For True Love, It's the Most Expensive Christmas Ever!

The price of a gallon of gasoline may be going down but, whew! Have you seen the price of true love?


If swans-a-swimming and lords-a-leaping are on your shopping list this year, brace yourself: You're in for the most expensive Christmas ever!

The total cost for the items in the 12 Days of Christmas, as outlined in the classic Christmas carol, is up a whopping 8.1 percent to $21,080 this year, according to that other CPI report — PNC's Christmas Price Index. (That's assuming one of each item.)

For those of you keeping score at home, the consumer price index is up 3.7 percent this year. With the Christmas index up double that, it's not a good sign for true love.

"True Love may want to budget a little more carefully this year," James Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management, advised.

The culprit, it seems was the swans a swimming, up 33 percent from last year due to their scarcity. The swans typically have the largest swings in the index.

Excluding swans, the core Christmas index was up just 1.1 percent.

Tis' the Season:

"Omitting the seven swans-a-swimming may be a tempting way for True Love to hold the line on costs, but one would be advised to proceed with caution," Dunigan said.

There were also large increases in the price of two turtle doves, up 38 percent. The partridge and pear tree were no bargain-bin finds either, with both up 33 percent from a year earlier.

Now, for the good news.


The price of gold has fallen, so True Love will pay 11 percent less for those golden rings.

The French hens and geese-a-laying were also discounted, both down 33 percent.

Perhaps negotiating based on their talent, the calling birds commanded the same price as last year.

The eight maids-a-milking had cause for celebration: They got a raise for the second year in a row, thanks to another increase in the minimum wage, which is now $6.55 an hour. Before that, they hadn't received a raise since 1997.

(Jim Dunigan of PNC Wealth Management discusses the price of true love. Click on the video at left.)

The cost of the maids went up 12 percent but the other laborers were more of a bargain: The drummers drumming, pipers piping and lords-a-leaping increased a modest 3 percent —essentially a cost-of-living raise — reflecting the tough labor market.

The cost of dancing ladies held steady from last year, a sign that everyone needs entertainment — even in these difficult economic times.

For those who prefer to shop online, the trends are the same but it costs a lot more: $31,957 compared with about $21,000 offline. That's because the cost of shipping birds can be pretty hefty and apparently, the online trend of free shipping doesn't apply to birds. Just look at the partridge: $20 in-store, vs. $85 online.

However, the inflation rate is lower: The cost of buying the gifts online was up just 2.8 percent from last year.

Given that energy costs, and therefore shipping costs, have fallen dramatically this year, Dunigan said True Love may want to wait.

"It might pay this year for True Loves to wait closer to Christmas as we continue to see prices come down," Dunigan said on CNBC.

Now, if you're a stickler for detail and wanted to buy the actual quantities — 12 drummers, 11 pipers, 10 lords, etc. — it would cost you $86,609 for all 364 items, compared with $78,100 last year.

Hey, who said you can't buy true love?

PNC Christmas Price Index

In-store 2008
% Change
Online 2008
% Change
Partridge $20 33.3% $85 13.3%
Pear Tree $199.99 33.3% $150 0%
Two Turtle Doves $55 37.5% $130 0%
Three French Hens $30 (33.3%) $195 0%
Four Calling Birds $599.96 0% $475 4.4%
Five Golden Rings $349.95 (11.4%) $329.75 0%
Six Geese-a-Laying $240 (33.3%) $660 0%
Seven Swans-a-Swimming $5,600 33.3% $7,035 0%
Eight Maids-a-Milking $52.40 12% $310.08 0%
Nine Ladies Dancing $4,759.19 0% $7,237 1.8%
10 Lords-a-Leaping $4,413.61 3% $11,629.79 3.1%
11 Eleven Pipers Piping $2,284.80 3.2% $2,100 10.5%
12 Drummers Drumming $2,475.20 3.2% $1,620 0%
Total $21,080.10 8.1% $31,956.62 2.3%
True Cost (12 drummers, 11 pipers, etc.) $86,608.51 10.9% $131,150.76 1.8%
Core index, ex-swans $15,480.10 1.1% $24,921.62 2.9%