Celebrating the 12 Days of (Cheap) Christmas

The Partridge FamilyEvery year, the PNC Financial Services Group tallies the cost of all the gifts described in the song, "The 12 Days of Christmas." As you may have heard, the price inched up slightly this year: If you were going to buy your true love everything from a partridge in a pear tree to 12 drummers drumming, it would cost you -- get ready -- $87,042.81, though that's just 0.9% more than it would have cost last year.

And while it's awfully nice of PNC to add up the cost of these gifts in what it calls the 2009 PNC Christmas Price Index, its price information, while fun to sift through, isn't very practical. Not only do most shoppers not have a spare $87K lying around these days, most don't need to hire the services of milk maids or buy three French hens, either.
I mean, when was the last time you tried to buy 10 lords-a-leaping? Yeah, that's what I thought.

That's why we at WalletPop are offering you this more realistic Christmas list, one we call "The 12 Days of Christmas: The El Cheapo version."

Yes, that's right: If you want to purchase everything on the list for your sweetie, you can! Well, sort of. You may have to set your sights a bit lower than five gold rings, but you can still give your true love 12 gifts that fit the theme of the song. So take some notes and get ready, because you've got some shopping ahead of you. And good luck!

On the first day of Christmas, you could buy your true love a partridge in a pear tree or...
...a DVD of The Partridge Family: The Complete First Season. No, it's not quite the same as a singing bird, but feeding and caring for a bird that may cost just $10, according to the PNC Christmas Price Index, and lays as many as 15 eggs at one time could put you out a pretty penny in the long run. And a pear tree cost as much as $150 these days. So instead, consider watching some nostalgic TV. This Partridge Family DVD retails on Amazon.com for just $15.99. If you're a purist, you could add in some Dole pears at Netgrocer.com for another $3.59.

On the second day of Christmas, you could buy your true love two turtle doves or...
...Dove Chocolate? Granted, it's a bit of a stretch, but it has the word "dove" in the gift, and who doesn't like chocolate?

On the third day of Christmas, you could buy your true love three French hens or...
...three French hens? For this one, you may want to stick to the suggested gift. We've written before at WalletPop about the growing popularity of raising chickens, and the price of three French Hens, according to PNC, is just $45, a very small part of that $87,000. But if you don't think your loved one would appreciate the squawking and mess of real livestock, in the spirit of the song, you could always grab a quick chicken meal for two at KFC for a little under $10. Or failing that, if you live in northwestern Ohio, what about a couple tickets to the famed minor league baseball team, the Toledo Mud Hens...

On the fourth day of Christmas, you could buy your true love four calling birds or...
...purchase an international or prepaid calling card at CallingCards.com. If you're determined to focus on the bird part of this gift, PetSmart has parakeets for $17.59 and zebra finches for as low as $13.59 each.

On the fifth day of Christmas, you could buy your true love f-i-i-i-ive go-old rings or...
...fine jewelry from Target for less than $100 a pop. If that's still too expensive, you could buy some Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers, which retail, at least in my neck of the woods, for about $2 a bag. Your sweetie might be amused -- or at least pleased you didn't break the bank this year with a jewelry purchase. In any case, remember, our theme here is "cheap."

On the sixth day of Christmas, you could buy your true love six geese a-laying, or...
...may we suggest a comforter lined with goose down? You could buy this queen-size goose down feather bed from Wal-Mart for not quite $85. Or if that's a little too expensive, this one, for a kid's bed at The Company Store, retails for just $35.

On the seventh day of Christmas, you could buy your true love seven swans a-swimming, or...
...a stuffed swan for $33.50 from The Stuffed Ark, an online retail store. Of course, if you buy seven of them, that'll set you back $234.50.

On the eighth day of Christmas, you could buy your true loveeight maids-a-milking, or...
...we're thinking a day of cleaning from a maid service would be nice -- maybe from Molly Maids or Merry Maids, two nationally known, reputable chains. Or get your sweetie a gallon of milk from the grocery store (don't forget to throw in some chocolate chip cookies for dunking). In either case, your partner will hopefully appreciate your practicality.

On the ninth day of Christmas, you could buy your true lovenine ladies dancing, or...
...how about dancing lessons? Here's a way you can be cheap and romantic. The national, franchised Fred Astaire Dance Studio offers everyone a complimentary free dance lesson coupon. Or just TiVo "So You Think You Can Dance?" and give your true love some time away from you or the kids to watch it in peace.

On the tenth day of Christmas, you could buy your true love 10 lords a leaping, or...
...tickets to a local production of "The Nutcracker." For anywhere from $10 to $45 per ticket, this is a cheap way to see a few lords a leaping and enjoy a Christmas classic at the same time. Or for those of you more interested in classic TV than classical ballet, why not purchase a DVD of Hawaii Five-0, which retails on Amazon.com for about twenty bucks. If you're met with a quizzical stare, wondering how that fits in with "The 12 Days" theme, point out that the star of this venerable 1960s and '70s drama was an actor named Jack Lord. Maybe you'll even get lucky and find a scene with Jack Lord a leaping.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, you could buy your true love 11 pipers piping, or...
...a set of bagpipes on Amazon.com for about $150--it even comes with a book explaining how to play them. Because according to the PNC Christmas Price Index, the pipers in the song are most likely bagpipers. But if that's too pricey, a second choice would be "A Highland Christmas" CD by The Highland Pipers. On Amazon, this CD is just $5.98.

And on the twelfth day of Christmas, you could buy your true love 12 drummers drumming, or...
...a very nice set of drums at the Musician's Friend, an online music store, or spend less than $20 for some children's bongo drums on Amazon.com. Too exhausted to continue the search for gifts? Why not give your true love some Bacardi rum (hey, it rhymes with "drum")? After you've presented all these crazy gifts, your sweetie pie will probably think you've been drinking a little too much rum or egg nog anyway.

But while your significant other may think you're an insignificant drunk by the end of these twelve days, look at how much we're saving you. If you buy everything on our list and just get the cheapest stuff (like the goldfish crackers), you'll probably spend no more than $140 for 12 gift-giving days. That means we'll have saved you $86,902.81. You're welcome.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Raceand is co-author of the upcoming book, Living Well with Bad Credit. He swears he wasn't drinking during the making of this article.
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