The 12 Days of Christmas For $12.99 Or Less (slideshow)

$101,119. That’s how much it would cost you to receive every item mentioned in the Christmas carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” according to the annual Christmas Price Index compiled by PNC Wealth Management. It’s the first time the price of the 364 items listed has exceeded $100,000.

All told, $101,119 will get you:

2 drummers drumming, 22 pipers piping, 30 lords-a-leaping, 36 ladies dancing, 40 maids-a-milking, 42 swans-a-swimming, 42 geese-a-laying, 40 gold rings, 36 calling birds, 30 French hens, 22 turtle doves, and 12 partridges in pear trees

Not having that kind of money, let alone enough to pay for the care of 184 birds, I’ve put together “the 12 days of Christmas on the cheap.” Some items are free and I’ve dispensed with the notion of having 2 of this or 9 of that. Some items diverge a bit from their original descriptions in the song but for no more than $12.99, one can’t be overly choosy, no?

1st Day: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Organic Bosc Pear

Image by hflournoy1


Forget about the partridge, but how about just one nice pear? One organic bosc one will cost about $1.32.

2nd Day: Two Turtledoves

Box Turtle Closeup

Image by audreyjm529


With all apologies to turtledoves, you can find out (for free, provided you can get on the internet) about a certain box turtle, Lionel, who went missing from the Bronx Zoo on December 1. The Twitter feed about Lionel’s fictitious adventures recalls those set up earlier this year about a cobra that escaped from the Bronx Zoo and a baboon that seems to have gotten out of a safari park in New Jersey. Lionel has not been getting much attention at all though he has been missing for over a week and, as a box turtle does best when the temperature is above 60 degrees, the 37 to 63 degree weather and New York city traffic are probably not the best environment for him. Please send positive thoughts that Lionel can be found and not be a lone box turtle in the big city.


3rd Day: Three French Hens

"It is not only fine feathers that make fine birds" Aesop

Image by katerha


For $2.50, you can get a 5-count package of yellow marshmallow Peeps. Not quite the same as French hens but not so difficult to care for (though your fingers may get sticky).

Should you wish to spend a bit more on actual birds, $20 will enable you to give the gift of a flock of chicks.


4th Day: Four Calling Birds

Russian bird whistle

Image by myspaceshipisoncruise

For 75 cents, one warbling bird whistle can be yours to “call” some attention to yourself. Or, you can get four for $3, so you can have four calling bird (whistles).


5th Day: Five Golden Rings

Surprise Inside

Image by hermanturnip


I admit, a bag of Cracker Jack is not organic, has too much sugar and is not good for you. But it is the holidays and every 99 cent bag does contain a prize and if Paul could give Holly Golightly a Crackerjack box ring, it must have the sentimental value of a golden ring or two.


6th Day: Six Geese A-laying

Brown eggs

Image by love_yellow


A golden egg would exceed the budget for these 12 days of Christmas, but a dozen cage-free eggs brown eggs cost $2.99 — so figure about 25 cents per egg.

Or, if you have $20, you can give a family a flock of geese that will lay 75 eggs a year.


7th Day: Seven Swans A-swimming

First swim of the season 9

Image by the author


In many parts of the world (here in New Jersey, for instance), it’s not the time of year to swim outside, but a walk along the ocean (provided you don’t find yourself at some part of the beach where there’s only “private beach access”) is yours for nothing.


8th Day: Eight Maids A-milking

Milk Bar

Image by bratha


A half-gallon of organic milk currently costs an average of $3.77. Not cheap, as my late grandfather would say with a frown, recalling how, for a dime (or maybe just a nickel) he could go to the Milk Bar in Vacaville between Sacramento and Oakland and get a nice cold glass of milk.

Memories aside, the $3.77 for the half-gallon makes this 12 Days of Christmas item the most costly.


9th Day: Nine Ladies Dancing

kids dancing bbq/blues fest, carbondale colorado

Image by SILBECL


So long as you have some music (even just some music playing in your head) and a reasonably big space, go for it and dance! The cost is a grand total of zero dollars.


10th Day: Ten Lords A-leaping

Jumping kids

Image by Mr 胡 S


Just as with spending zero dollars on dancing ladies of any number, why spend anything on “leaping lords” when you can do the jumping yourself?


11th Day: Eleven Pipers Piping

My Mum Kazoo

Image by laika_one


The basic kazoo can be had for 99 cents. (If you really must have eleven to have the equivalent of the piping pipers, you’ll quickly use up $10.89 of your allotted $12.99.)


12th Day: Drummers Drumming

Pots on Rack

Image by


You very likely already have the materials for a properly good, and loud, drumming session in your kitchen cabinets. Just grab a pot or pan. If you’d like drumsticks, those flimsy wooden chopsticks that came with your last Chinese takeout will do the trick nicely.



Image by Rob Gruhl

If you’re careful about how you go about procuring your 12 day of Christmas items, the list above adds up to less than $12.99 (if you only get one bird whistle and only one brown egg).

Are you planning to give any creative, homemade gifts this year?


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Photo by scottfeldstein


W. C
W. Cabout a year ago


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

Thank you.

Sheri P.
Sheri P6 years ago

seriously? I got to page 8 and couldn't waste any more time clicking on these ridiculous ideas. btw, I don't understand the comment about Cracker Jack not being organic and having too much sugar after recommending a 5 pack of Peeps...

Laurie Greenberg
Laurie Greenberg6 years ago

So much weirdness in gift-giving in one song! Pair that with "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas" and "All I want for Christmas is My two front teeth" and I do believe we have enough to confuse any kid, family pet, or relative!

Cheryl B.
Cheryl B6 years ago


Lindsey Williams
Lindsey Williams6 years ago


Fred Krohn
Fred Krohn6 years ago

To get even cheaper, use the Bob and Doug McKenzie version...
'Four pounds of back bacon, three french toast, two turtlenecks, and a beer in a tree'...

Berny P.
berny p6 years ago

Who cares how...xmas is spelled....what count is the Christmas spirit!