If you think your holiday expenses have gotten out of control, consider the price of Santa Claus's whirlwind gift operation.
It's no cheap task to produce a toy for every single good little girl and boy, then drop them all down the chimney via overnight delivery. What does it cost the jolly old man in the red suit to bring Christmas joy to children across the world? A whopping $12,937,252,980.25.
Thank the busy accountant elves working for the Home and Family Finance Resource Center at the Credit Union National Association for sharing Santa's budget and his operational costs.
Toys, of course, ranked by far as the biggest line item at the North Pole Workshop, at $12,932,685,633. The toy production costs for each child younger than 5 years old averaged $21. It's easy to rack up the manufacturing expenses when nearly 616 million children expect to see a gift-wrapped box from Santa under the tree.
Elves, the backbone of the entire enterprise, make about $14.50 an hour. Benefits at the nonprofit operation match the average at about 40% of payroll, bringing total elf compensation to $4,228,432.
Workshop operations also required temporary help from Kelly Services, whose elves-for-hire pitch in during the last two months when telephone hotlines start buzzing and the mailroom overflows with children's letters. The extra elfpower comes to $116,970, including data-entry clerks hired at $14.65 an hour and mailroom clerks hired at $13.20 an hour.
And toy production isn't Santa's only expense. Computer hardware and software, which allow the IT elves to keep communication flowing and establish a database of the naughty and the nice children, cost $68,883. That includes 26 work stations and three color laser printers.
Santa this year got a Treo, with unlimited night and weekend service, so he can communicate with the North Pole while in the air. Computer expenses also cover the workshop network and a VPN, Internet access, Microsoft Office software, and AT&T telephone service.
"I keep wanting to add a laptop, but Mrs. Claus reminds me that children are usually in my lap," Santa wrote in his detailed accounting journal.
Santa's tailor charged him $1,200 for a fine red wool suit, $200 for fur trim, and $150 for the wide belt. He'll have no new hat this year, but Mrs. Claus sprang for a new pair of $125 boots. Dry cleaning to get all that soot out of the suit will run about $12.60.
Of course, Santa couldn't sit atop a cold sleigh all night without IceBreaker BodyFit merino wool underwear at $69.95 each for the top and bottom, plus another $18.95 for the Teko wool hiking socks.
Sleigh maintenance set Jolly Old St. Nick back $1,330. The old, dependable flyer got a new coat of paint; the harness got a good oiling; and the chrome and brass got a thorough shining. The flying reindeer, though native to those northern reaches, still needed a good amount of feeding and grooming, along with veterinarian visits. Their upkeep cost $82,000. Santa also keeps $10,000 in an IRA -- Ill Reindeer Account -- for emergencies.
Insurance from State Farm cost $14,775.80. It covers all the North Pole buildings (warehouses, workshops, and reindeer barns included), toys, injuries, and sleigh damage. It also protects Santa from liability on his round-the-world trip.
And, for the few children who will not be deserving of gifts this year, Santa spent $110 on a ton of coal.
Santa's expenses have almost doubled over the last decade. In 1996, the last time the elves at the Credit Union National Association calculated the cost of Santa's global trip, the total came to roughly $6.35 billion.
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Hopefully your holiday expenses are more under control than Santa's are. If not, check out our personal finance newsletter service, Motley Fool GreenLight . You can take a free trial with no obligation to buy.
Fool contributor Mary Dalrymple does not keep reindeer, nor does she own stock in any company mentioned in this article. She welcomes your feedback. AT&T is a former Stock Advisor pick. The Fool's disclosure policy is the gift that keeps on giving.