Tue, Dec 02, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Christmas carol gift items cost a soaring US$86,609

AP , PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA

Given the economic downturn, even the most romantic might balk at the US$86,609 price tag for the items in the carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas.

That’s this year’s cost, according to the annual “Christmas Price Index” compiled by PNC Wealth Management, which tallies the single partridge in a pear tree to the 12 drummers drumming, purchased repeatedly as the song suggests. The price is up US$8,508, or 10.9 percent, from US$78,100 last year.

“True loves may take it on the chin for a peck on the cheek,” said Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investment for PNC Wealth Management, which has been calculating the cost of Christmas since 1984.

In this tight economy, what’s a romantic to do?

The creative but cash-strapped consumer might consider some modifications. After all, who needs dozens of birds?

Instead of two turtle doves (US$55) why not two Dove chocolate bars at about a buck each? Don’t have US$4,414 for 10 lords-a-leaping? How about a Riverdance DVD? Plenty of leaping there, and it’s only about US$25 on Amazon.com. Save a couple grand by skipping the 11 pipers piping and getting a CD of Scottish bagpipe music for less than US$20.

“The price of creativity, I think, has to be measured against the value of true love,” said Dunigan. “Necessity is the mother of invention. So this year, it might pay to be a little more inventive.”

While some sources suggest the gold rings actually refer to ring neck pheasants — apparently, all the birds were for feasting — Dunigan advises sticking with jewelry.

“At least my experience, if you had to lead with something, gold rings probably wouldn’t be a bad idea,” he said.

They are down about 11 percent, from US$395 last year to US$350, the result of pressures on discretionary spending, Dunigan said.

But sticklers for tradition might also save by procrastinating.

With the economy in its first consumer-led recession since the early 1980s and energy prices falling as of late, prices could come down between now and Christmas, Dunigan said.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc checks jewelry stores, dance companies, pet stores and other sources to compile the list. While it is done humorously, PNC said its index mirrors actual economic trends.

For instance, gasoline costs topped US$4 this summer, driving up shipping costs for many goods. So a pear tree that cost US$150 last year will cost US$200 this year. The partridge is up US$5 to US$20.

Luxury items are also up, as reflected by the price of the seven swans-a-swimming, which are up 33 percent to US$5,600.

But the faltering economy has also brought down the cost of some items.

The three French hens (down US$15 to US$30) and six geese-a-laying (down US$120 to US$240) reflect declines in food prices.

The eight maids-a-milking will cost 12 percent more, US$52.40 from about US$47 last year, thanks to their second annual minimum wage increase.

The 10 lords-a-leaping, 11 pipers piping and 12 drummers drumming are all up about 3 percent, reflecting the general average wage increase.

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