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A Conservative's "12 Days of Christmas"

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PNC Bank has released its 26th annual Christmas Price Index (CPI). The CPI puts the 2009 price of all the gifts in the song, "The 12 Days of Christmas," at $21,465.56. That's a modest 1.8% increase over last year's cost.

The Total Cost of Christmas inched up just 0.9% from last year, to a still-whopping $87,402.81. the Total Cost of Christmas is the cumulative cost of all the gifts after all the repetitions of the song -- 12 partridges in 12 pear trees for 12 days; 11 pairs of turtle doves; 10 trios of French hens, and so on.

You can read PNC's methodology and their explanations of the price changes for the gifts in the index here.

Now, costs like these may be good enough for PNC Bank and you. But all Conservatives worth their salt know there are ways to drive down the Total Cost of Christmas even more. I know a few of those people and I am taking a page from their playbook to tell you how they would do it.

First, convince all your friends, relatives, and supporters to loan you $87,403 to pay for the Total Cost of your Christmas.

You're Conservative enough to know that only a fool spends his own money on such things. Go ahead and put the squeeze on these people; they're expecting it. You can promise to repay the loans but they know you won't do it. If they hesitate, call them Scrooges. Or Socialists. If they claim they're broke, try instilling a little fear: coal in their Christmas stockings. Clean coal, of course.

Second, reorder the gifts so that you send your True Love the pricey, labor-intensive gifts last.

Pare your Total Cost of Christmas by ordering up the inexpensive things first and bringing in costly workers last. If you adhere strictly to this principle, the order of your gifts will be: partridge, milking maids, hens, turtledoves, geese, pear trees, drummers, golden rings, pipers, calling birds, lords, ladies, and swans.

When you reorder the gifts in this way, the partridges still come first ($10 per partridge, $120 for all 12 days) and that's good. But so does one milking maid. The pear trees don't arrive until Day Five (where will the partridges perch?). And "seven golden rings" will never do.

So this reordering rule needs a little refinement. Luckily, you are a Conservative so departing from the rules when it suits your purpose and pocketbook is not a problem. That gives rise to the next principle.

Third, further re-order the gifts as needed to selectively preserve the traditions you value.

Selective tradition is important to Conservatives. For example, they love the American tradition of sending young citizens to war. But they don't think so much of the tradition of paying for wars. They revere the Second Amendment but blow off 12,000 firearm-related murders a year. "Selectivity" is key to this principle.

Selectively preserving tradition is essential to maintaining the status quo, which Conservatives righteously refer to as "the American way of life." (You don't have health insurance? Too bad for you, but we can't jeopardize the American way of life just for you.)

But never mind any of that. Reorder the gifts so that the partridge and the pear tree arrive on Day One. Be sure the calling birds arrive on Day Four (you'll see why in a minute). Then rejigger things a little more so your True Love receives the golden rings on Day Five. You have to do that to preserve the best part of the song -- "Fiiiiiive gol-den rings".

Beyond those gifts, you can shuffle the various presents around in just about any order you please, as long as workers come last -- most people don't know all the words to the song anyway (they're like you with The Star-Spangled Banner). Just get the first and fifth verses right and you'll be home free.

Now let's turn to driving down the unit costs of all those hundreds of gifts.

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Rick Wise is an industrial psychologist and retired management consultant. For 15 years, he was managing director of ValueNet International, Inc. Before starting ValueNet, Rick was director, corporate training and, later, director, corporate (more...)

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Naturally, you will have to get rid of all these g... by Richard Wise on Thursday, Dec 3, 2009 at 6:53:49 PM
As a retiree, my friend, you have too much time on... by Mad Jayhawk on Saturday, Dec 5, 2009 at 9:43:32 PM
Thanks for this, Jayhawk.I'm told that writing sat... by Richard Wise on Sunday, Dec 6, 2009 at 6:26:00 AM