McClatchy's America

Cost of ‘12 Days of Christmas’ gifts this year? $34K

This Feb. 12, 2009, file photo shows two turtle doves in St. George Island, Fla.
This Feb. 12, 2009, file photo shows two turtle doves in St. George Island, Fla. AP

Good news for those of you who have three 12 drummers drumming and 11 pipers piping at the top of your Christmas shopping list – they don’t cost a penny more than they did a year ago.

Indeed, nine of the unorthodox – but oddly endearing – gifts enumerated in that holiday chestnut, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” carry the same price tags they had twelve months ago.

The three outliers? Procuring 10 lords-a-leaping for your true love will set you back $5,508.70, up 3 percent. A partridge in a pear tree now costs $214.99, a 3.5 percent increase. And you might want to think about substituting some less pricey birds for that pair of turtle doves, which now cost $290 – an 11.5 percent hike.

All calculations are courtesy of the droll economists at PNC Wealth Management, part of Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group. They’ve been tracking the cost of buying all the gifts named in the popular holiday song and using them to compile their own CPI – that is, Christmas Price Index – for 32 years.

“This is kind of our take on the dull economic concept of inflation,” said Kathy Kraeblen, a senior wealth planner based in PNC’s Raleigh office.

A whimsical take, to be sure, but in many years it has tracked pretty close to the more widely accepted consumer price index. This year the Christmas index rose six-tenths of a percent, while the consumer index climbed two-tenths of a percent.

PNC notes that “a steep decline in energy costs, lower inflation and slow-but-steady economic growth” kept the overall price close to last year’s.

“They’re having fun with it, but they’re still economists,” Kraeblen said.

The cost of purchasing every gift listed in the song this year would total $34,140.99, just $198 more than last year.

Unless, that is, you choose to take the song literally and buy accordingly. As you may recall, each of the 12 days of Christmas a new gift is added on top of another round of all the gifts from the prior days.

Add all of that up and you get 364 gifts. The cost: $155,407.

The cheapest gift on the list is the eight maid-a-milking, which you can get for $58. The PNC economists consider them unskilled laborers and therefore peg the cost to the minimum wage. (In case you were wondering, a modern dance company supplied the price of the ladies dancing and a ballet company is the source for the lords-a-leaping.)

The priciest gift: $13,125 for seven swans-a-swimming. For more prices, go to

And if you’re thinking that you can save money by ordering online, you’ve imbibed more of Grandma’s eggnog than you can handle. The price for buying the gifts online is $43,626.73, nearly $9,500 more.

Blame the shipping costs, said Kraeblen.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii