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It all started 24 years ago as a way to engage clients and has since grown into one of PNC’s most popular and anticipated economic reports: The PNC Christmas Price Index.
PNC calculates the CPI each year as a fun, lighthearted way to look at the increasing cost of goods and services bought by the “True Love” in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
The Cost of the 12 Days of Christmas
1st Day of Christmas: A PARTRIDGE
COST: $20 (last year: $15)
Also on 1st Day of Christmas: A PEAR TREE
COST: $200 (last year: $150)
2nd Day of Christmas: TWO TURTLE DOVES
COST: $55 (last year: $40)
3rd Day of Christmas: THREE FRENCH HENS
$30 (last year: $45)
4th Day of Christmas: FOUR CALLING BIRDS
$60 (last year: same)
5th Day of Christmas: FIVE GOLDEN RINGS
$350 (last year: $395)
6th Day of Christmas: SIX GEESE A-LAYING
$240 (last year: $360)
7th Day of Christmas: SEVEN SWANS A-SWIMMING
$5,600 (last year: $4,200)
8th Day of Christmas: EIGHT MAIDS A-MILKING
$52 (last year: $47)
9th Day of Christmas: NINE LADIES DANCING
$4,759 (last year: same)
10th Day of Christmas: TEN LORDS A-LEAPING
$4,414 (last year: $4,285)
11th Day of Christmas: ELEVEN PIPERS PIPING
$2,285 (last year: $2,213)
12th Day of Christmas: TWELVE DRUMMERS DRUMMING
$2,475 (last year: $2,398)
Your Bottom Line
Total Cost of 12 days of Christmas in 2008: $86,609 (Up 10.9 percent from last year’s cost of $78,100)
How PNC Determines the Cost of These Christmas Items
Cool, huh? But okay, where do they get the numbers?
This year, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh provided the cost of some of the birds in the song, including the partridge, the French hens, geese and swans.
The Cincinnati Zoo provided the cost of turtle-doves. National pet chain PetCo provides the price of the calling birds, or canaries. The pear tree price came from Waterloo Gardens, a Philadelphia nursery. Gordon’s Jewelers provided the cost of five 14-carat gold rings, and Philadanco, a modern dance company in Philadelphia, offered the price of ladies dancing.
The Pennsylvania Ballet offered the price of the lords a-leaping. Prices for the musicians in the song-the drummers and pipers-were provided by a Pennsylvania musicians union. Lastly, maids a-milking are the only unskilled laborers in the index, and as such, they reflect the minimum wage.
Year after year, the sources for the prices remain the same for the most part to ensure consistency, but have changed on occasion due to changes in the market or business landscape.
Are Prices Rising or Falling?
The price of swans has dramatically decreased since the eighties. Six swans a-swimming would have set the “True Love” back $7,000 in 1984; but today, they cost around $5,000, although that is $1,400 more than 2007.
Swans have proven to be the most “volatile” part of the index with wild swings up and down over the years, and that is why they are removed to make the “core” PNC CPI, which is usually much lower than the real PNC CPI. After all, the federal government removes volatile energy and food prices for its CPI.
The cost of entertainment has greatly increased over the last 20 years. As a result, the ladies dancing and lords-a-leaping have seen a 300% increase in their fees.
Over the last 24 years, the price of services in general has increased, while the price of goods has decreased. In the 1984 Christmas Price Index, goods were by far the more expensive component of the index. Today, services are a much bigger piece of the Index.
Minimum Wage Increases
In 2007, federal laws increased the minimum wage and gave the maids a-milking their first raise since 1997. The wage increased again in 2008 to $6.55 per hour.
As fuel prices go up and down, they have a major effect on the cost of shipping and, as we all know, 2008 has been an especially volatile year. The cheapest cost of Christmas in dollars occurred in 1995, when the true cost of Christmas was only $51,000.
The True Spirit of Christmas-Time
So just remember, when you’re out there scrounging around for the best deals for your true love this holiday season; knowing all the words to “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and not actually having to pay out? Priceless.