True Loves Get a Holiday Bargain 

Mirroring the government’s Consumer Price Index, the PNC Christmas Price Index is a whimsical, economic analysis that measures the “True Cost of Christmas” and teaches lessons about finances for students. 

By James Dunigan

Attention Shoppers: Today’s holiday bargains include three french hens, four calling birds and five gold rings, but not a partridge in a pear tree.

In its 32nd year, The PNC Christmas Price Index measures the current cost for one set of each of the gifts given in the classic holiday song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The true cost of Christmas is the cumulative cost of all 364 gifts given by the True Love in all of the song’s verses.

In this whimsical economic analysis by PNC Wealth Management, we calculate the holiday CPI for comparison to the U.S. government’s Consumer Price Index.

For 2015, the PNC CPI price tag is $34,130.99 – a mere $198 more than 2014. At 0.6 percent, this is the index’s lowest increase in six years – and consistent with the government’s CPI, which increased 0.2 percent over the past 12 months.

What’s In the Index?

A price index measures price changes through a representative group of individual items. The PNC CPI is based on the current costs of the goods and services in the “Twelve Days” holiday song. It reflects changes in the economy in the same way the Consumer Price Index (CPI) issued monthly by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics does.

The government’s CPI measures changes in the prices of basic goods and services reflecting the spending habits of the “average” American. It tracks housing, food, clothing, utilities, transportation, medical care and education. It is used as a benchmark for making adjustments in Social Security payments, wages and tax brackets to keep them in tune with the dollar’s buying power and also as a measure of inflation.

To simplify these concepts for middle and high school students, PNC and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Foundation developed a Christmas Price Index version of The Stock Market Game. The free lesson plans allow teachers to help students use the index as an investor tool through various classroom exercises.

Students learn basic economic concepts such as how to define an index and inflation and identify trends in the CPI to project its stock market impact.

Economy Up, Gift Prices Flat

While the economy continues to chug along with slow but steady growth and inflation that’s almost nonexistent, declining energy costs are keeping consumer and shipping costs down. Therefore, True Loves will get a bargain this year with the PNC CPI’s minimal increase.  

Those True Loves who aren’t so generous have the option to purchase items a la carte.

Overall, nine items including Three French Hens, Four Calling Birds and Five Gold Rings remained the same price as in 2014. Even though gold commodity prices dropped in 2015, the price of the five gold rings has remained steady.

The three items with a price increase include the Partridge in a Pear Tree, Two Turtle Doves and the 10 Lords a Leaping, who received a wage increase. The turtle dove price rose 11.5 percent because supply could not keep up with demand. The partridge and pear tree cost increased 1.2 percent not only matching upward trends in housing prices, but also due to the partridge’s growing popularity as a gourmet food and in backyard farming.

As the only unskilled workers in the index, the Maids-a-Milking cost remained steady for the sixth straight year mirroring the last rise in federal minimum wage in 2009.

With the minimal cost increase from 2014, True Loves should be thrilled they can have their goose and better afford the gas to roast it in 2015.

Jim Dunigan is executive vice president and managing executive, Investments and chief investment officer for the PNC Asset Management Group.

For details on the index and classroom materials, visit:

Jim Dunigan has provided analysis
of the holiday CPI for 15 years

For online shoppers, the Christmas Price Index gifts cost $9,495 more than buying “in person” to account for higher internet prices and shipping. After all, convenience comes
at a price.