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It costs less in 2020 to be a True Love 12 Days of Christmas gift giver

PNC Christmas Price Indec CPI 2020 logo

Add "The 12 Days of Christmas" to the list of things that were affected by the coronavirus pandemic this year.

No, not the iconic holiday song. That's still around.

But some of the lyrics took a hit when they were evaluated in 2020 for the annual PNC Christmas Price Index (PNC CPI).

For this 37th look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Consumer Price Index and how it applies to procuring the song's 12 gifts from a True Love, The PNC Financial Services Group had to make some hard choices.

Notably, the 2020 PNC CPI had to adjust for the cancellation of many live performances, meaning a generous True Love now must rely primarily on technology to share tidings of joy.

The bottom line is, when the impact of social distancing is taken into account, that the 2020 price tag for the PNC Christmas Price Index is just $16,168.10. Yes, "just" because that's a considerable decrease — 58.5 percent to be specific — from the 2019 PNC CPI of $22,825.45.

COVID-19 CPI cancellations: The dramatic drop was because a third of the index constituents literally were not available for purchase this year.

"2020 has been anything but conventional for consumers, the markets and the economy. In response to these unusual times, we took a non-traditional view in calculating the Christmas Price Index," said Amanda Agati, chief investment strategist for The PNC Financial Services Group. "The biggest impact has been for live performances, which are mostly unavailable this holiday season. While some performing arts groups are finding ways to engage, such as through virtual presentations, it's a silent night at most symphonies and the lights have dimmed on many dance companies, as reflected in this year's significant drop in PNC's CPI data."

The first to go were the Nine Ladies Dancing. The curtain dropped on their choreography, just as it did on appearances of 10 Lords A-Leaping, 11 Pipers Piping and 12 Drummers Drumming. Dang, that last one really hurts. I am a big percussion fan.

Priciest present: As for the lyrical gifts still available this year, the Christmas carol's most expensive one in 2020 was the same as in 2019: Seven Swans A-Swimming.

A Christmas True Love will pay $13,125 to buy the feathered septet this year. That's the same price as last holiday season.

Yes, there are more than seven swans pictured here, but baby swans! (Photo by S Sepp via Wikipedia Commons)

Overall, however, PNC says the songs' birds of a feather represent the largest price increases in the 2020 index. The total in 2020 for the collection of a partridge and various turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, geese and swans came to $328.50 more than last year's combined cost. That's a 36.4 percent increase from the total price in 2019.

Fair or fried (yikes!) fowl: The inability for consumers to eat at restaurants or even get takeout during the lockdowns drove an increased need for cooking at home, noted PNC. That also led to an unexpected increase in demand, and subsequently prices, for the various fowl.

COVID-19 also accelerated the trend toward backyard farming that has been slowly catching on over the last few years.

One person who would appreciate PNC CPI's bird-food connection is the comedian George Wallace, who noted in his Twitter feed that he has little use for live birds. (Sorry, Audubon Society!)


Please, fellow birders and/or vegetarians and vegans who don't share Mr. Wallace's sense of humor and/or his love of fried food, send your comments to him, not me. 

Don't forget the tax costs: Then there are, of course, associated taxes. You didn't think I could post this without adding the tax component, did you?!

Depending on where you buy the available "12 Days of Christmas" items, state and local sales taxes likely will be added. That's likely even if you buy online, thanks to the Supreme Court's South Dakota vs. Wayfair decision.

Tax also will apply to food products in a handful of states. Specifically, 13 of the 45 states with a sales tax collect it on groceries, notes the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

CBPP's graphic below shows that of those 13 states, 10 at least offer a lower tax rate for groceries than their general sales tax rate or provide a tax credit to offset some or all of the sales tax on groceries.

Food taxes_CBPP graph


However, Alabama, Mississippi and South Dakota do tax groceries at the full state sales tax rate.

Christmas-time count: Those state food tax amounts, as well as those in the PNC CPI 2020 analysis of "The 12 Days of Christmas" provide a lot of figures for this weekend's By the Numbers consideration.

It will not surprise long-time readers that I, always on the lookout for an easy route and even more so in this chaotic year, am going with the obvious choice: 12.

Whatever gifts you get or give during all the days of December or beyond, I hope they don't put too big a dent in your probably coronavirus cut budget.

And I definitely wish you and yours the Merriest Christmas and Happiest Holidays possible in this otherwise [add your own descriptor!] 2020.

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