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You’ll Never Believe How Much The 12 Days Of Christmas Cost 

Steve Pomeranz, 12 Days Of Christmas

The 12 Days Of Christmas PNC Inflation Index

Around this time of year, I like to cover PNC Bank’s tongue-in-cheek Christmas Price Index where they track prices of the basket of goods mentioned in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”… the one that goes… On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me… a partridge in a pear tree… and so on… and by the 12th day, the list includes twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords leaping and so on… remember? So PNC compiles prices of what all these gifts cost true loves every year. In 2018, PNC Wealth Management found that the cost of all these gifts – what they call the Total Christmas Price Index – was $39,094.93, up 446.44 (or 1.1%) from last year and up 9,801.12 since 2008.…a whopping 33%. That officially puts the index at a 2.94% Compound Annual Growth Rate over these past 10 years.

Christmas Price Index Nicely Mirrors U.S. Inflation

So how did this quirky inflation get started? Well, it was started by the chief economist at a PNC predecessor bank in Philadelphia in 1984 and has averaged an annual year-over-year increase of 1.9%. 1.9% is less than the REAL Consumer Price index or CPI, as it’s known, which has increased by an annual rate of 2.67%.

PNC’s Christmas index also broadly mirrors economic conditions… A lot of last year’s items stayed the same in price. The cost of French Hens, Calling Birds, Swans, and the employed, like maids-a-milking, and Dancing Ladies aren’t making any more money this year either due to the well-known fact that wages have been stagnating.  Some progress has been made for leaping lords, they received a 3% increase.

And musicians will be happy to note that pipers and drummers have seen a consistent yearly increase in their wages, both experiencing wage increases of 3.5%, and this comes after an increase last year of 2.8%.

So what category has had the highest jump in price last year? There’s not a lot of increases to note, with exception of geese-a-layin.  They’re the largest jump in price – up to $390, putting them at an 8.3% increase.

And the biggest loser?  5 gold rings.  Up 10% last year, this year they’re back down 9.1% at only $750 for all 5.

And drum roll please, the most expensive item on the list were the seven swans-a-swimming – costing a whopping $13,125. They’ve remained at this price for the past 3 years.

If you were to actually send these as presents over the 12 days, repeating the gifts every day like the song, that would leave you at 364 gifts and a grand total of $170,609.46.

The Christmas Index comes with its own website – https://www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com/ – and has been developed as an interactive experience so educators can explain economic trends to middle and high school students… so that’s pretty cool. And if you’re really curious about how the prices of maids-a-milking or lords-a-leaping have changed over the years, head over to the website for more details.

Five Golden Rules for Holiday Shopping

And always remember these five golden rules to keep a lid on the cost of your holiday shopping:

  1. Be choosy: Pare down your list to those you’re really close to and don’t get guilt-trapped into buying gifts for far-away relatives or long-forgotten friends that you’re not really in touch with anymore. Instead, send them an e-card or a long email with photo attachments – updating them on what you’ve been up to and how your family has grown.
  2. Create a budget: Once you’ve narrowed down your list, decide how much you will spend per person. Keep it reasonable and stick to your budget.
  3. Find bargains: There are lots of smart deals online with coupons, free shipping, no-hassle returns, Black Friday, Cyber Monday etc. – so take advantage of these promotions.
  4. Get crafty: You could also save a ton if you plan and make gifts ahead of time – such as knitted scarves, a batch of home-made Christmas cookies or one of millions of gift ideas available over the Internet. A personal touch is always warmly received provided you’ve put a little thought and effort into making the gift.

You could also get creative and swap gifts for donations to the gift-receiver’s charity or schedule a date such as a show or a movie so you get family time with your loved ones. Donations also reinforce charitable giving with kids and give them a chance to appreciate the things they have in life.

  1. Pay smartly: This is a great time to cash-in your credit card rewards for gift cards or gifts. Consider using pre-paid cards so you can more easily stick to your budget. And if you use credit cards, make sure you have a plan to pay off your balance right away because the interest can quickly add up. And if you pay your balance every month, get the card that has the most generous points, miles or cash-back features that fit your lifestyle. If you’re shopping online, make sure you’re shopping at secure websites where the payment page has a lock icon and a web address that starts with HTTPS, where the S stands for secure.

So have a wonderful time this season, have a terrific New Year and enjoy EVERY Day of this most joyous holiday!

Disclaimer: Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph, or marketing piece to make decisions. The information contained herein is intended for information purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered investment advice. Please contact your financial advisor with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. There are no investment strategies, including diversification, that guarantee a profit or protect against loss. Past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. Equity investing involves market risk, including possible loss of principal. All data quoted in this piece is for informational purposes only, and author does not warrant the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or any other characteristic of the data. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by the author.

I've been an investment strategist and adviser for over 35 years, leading with a mission of unbiased advice to educate and protect listeners on my weekly radio show on NPR affiliates nationwide. I have been named a “Top 100 Wealth Advisor” by Worth Magazine and “Top Advisor” by Reuters.