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Cost of Christmas

As the year 2012 draws to a close, there's more than enough bad news dampening what should be a festive time of year.

If it's not schoolchildren being slaughtered in their classroom, it's Congress in the midst of bungling another deadline that will raise all of our taxes and push the economy back into recession. If it's not our allies in Afghanistan killing our troops during the 12th year of war in that country, it's persistent drought conditions ruining crops, hunting seasons and foundations of buildings.

If it's not the effects of the European economic crisis or hostilities in Asia being felt in our own country, it's the skyrocketing cost of Christmas.

That's correct. There has been a 6.1 percent increase since last year for all of the items mentioned in "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The 2012 cost for the 364 items repeated in the song is $107,300.

It appears we can't even get a break for the holiday season.

"The rise is larger than expected considering the modest economic growth we've had," said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management, which calculates the Christmas Price Index annually.

The high prices were driven primarily by some of the birds. Their soaring prices were attributed to increased feed costs caused by the drought. Six geese a-laying, for example will cost $210. In 2011, they were a mere $162. Seven swans a-swimming are going for $7,000, up from last year's $6,300.

It must have been a good year for musicians, as both the pipers and drummers cost a little more. On the other hand, the maids a-milking and ladies dancing didn't get a raise.

In all, six items saw price increases while six remained the same.

Savvy Internet shoppers, who usually save on sales tax when ordering online, will actually pay more than brick-and-mortar shoppers. While Internet prices generally went up 1.5 percent during the year, the cost of shipping live birds is rather expensive. PNC reports that one set of the core items in each verse costs $24,431 this year. Online shoppers need to cough up $40,440.

One curious note about the overall price increases is that the Consumer Price Index has basically gone up only 2 percent in the past year. Should the so-called chained CPI start being used, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" won't cost as much next year.

Of course, we'd have to re-learn the obnoxiously repetitive verses utilizing any substitutes introduced. Seven ducks a-swimming would be decidedly cheaper than geese. While the song might not have the same ring, there might not be other options for those on fixed incomes.

We really can't get a break.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net