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Why "The Twelve Days of Christmas" isn't keeping up with inflation

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Your true love is getting a bargain this year: Buying all the goods and services in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is just 1.2 percent more expensive in 2018, or less than half the rate of inflation. 

The total cost of paying for everything in the song is about $39,095, according to a calculation from PNC Financial Services Group, which has been tracking the prices of the holiday song's festive mix of goods and services for 35 years. On a dollar basis, the 2018 price is $450 more than in 2017. Through October, the U.S. government's Consumer Price Index has increased 2.5 percent. 

A slump in gold prices has tarnished the cost of the song's five gold rings, which fell 9 percent this year due to gold prices, PNC said. The eight maids a-milking and nine ladies dancing didn't get a raise this year -- blame the stagnant federal minimum wage, which hasn't budged from $7.25 an hour since 2009.

Still, not all wages are stagnating. More skillful work from the presumably arts-trained lords a-leaping, pipers piping and drummers drumming rose between 3 percent to 3.5 percent, PNC said. The bank used ballet performances to estimate the pay for lords a-leaping, while the cost of nine ladies dancing is based on modern dance troops, which haven't seen a bump in pay. 

"Consumer confidence remains strong and wage growth is beginning to catch up with high employment," Amanda Agati, co-chief investment strategist for PNC Financial Services Group, said in a statement. "The PNC Christmas Price Index reflects these trends, as we see strong growth in key areas."

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On a dollar basis, the biggest overall cost are the swans a-swimming, which PNC estimates at $13,125 for the seven animals. That's unchanged from 2017. Swans are expensive animals, with white mute swans fetching about $1,470 apiece at one poultry retailer. 

PNC said the biggest price spike this year was the cost of egg-laying geese, which has not seen an increase since 2014. "Backyard animals are in vogue now, so higher demand drives up the price," a PNC spokesman noted.

If you buy the gifts online, the cost will be higher, at $41,166, or about $2,071.02 more than in-store purchases, PNC said. That's because online costs tend to be higher than store prices due to shipping and other costs, the bank said.

Since a predecessor of PNC Bank began the index more than three decades ago, the cost of the song's goods have nearly doubled, rising 95 percent over the years, it added.

Below are the 12 goods and services in the song, with their latest estimated cost and change from a year earlier. 

  • 1 partridge in a pear tree: $220.13 (+0.1 percent)
  • 2 turtle doves: $375 (0 percent)
  • 3 French hens: $181.50 (0 percent)
  • 4 calling birds: $599.96 (0 percent)
  • 5 gold rings: $750 (-9.1 percent)
  • 6 geese a-laying: $390 (+8.3 percent)
  • 7 swans a-swimming: $13,125 (0 percent)
  • 8 maids a-milking: $58 (0 percent)
  • 9 ladies dancing: $7,552.84 (0 percent)
  • 10 lords a-leaping: $10,000 (+3 percent)
  • 11 pipers piping: $2,804.40 (+3.5 percent)
  • 12 drummers drumming: $3,038.10 (+3.5 percent)
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