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Count the ways Alaskans spend their $878 Permanent Fund check

Alaska Dispatch staff
Aaron Jansen illustration

Alaska’s bonus holiday, the day Permanent Fund dividends get deposited in hundreds of thousands of Alaskans’ bank accounts arrived on Thursday.

Nobody (well, maybe a few) was complaining, even though the $878 checks were the smallest since 2005 and the ninth lowest since the government began sending Alaskans a share of the state’s oil wealth some three decades ago.

To qualify, residents must live in Alaska for a full year. Some 647,000 peope said they’d done so in 2011. Consequently, many of them faced a happy problem on Thursday – what to do with newfound wealth?  Blow it quick?  Save it?  Whittle down that pile of bills?  Deal with all sorts of necessities, from food to fuel to stay warm now that winter looms.

We asked staffers and other Alaskans for ideas – and we weren’t angling for practicality.  Here’s what they told us.

Digit care. Buy 87 pairs of inexpensive glove liners and never need to buy them again. (Doug O’Harra)

Good shooting.  Go shopping for used Beretta AL391 Urika shotgun. You should be able to find one close to $878, or maybe a tad higher. It’s the best semi-automatic shotgun out there. (Craig Medred)

Latte love. You could buy enough 16-ounce iced lattes to have one a day through the end of winter, or twice as many "ghetto lattes." (Rick Sinnott)

Vroom. Refuel your Ford F250 (fuel tank capacity 35 gallons) six times. (Rick Sinnott)

Puzzling. About 98 jigsaw puzzles of "East Fork Cabin" by Ron Senungetuk, 2008 Artist-in-Residence for Denali National Park & Preserve. (Scott Woodham)

Dinner for eight.  At The Marx Bros. Cafe you can score an appetizer, Caesar salad, entree, dessert, and two unpretentious bottles of wine. The waiter will take care of the remainder of your PFD by adding an 18-percent gratuity for a party of five or more. Or you can skip the meal and splurge on a bottle of 1995 Penfold's "Grange" Shiraz (at a mere $740, it’s not the most expensive choice) and have enough left over for a roasted eggplant paté appetizer. If the service is good, volunteer the 18-percent tip from the remainder of your PFD. (Rick Sinnott)

12 days of Christmas, Shageluk syle.  The western Alaska village of Shageluk (population 116) could pool their PFDs and purchase the 12 days of Christmas. Shipping the 364 items and services to Shageluk would have to wait until next year's PFD arrives. (Rick Sinnott)

Serious Alaska-grown protein.  At $20 a pound from animals used at the University of Alaska Fairbanks' reindeer research program, you could pick up more than 40 pounds of reindeer roasts or steaks for an Alaska meat extravaganza. Beware: Supplies are limited.  Or if you’re in the town of Delta, pick up some Alaska grass-fed beef, with rib-eyes going for $14.25 a pound. (Suzanna Caldwell)

Yak it up. Yaks are the long-haired bovine found throughout the Himalayan region as far north as Mongolia and Russia.  And sometimes in Alaska, too.  At Kaspari Farms in Delta, you can buy 100 pounds of yummy yak, or invest in a third of a living yak for $878.

Stay warm. A permanent fund check will buy you a little more than 87 gallons of gasoline or home heating oil in Arctic Village (both $10 per gallon in the state's most recent fuel report, issued in July).

Expensive booze.  One bottle of Balvenie Single Cast Whiskey Malt will set you back $799 at Brown Jug. Or you can spend $860 for two bottles of Armand De Brignac Champagne.

Or lots of cheap booze.  Snap up 100 bottles of Robert Momdavi Private Selection or Yellow Tail Chardonnay at Brown Jug. 

Get (far) out of town. Fly first class on a roundtrip ticket from Anchorage to San Juan, Puerto Rico, for $856 on Delta Airlines. Prefer an exotic northern destination?  If you’re flexible with dates, you may be able to snag an $825 roundtrip ticket from Anchorage to Reykjavik, Iceland, on Iceland Air. (Scott McMurren)

Rocking in style.  Anchorage grandmother Gina Courson was excited about her modest PFD splurge at Costco on Thursday. Courson said, "I recently bought a flat screen TV, so I plan to buy a rocking chair."

Lots of readers responded to our Facebook post asking how they planned to use the money. Their answers, too, ranged from pragmatic to unleashed. Here's a couple: 

• Jody Overstreet:  “It all goes to the plumbing contractor.”

• Michael Fleming:  “I'm gonna do the ethical thing and give it back, since in came from “big oil” and 'Wall Street' investments. Or maybe not. Bourbon and hookers baby. Bourbon and hookers!