Last week at my other tax blog: Employee or contractor; Undeliverable refunds
Holiday gift from an employer: Taxable benefit or tax-free gift?

The 12 Days of Christmas cost slightly more this year

The hubby is working away in the living room, decorating our Christmas tree. Do we know how to spend a Saturday night, or what?

And just for the record, while he handles the tree, I do the other decorations around the house.

One of our favorite ornament collections depicts the verses from The 12 Days of Christmas.

That's also a favorite song of the folks at PNC. For the 28th year, the financial services company's wealth management team has calculated the current total cost for one set of the gifts given in the classic carol.

For 2011, the price tag comes to $24,263.18. That's 3.5 percent, or $823.80, more than last year.

Really, really love your significant other? Then tally the cost of the song for every time a True Love gift is sung about.

What PNC calls the "True Cost of Christmas" comes in 2011 to $101,119.84 for 364 gifts, and that makes it the most expensive year ever.

CPI mirrors CPI: PNC's CPI, or Christmas Price Index, usually is pretty close to Uncle Sam's CPI, or Consumer Price Index, and that's the case this year.

The federal CPI grew 3.9 percent over the last 12 months, just 0.4 percent higher than the PNC CPI.

Reflecting the overall sluggish economy, the 2011 total cost of the 12 gifts in the holiday standard is less than half the increase seen in 2010.

Still, notes PNC, this year's higher cost comes on the heels of a more modest 1.8 percent increase two years ago at the end of the recession.

And other economic factors also are reflected in the PNC measurement.

"That is illustrated in the costs of the Five Gold Rings," said James Dunigan, managing executive of investments for PNC Wealth Management. "While gold commodity prices are at or near record highs, the demand for retail gold is waning, and thus our Five Gold Rings actually dropped by 0.8 percent this year."

Other gift specifics: Among the 12 gifts in the PNC CPI, four items -- three French Hens, eight Maids-a-Milking, nine Ladies Dancing and 10 Lords-a-Leaping -- were the same price as last year.

The 11 Pipers Piping and 12 Drummers Drumming each reflected a modest 3 percent increase.

The price for the eight Maids-a-Milking is figured based on the minimum wage. Since the federal minimum wage did not rise for the second straight year, the dairy farm laborers got no pay increase, so hiring the maids won't increase this year.

The song has lots of feathered friend mentions, and those costs were varied.

The cost of feed as well as availability sent the Two Turtle Doves soaring 25.0 percent to $125. The Three French Hens stayed even at $150. And the Four Calling Birds dropped in price by 13.3 percent, to $519.96.

The lone Partridge increased 14.2 percent to $15. Its Pear Tree home, however, cost 13.3 percent more this year, going to $169.99.

Paying for online convenience: If you're a True Love who prefers online shopping online, you can find the gifts, but you'll pay for the convenience of having them delivered to your house.

PNC calculations show that when the song's gifts are purchased via the Internet, they will cost you $15,596.88 more: $39,860.06.

There's no mention as to whether the prices include sales taxes on the online goods.

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