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Easing inflation gives True Loves a relative price break this year on 12 Days of Christmas gifts

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Shopping with your true love can be fun, but you'll probably have to make a separate, solo trip so you can surprise your partner. And if you want to buy any or all of the true love gifts in "The 12 Days of Christmas" carol, you also will want to make sure you have lots of cash or a large credit card limit. (Photo via Unsplash+ in collaboration with Getty Images)

Even though inflation has slowed this year, Americans are still grumbling about prices. But it hasn't slowed holiday shopping.

More than 200 million people went in search of perfect presents — and bargains —between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. That consumer rush beat the National Retail Federation's expectations and broke last year's shopping record.

Of course, most of them weren't looking for the items lyrically listed in the traditional (and some say annoying) seasonal song "The 12 Days of Christmas." But if they were, for some particularly avian reason since there are a lot of birds in that song, there's good news.

The 40th annual PNC Christmas Price Index (CPI) increased in 2023 by 2.7 percent. That's noticeably lower than 2022's hefty 10.5 percent increase. And the PNC CPI this year also is slightly less than the similarly acronymous U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI), which at last calculation is 3.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.

So what is the dollar damage to shoppers who give their true loves all of the classic carol's gifts? Overall, the 12 gifts that compose the PNC CPI increased to $46,729.86 this year.

"The most aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate hiking cycle in history and slowing growth in some of the largest global economies, along with other macroeconomic crosscurrents, have helped lower the PNC CPI compared to recent years," said Amanda Agati, chief investment officer for PNC's Asset Management Group.

"Certain industries are experiencing stickier inflation than others, some of which is well beyond the Fed's control. The good news is that wage growth is now higher than the PNC CPI, which should help True Loves deck the halls this year, considering we are still in a high-inflation environment," added Agati.

Some True Love gift price unchanged: The good news is that there were no price increases this year for five of the gifts of the Christmas Price Index.

The gifts that cost the same in 2023 as in 2022 include the Four Calling Birds, Five Gold Rings, Seven Swans-A-Swimming, Eight Maids-A-Milking, and Nine Ladies Dancing.

The Partridge's cost was unchanged, but the Pear Tree in which it is perched went up by 15 percent.

Other True Loves will pay more: Some of the song's items, however, did see a price increase.

Cpi-2022-02-turtledoves_animatedThe cost of the exotic Two Turtle Doves soared to new heights. The limited supply of these rare birds accounted for this year's largest percentage increase, an eye-popping 25 percent.

Other Christmas Price Index increases were largely due to rising wages for skilled labor, which most workers (including me!) see as a good thing.

While the Nine Ladies Dancing did not increase (lower pay for women, perhaps?), Ten Lords-a-Leaping jumped to new heights, Eleven Pipers Piping rose to a higher pitch in 2023, and the 12 Drummers Drumming drummed up a higher sum.

In aggregate, the PNC CPI found prices for performers increased 3.3 percent this year. But that's still substantially lower than 2022's 14.6 percent surge.

E-commerce's seasonal cost: If you're turning to e-commerce to avoid holiday shopping crowds, note that using technology does not add up to savings this year.

The convenience of shopping from home is still impacted by elevated shipping and packaging costs that have yet to ease since the pandemic.

That means that buying all 12 gifts online costs 4.8 percent more than in 2022, producing a total price tag of $52,024.03.

There's no specific mention of state sales taxes here, but you might want to add a bit more to our e-shopping budget to cover the levies that are tacked on to almost every online purchase.

Big 12-day bill: Finally, the annual PNC CPI tradition also includes calculating the "True Cost of Christmas," which is buying the gifts with verses repeated.

Big holiday spenders who purchase all 364 gifts crossed the $200,000 threshold for the first time, settling in at $201,972.66. That's 2.5 percent more than last year.

You can check out the cost of all 12 gifts on PNC's interactive website.

Regardless of how you're shopping, and what you're searching for, here's hoping you find it at a price you can and want to pay this holiday season.

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