top of page

Tariffs and Turtledoves

As children, we all sang the catchy holiday hymn, Twelve Days of Christmas.  It conjures up whimsical images of fantasy, innocence, and Christmas.  As adults, we become resigned to the cynicism of its ridiculousness & cost.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Sure, Kiplinger’s will likely do the song’s annual economic breakdown but I think I can take it a step further:  piker practicality.  The song actually has European origins all the way back to 1780 as a children’s book: Mirth Without Mischief with a more English update by Frederic Austin in 1909[i]

  1. A Partridge in a Pear Tree  

There are actually 2 types of Pear trees (not bothering with the messy fruit bearing ones):  Cleveland and Bradford[ii].   Opt for the Cleveland: more durable, better shape, disease resistant and robust flowers.   You can find a nice 6-footer for around $200.  Arbor Farms will charge you delivery & placement for another $100.  Find a buddy with a pick up truck, dolly and dig the hole yourself.  Of course, 1 out of 4 will die on you so make sure you keep the receipt.  As for the bird, I found Partridge chicks for $3.46 + free shipping.  Their odds of survival are even worse. 

Cost ~ $204

  1. Two Turtledoves  

The European Turtledove is supposedly very ornate compared to the domestic dove.  I would confuse it for a Pidgeon.  The Euros are pretty expensive @ $132/apiece while I found 2 Diamond Doves for $13.[iii] No need to get jammed up with potential tariffs - buy American.

Cost ~ $13

  1. Three French Hens  

I may have to bite the bullet and go abroad.  I found some Faverolles Hens[iv] which are the formal French Hen breed.  Ironically, the hens are more than twice as expensive as the roosters at $10.95 each.  Probably doing more than twice the work.  Once again, chicks will do.

Cost ~ $33

  1. Four Calling Birds  

There is actually some confusion with this one: the original, 1780 version, said ‘Colly birds.  The term colly is old English for something covered in dust or coal.  So, he must have meant a black/dark colored bird.  We’ll make a liberal assumption that Ravens are being referenced here, which is very economical.  I'll find a bird trapper for $50, some stale bread and the birds are free.  What could go wrong with this exercise?

Cost ~ $50

  1. Five Golden Rings  

We take a break from the little bird part of the ditty for some secularism.   Considering I only own a supposed white gold wedding ring, I am far from a jewelry aficionado. Accordingly, I am favoring Helzberg over Tiffany’s.   They have 10k gold wedding bands for $149.99/each.  Can women really tell the difference in 24k from a 10k gold ring?  And where did that arbitrary 2 months’ salary engagement baseline come from?  What a racket.

Cost ~ $750

  1. Six Geese a Laying  

This one is very manageable.  Go to any golf course and you will find all the Canadian Geese you need.   Heck, the Greens Superintendent will personally help you trap them.  Just remember, the geese are still federally protected.[v]  Most home owners call them rats with wings – we’ll reuse the aforementioned bird trapper.

Cost ~ Free

  1. Seven Swans a Swimming  

Another big bird we can trap!  And plenty available at area retention ponds.  But given their nasty disposition, I am going to out source this to a pro[vi].  The local animal control should do the trick: set up fee $129 + $50/swan.   

Cost ~ $480

  1. Eight Maids a Milking  

I called my Amish home builder who said he could help me out.  Only a couple catches: I would have to drive out to Spencerville and he asked for a little quid pro quo.  I suggested some sundry wood working he could do around the house – namely, more closet shelving for Michelle.  I told him he could keep the milk.

Cost ~ $500

  1. Nine Ladies Dancing  

In the era of #Metoo, I am going to tread very lightly.  In fact, I don’t see how this can end well.  Hard pass.

Cost ~ N/A

  1. Ten Lords a-Leaping  

The guys conclude the last 3 days; my budget could really get blown.  Fortunately, the Fort Wayne Civic Theatre is running the Holiday Nutcracker.   Only $40/tix which seems like a steal compared to the alternative.  I’ll take Michelle for her birthday.

Cost ~ $80

  1.  Eleven Pipers Piping  

I am going the local arts route with this one too.  I just don’t want to personally deal with a bunch of artsy guys looking down their nose at me.  Thankfully, the Fort Wayne Pops is currently playing at the Philharmonic.   They even have a matinee @ $30/tix.  My mom would enjoy this; perhaps Michelle can sit in for me.

Cost  ~ $60

  1.  Twelve Drummers Drumming  

I actually think I can get a 2 for 1 here with the pipers piping.  Might be a bit optimistic to think there will are 12 drummers in the FW Pops but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.

Cost ~ Free


So, we covered Christmas for $2170.  Not bad considering I’ve seen estimates upwards of $40k.  As a society, unfortunately, we have gotten too wrapped up in the materialism of Christmas.  We tend to lose sight of its real meaning: appreciation of family, friends and a little baby in a manger.  Hopefully, we can revisit that and maybe even rediscover a little of our own inner child.


Merry Christmas.




Fiscal Fitness is a publication of Houlihan Asset Management, LLC for the benefit of its clients and friends.     Houlihan Asset Management.  Wealth Counseling/Asset Management. Copyright 2019




bottom of page