Ready to do some Christmas shopping? In the wake of Black Friday and the run-up to Cyber Monday, shoppers are hitting the stores – and the keyboards. If you’re hoping that “The 12 Days of Christmas” will offer some gift-giving inspiration this year, you’re in luck. With inflation holding steady, it will cost just $38,993.59 to buy all of the gifts in the classic carol, a boost of just 0.2% over last year’s cost.
According to PNC’s Christmas Price Index® (PNC CPI), the 0.2% increase over the cost in 2018 is the smallest change in the index since 2002, when it actually dropped by 10.2%. The PNC CPI is calculated using a method similar to the government’s consumer price index (CPI) and measures the cost of buying the gifts given in “The 12 Days of Christmas.”
By way of comparison, the government’s CPI measures the cost of goods and services for consumers; you can think of it like your cost of living. Each month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports on the CPI; since those numbers are tied to inflation, they tend to be indicators on interest rates. The CPI measures the cost of goods and services—in other words, your cost of living. Under the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act (TCJA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) now figures cost-of-living adjustments using a “chained” CPI. The chained CPI measures consumer responses to higher prices rather than merely measuring the higher prices. You can find some examples of how the chained CPI works here.
That’s important to taxpayers since the Tax Code provides for mandatory annual adjustments to certain tax items, like the standard deduction amounts, based on interest rates. You can see the tax rates and other changes for 2020 here.
But not all adjustments are equal. To keep the comparison between its index and the government’s CPI fair, PNC excludes the cost of the swans, typically the most volatile item in the list (the government similarly excludes energy and food prices).
Even with fluctuations in the cost of living, seven of the 12 items on the list in 2019 remained the same price as last year. Those include the cost of the Seven seasonal items, the Partridge, Three French Hens, Four Calling Birds, Seven Swans-a-Swimming, Eight Maids-a-Milking, Nine Ladies Dancing and 10 Lords-a-Leaping.
“Despite the stock market hitting record highs recently, it is a welcome gift for the holidays that the PNC Christmas Price Index stayed relatively flat this year,” said Amanda Agati, chief investment strategist for PNC Asset Management Group. “However, the scrooges of the season are the gold rings which saw the biggest year-over-year price increase in the index, and prices for some of our fowl friends which are truly foul.”
Agati is referring to the price for Turtle Doves which took a tail dive, down a dramatic 20%, the first drop in price since 2004. In contrast, the price of gold is on the way up: the price of Gold Rings climbed 10% this year.
But still gaining from last year? The Geese, which clicked up a whopping 7.7% – largely due to an increase of interest in backyard farming.
Here’s the entire list for 2019 along with the percentage changes from 2018:
- 1 Partridge in a Pear Tree: $210.17 (-4.5%)
- 2 Turtledoves: $300.00 (-20%)
- 3 French Hens: $181.50 (no change)
- 4 Calling Birds: $599.96 (no change)
- 5 Gold Rings: $825.00 (+10%)
- 6 Geese-a-Laying: $420.00 (+7.7%)
- 7 Swans-a-Swimming: $13,125.00 (no change)
- 8 Maids-a-Milking: $58.00 (no change)
- 9 Ladies Dancing: $7,552.84 (no change)
- 10 Lords-a-Leaping: $10,000 (no change)
- 11 Pipers Piping: $2,748.87 (+.8%)
- 12 Drummers Drumming: $2,972.25 (+.8%)
If you bought all of the gifts on the list, it would cost you $38,993.59. If, however, you really wanted to impress your true love by nabbing all 364 items–the number of the items as repeated throughout the song over and over (and over)–you’d have to cough up $170,298.03, or $781.94 more than last year.
Those prices reflect the cost of shopping the traditional way: actually going to jewelry stores, plant nurseries and hiring talent in person. If you bought all of these items on the internet, you’d pay $42,258.91, or $3,265.32 more than in the store. That’s largely attributable to shipping costs—despite relatively flat fuel costs, it’s apparently pretty expensive to ship swans and doves.
Sales tax (or use tax, if you’re shopping online) might be payable on your Christmas gifts–but that varies by location. While most states impose some level of sales tax, there is dramatic variation between what goods and services are subject to tax. This is especially true when it comes to the costs of services. PNC is located in Pennsylvania where food (except for ready-to-eat), most clothing apparel, and medicines are nontaxable. But that pear tree? Taxable. Those gold rings? Taxable. Pets and most animals? Also taxable. Those milkmaids, however? Not taxable—as a farm and dairy state, most dairy-related services are exempt. Figuring the exemptions from state to state would be wildly time-consuming, so the CPI is tax neutral.
PNC has figured the CPI each year since 1984. The sources for the prices from year to year generally remain the same to promote consistency. Prices this year are 95% higher than they were in that inaugural year when the cost of the gifts totaled $18,845.97. The cheapest PNC CPI occurred in 1995, when Christmas cost just under $15,600.
(If you’re in the mood to play around with the numbers, you can check fluctuations by individual gift on the PNC website.)
The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC) is one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the United States with a full range of lending products; specialized services for corporations and government entities; wealth management and asset management. For information about PNC, visit www.pnc.com.