PFD ticket specials. Flights to Las Vegas or other Lower 48 hotspots can be had for less than $500 roundtrip.
“Sometimes travel agencies get unpublished deals. and right now we have an unpublished deal specifically to travel to Southern California, Texas, Florida,” said Mary Gasperlin with U.S. Travel.
Still others reserve their PFDs for getting around town, one reason why October is like Christmas for car dealers. Worthington Ford has been taking PFD checks for months in advance before Tuesday's announcement, but hasn't seen as many people wanting to trade in their PFDs this year.
“I think America as a whole has gotten a lot smarter with their money over the past recession that we had," said car dealer Calvin Worthington.
Some people aren’t putting their checks down on anything, but putting them in the bank instead.
“I'll just put it in the bank -- don't waste it,” said PFD recipient Sean Large.
“We usually save it,” said PFD recipient Jessica Swan.