The 12 Days of Christmas Don't Cost That Much

It's the middle of November, which means everyone is talking about Christmas. It's mostly people whining about how everyone else is already talking about Christmas, but with good reason. As soon as it hit 9:00 on Halloween night, the Christmas marketing season began.

It's also when the PNC Financial Service Group trots out their annual Christmas Price Index, as they have for the last 33 years. This is the report where they calculate the cost to buy everything from "The 12 Days of Christmas," or as I call it, "99 Bottles of Eggnog on the Wall."

In 2017, PNC says it will cost $34,558.65 to buy everything in the song. That's a .6 percent over last year because of a spike in gold and pear tree costs.

I think the index is overinflated because as one of the largest banks in the country, PNC doesn't understand true entrepreneurship. I've worked in small businesses for 22 of the last 24 years, including nearly nine years as a small business owner, and I can tell you that I can get this all done for a whole lot less than $34,559. Less than $10,000, in fact.

Let's break it down.

PNC says partridges cost $20, turtle doves are $375, and French hens are $181.50.

Seriously, $375 for two turtle doves? That's almost $190 per bird. I had to look up what a turtle dove is, and while they're only found in Europe, they're nothing special. Besides, no one knows what a turtle dove actually looks like, so capture some regular morning doves for free and paint little green shells on their backs.

I'm also not paying $180 for French hens. You can get five female French Marans chickens for $7.75 apiece off That's $38.75, and I still have two hens left over to lay French Easter eggs next year.

On the other hand, I can get 60 Chukar partridges for $2.85 apiece. I don't actually need 60 Chukar partridges, so I'd be willing to buy one for $20 just so I don't have to deal with the other 59. Plus I can get a pear tree sapling for $23 from Lowe's, instead of the $200 PNC is spending.

It turns out calling birds are actually canaries, checking in at $599.96. I found red canaries for $150 apiece on Craigslist, and thought this one was legit. Then I checked and found I can get canaries for 40 bucks a pop from José in New Jersey.

PNC paid $825 for five gold rings, or $165 apiece, which is fair. I don't want to spend all of December cruising the pawn shops, and those "scrap gold" places seem a little shady. We'll stick with their price.

Six geese a-laying are priced at $360, which is a bit high. I can get six female geese for $40 apiece from, which is a 33 percent discount.

And I nearly choked on my figgy pudding when I saw seven swans a-swimming go for $13,125. That's $1,875 per swan!

Mallard Lane Farms sells a pair of mute swans for $1250, $625 less than PNC's fancy-pants swans. Plus they had a $5 coupon if I "liked" them on Facebook.

But I can get a pair of mute swans on for $800. And there's a guy in Tennessee selling a single swan for $650. That's $3,050 for seven swans and I just saved 10 grand.

PNC is only willing to pay the federal minimum wage for eight maids a-milking, but since it's Christmas, I'm going to up their pay to $12.50 an hour, or $100. God bless us, everyone!

Compared to the swans, PNC also blew the budget with the human talent. They're paying a total of $19000. That's $7,550 for nine ladies dancing, $5,618 for 10 lords a leaping, $2,708 for 11 pipers piping, and 12 drummers at $2,934.

That works out to $13,000 for the dancers. Unless we're throwing our Christmas budget at them in $1 and $5 bills, there's no way we're spending $13,000 on a bunch of dancers.

My friend, Brianna, works at Walt Disney World and she knows dozens of dancers. She says they're usually paid $13 an hour, plus benefits. We'll pay a gig rate of $50 per person, and give them two trips through the craft table. That's $950 for all the dancers, a savings of roughly $12,000.

PNC is paying $5,642 for music, pipers and drummers. However, the Orlando Firefighters have a pipe and drum band that we could probably get for $3,000. It won't matter how it sounds, because we're all going to be drunk on eggnog anyway.

If we total up my plan, we clock in at $8,407 for a savings of $26,152

And that, friends, is how you do an entrepreneur's Christmas. Everyone had a pleasant time, enjoyed a good meal, and watched some nice entertainment. And that's the real meaning of Christmas.

That, and the 50 percent consulting fee PNC owes me for the money I just saved them.

Photo credit: Xavier Romero-Frias (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

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