Cost of True Love Rises – Slightly – in 2009

November 30, 2009 ( - Thanks to the weak economy in 2009 the PNC Christmas Price Index increased by a modest 1.8% compared to last year.


That’s according to the “whimsical economic analysis” by PNC Wealth Management based on the prices of gifts in the holiday classic, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  It was the smallest increase since 2002, when the index fell 7.6%.  Declines in the cost of birds in the index were a major factor in the moderate increase.  Guess what accounted for the more-than-offsetting increase.  

According to the 26th annual survey, the price tag for the PNC CPI is $21,465.56 in 2009, just $385.46 more than last year (see No Deflation in Cost of True Love). 

Among the 12 gifts in the Index, three items fell measurably from last year while five increased in cost and four remained steady. 

As part of its annual tradition, PNC Wealth Management also tabulated the “True Cost of Christmas,” which is the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song’s verses. This holiday season, very generous True Loves will receive a “bargain”, forking over a mere $87,402.81 for all 364 gifts, a mere 0.9% increase compared to last year. 

The sharp rise in gold prices proved to be the main contributor to the dramatic 42.9% jump to $499.95 for the Five Gold Rings.  Meanwhile, the cost of the Seven Swans-a-Swimming, which generally provide the biggest swings from year to year in the PNC CPI, fell by 6.3% this year (to $5,200) – a sharp turnaround from last year’s 33.3% surge (as the most volatile item in the Index, the swans are removed by PNC to determine the underlying inflation or core PNC CPI, which pushed the rate up 4.8% this year).

Declines in the cost of birds in the index were a major factor in the moderate increase, according to PNC.  The Partridge in a Pear Tree is down 27.3% to $159.99 (the partridge came in 50% below last year at $10.00, the pear tree at $149.99, is off 25%).  Additionally, the Six Geese-a-Laying are down a sizable 37.5% to $150.00, while the cost of the Four Collie Birds was even with last year at $599.96.   In fact, the only birds to increase in price were the Two Turtle Doves, which rose just 1.8% to $55.98.

That said, the Three French Hens soared 50% to $45.00; the largest percentage increase in this year’s index.

Labor Costs

As the only unskilled laborers in the PNC Christmas Price Index, the eight Maids-a-Milking received an automatic raise for the third straight year due to another increase in the federal minimum wage. Before 2007, they had not received a raise since 1997, according to the PNC analysis (hiring the maids this year cost $58.00, only $5.60 more than a year ago). 

The cost of most performers in the index — the Drummers Drumming ($2,475.20), Pipers Piping ($2,284.80) and Lords-a-Leaping ($4,413.61) — saw no increase at all from 2008, reflecting the current labor market. Only the price for the Ladies Dancing is higher this year, up 15% to $5,473.07.

For those True Loves who prefer the convenience of shopping online, PNC Wealth Management calculates the cost of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gifts purchased on the Internet.  According to a press release, this year, the trends identified in the traditional index are repeated in the Internet version, with the core rates significantly more than total rates. 

True Loves will pay a grand total of $31,434.85 to buy the items online. That is less expensive than last year, however it is still about $10,000 more than in this year’s traditional index. 

For a historical look at PNC's Index, you can check out