Friday, December 05, 2008

PNC's Partridge in a Pear Tree Index - 2008

For the twenty-fourth time, PNC is bringing joy to the world by letting us know just what it costs to spring for the Twelve Days of Christmas.

And for the third time - see how tradition begets tradition? - Pink Slip is spreading the cheer by blogging on it. Here's a link to last year's post.

PNC has found that their Christmas Price Index is far outpacing the regular old rate of inflation - it's up 8.1% since last year.

According to the 24th annual survey, the cost of the PNC CPI is $21,080 in 2008, $1,573 more than last year. The PNC CPI exceeds the U.S. government’s Consumer Price Index – the widely used measure of inflation calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Consumer Price Index is up 3.7 percent this year. The core CPI has increased 2.2 percent since Oct. of 2007.

The seven swans a-swimming proved to be a driver of this year’s index, carrying the greatest weight with a whopping 33.3 percent increase due to their scarcity. True Loves will spend $5,600 this year for Swans compared with $4,200 in 2007, accounting for $1,400 of the $1,573 increase. The swans typically have the largest swings in price in the PNC CPI.

But that's just the inflation in the components - not what it would cost you if you went through the whole song and dance with all those lords a-leaping, etc:

As part of its annual tradition, PNC Wealth Management also tabulates the “True Cost of Christmas,” which is the total cost of items gifted by a True Love who repeats all of the song’s verses. This holiday season, very generous True Loves will pay more than ever before—$86,609—for all 364 items, up from $78,100 in 2007, a staggering 10.9 percent increase.

I'm guessing that the recession (The Recession?) is going to usher out wanton spending on luxuries like the full True Love spendathon. And usher in a more practically oriented approach to opening up the old pocketbook. I was even reading that upscale consumers, who would just last month have turned up their noses at Walmart, are now running their carts up and down the aisle in search of bargains (if not applying for jobs as greeters).

In light of the new reality, I propose a look at the components of the 12 Days of Christmas/Christmas Price Index, and figuring out what stays and what goes.

Starting from the top:

Twelve drummers drumming
Eleven pipers piping
Ten lords a-leaping
Nine ladies dancing

It is widely understood that the first thing to go in hard times is The Arts, other than those that can/will be supported by the WPA, and fairy-tale Shirley-Temple-like escapist movies.

But I like The Arts.

Although not just the performing arts.

What about writing, painting, and composing?

Thus, for the duration, I propose six drummers drumming, six pipers piping, and four ladies dancing, augmented by six writers writing, five composers composing, and five painters painting.

As for the ten lords a-leaping? This sounds suspiciously like performance art, so I'd jettison this immediately and substitute ten bloggers blogging. Cost savings? Given that bloggers blog for free (especially those of us who can't figure out how to "monetize" their efforts), and lords-a-leaping apparently charge, the savings would be $4.4K. (Done!)

Eight maids a-milking

What's not to like? Working girls, in the apple-pie wholesome sense of the word, bringing goodness and an essential food stuff to the world. The eight maids get to stay.

Seven swans a-swimming

My understanding is that swans are cranky, miserable, nasty old birds. Sure, they're beautiful, but beauty is a luxury good. Let's send those seven swans a-swimming into the sunset.

Six geese a-laying

Well, I'm not a big goose fan. Swap this for turkey, and they'll help feed us.

Five golden rings

Five golden rings? Isn't this exactly the wretched excess that got us into this mess?

Let's make this one golden ring per customer, why don't we.

Four calling birds
Three French hens
Two turtle-doves

Unless any of these critters can demonstrate edibility, it's bye, bye, birdie as far as I'm concerned. Substitute free-range - not factory - chickens.

And a partridge in a pear tree!

Who eats partridge?

I'd let this one fly the Christmas Price coop.

As for the pear tree, keeping this one makes a lot of sense. With a pear tree, you'll be growing your own: no transportation costs. (Talk about buying locally.)

It's clear that this new CPI/True Love basket is a lot cheaper than the luxury laden original. If I weren't so lazy, I'd rough out the actual costs, demonstrating my superior quantitative skills, and, perhaps, lining myself up for employment that requires not just the QWERTY keyboard, but the numeric keypad as well.

But it's late, and I need to settle down for a long winter's nap.

So, bah humbug to the calculation.

But do take a gander - one of the ganders I threw out of the basket - at the PNC site. It's a lot of fun.

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