smart spending

Santa's finances: messier than yours

The money evaporators

So Santa earned about $9,535,866.50 in 2010 -- not bad! But what does it cost to get gifts for all the world's children?

A random sampling from the Toys R Us Hot Holiday Toy List tells us the average toy this year costs about $35. However, Santa has a vast warehouse of elves helping him build toys, so he doesn't pay full price -- a $35 toy sets Santa back about $15.

According to the CIA World Factbook, there are 1,829,256,297 children ages 14 and younger in the world. Santa delivers to half of them -- the ones 7 and younger, who still believe in him. That's roughly 914,628,149 kids. For one toy per child, at $15 a pop, Santa will shell out $13,719,422,235.

And don't forget the elves working late nights to craft these toys. James Medlock of the American Payroll Association says each elf would likely be paid $1,884 in a biweekly salary -- or $4,710 for five weeks of work. Santa would have to pay employment taxes as well. For 8,500 elves, the grand total would be $40,035,000.

What about holiday bonuses for the elves? "Normally, a temporary employee is not provided a holiday bonus," Medlock says, "But that would be up to Santa's discretion."

If anyone has holiday spirit, it would have to be Santa. So a $75 bonus for each elf would ring up at $637,500.

Santa's 2010 costs, at $13,760,094,735, vastly exceed his 2010 earnings of $9,413,530.

Not only is Santa wearing red, he's also deeply in the red. Maybe we should leave him more than just cookies and milk this Christmas.

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