The Real Cost Of The 12 Days Of Christmas
Stumped for what to get your loved one this Christmas? If you have an extra $21,465.56 you could buy him or her each item sung by choral groups worldwide in the "12 Days of Christmas" carol. If the recession hasn't set you back financially you could wrap up all of the items as sung in the song for less than 2% over what you would have paid for the same over-the-top package in 2008. (Check out the biggest economic declines in the U.S. since the Great Depression in A Review Of Past Recessions.

PNC Wealth Management has been tracking the cost of Christmas since 1984 by tallying the total of the items in the famous song. For nearly 26 years it has produced an annual PNC Christmas Price Index. This year the total cost of the gifts listed in the beloved song is the highest since PNC began its CPI project, however the bill inched up a mere 1.8% over last year's total and represented a much more manageable increase than sizeable 8.1% jump we saw last year over 2007.

Let's break down the total bill to see what the classic Christmas carol would cost for each verse.

"A Partridge in a Pear Tree"
The bird and tree combination is down 27.3% this year from last year's price tag and costs just $159.99 ($10 for the prolific egg-laying bird and $149.99 for the fruit tree).

"Two Turtledoves"
These symbols of true love and devotion cost $27.99 each or $55.98 for the pair, a small 1.8% rise from last year's price tag.

"Three French Hens"
These feathered friends command a much higher price this year - $15 each or $45 for the trio. That's a dramatic jump of 50% from last year's price.

"Four Calling Birds"
Who would have thought birds could command such a sum? PNC estimates that a male canary costs $149.99 for a total of $599.96 if you were to purchase all four as written. However, the good news is that the price for the melodic creatures is unchanged from last year.

"Five Golden Rings"
You're going to need the money you saved on the unchanged price of calling birds to purchase the jewelry mentioned in this verse. The price of gold has surged this year, up 43% since last year. That means that five simple gold rings would cost $99 each for a grand total $500. You can blame uncertainty in the currency markets for the jump in price of this line item.

"Six Geese a-Laying"
While goose eggs are dangerous for your cholesterol levels, they're kind to your checkbook this year - the cost plummeted 37% to $25 per bird or $150 for all six. (These tips will have you singing "Joy to the World" well into the New Year. Don't miss Holiday Spending Or Spending Holiday?)

"Seven Swans a-Swimming"
Swans were this year's most volatile factor in the CPI, dropping 6.3% from 2008. While they plummeted in price from the 33.3% increase they commanded last year over 2007 prices, they're still not exactly priced to move. To purchase the lot you will still need to shell out more than $5,200 ($5,250 to be exact).

"Eight Maids a-Milking"
Our lowly unskilled dairy hands earned slightly more this year which could be a good signal for potential economic recovery in the heartland. The price for our rural workers inched up 10.7%. Each maid would command the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or $58 for all eight.

"Nine Ladies Dancing"
Thankfully the arts seem to have been spared deep cuts this year, with our nine ladies seeing a 15% increase in earnings for their performance for $608.11 per dancer or a total of $5,473.07 for all nine.

"Ten Lords a-Leaping"
The lords couldn't compete with their female dancing counterparts this year. Their pay remained at 2008 levels - $441.36 per dancer or $4,413.61 for the whole troupe of ten.

"Eleven Pipers Piping"
Like their friends the lords, our professional pipe players saw no pay hike this year. Their pay remains unchanged from 2008 levels for $207.70 each or $2,284.80 for this musical band of eleven. (Use these tips for a bountiful Yuletide on a Scrooge-like budget. Read Tips For Avoiding A Holiday Spending Hangover.)

"Twelve Drummers Drumming"
Like most workers in the U.S. our fabled drummers are probably just glad to have held on to their jobs this year. Along with the lords and pipers they received no pay raise and would earn just $206.26 per person (or $2,475.20 total) for their performance.

Paying for Convenience…and Shipping
Beware, though. If you prefer to cyber-shop over hopping in a car or cab to make your purchases, you're going to tack on almost $10,000 to the price tag for a grand total of $31,434.85 to buy the items online. This may be one time that it really does pay to sacrifice convenience for the ones you love.





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