buyers are turning to renting trees, toys and clothes

This year’s most thrifty Christmas hack isn’t about making candy or finding pine cones, it’s about hiring everything from toys to your tree.

With the cost of living crisis and sustainability at the forefront of everyone’s minds, more and more people are turning to renting as an alternative to retail.

According to the Bank of England, a typical household in the UK spends 29% more in December than in other months. Spending is expected to be even higher this year due to rising inflation, coupled with rising energy and food prices. Data from market research firm Kantar shows that households will spend nearly 10% more on Christmas dinner alone (and that’s using a frozen turkey), so it makes financial sense to rent certain items rather than buy them.

Then there’s the planet to think about. From throwaway trees to once-worn sequin tops and barely-playable toys, the holiday season has one of the worst impacts on the environment.

For anyone who has ever seen a child pay more attention to a cardboard box than the toy inside, the rental makes sense. “People started looking for alternatives to buying Christmas toys as early as August,” says Russell Khan, operations manager at toy rental company Whirli. “The cost-of-living crisis and all the talk about energy and mortgages are driving it. There’s also a huge sustainable appeal.”

According to a study by the British Heart Foundation, the average child loses interest in a toy within 36 days. A fifth of parents said their child lost interest after 11 hours of play. Meanwhile, a whopping 80% of toys end up in landfills.

A Whirli membership starts at £9.71 a month for £80 worth of toys. Users can then choose as many toys as they want within their token allowance.

They can trade individual toys, rather than the whole pack, at any time. “It’s a great way to try out toys he might like,” says Khan. “They can open them all on Christmas Day and then in January you can trade the ones they’re bored with.”

Magformers, a kind of magnetic construction kit, are proving popular this holiday season. For kids who become attached to a particular toy (“Baby Annabell dolls mostly,” Khan says), after 12 months of renting it’s theirs to keep.

Elsewhere, bikes and scooters – another popular Christmas gift – can be hired from the Bike Club, from £4.49 a month.

As for putting presents under a tree, that can be assumed too. Cotswold Fir’s Rental Claus and Christmas On The Hill in north London are reporting strong demand this year.

Rental Claus’ Craig Tennock leases thousands of trees each year—80 percent are repeat rentals, with families christening them names like “Twiggy” and “Spike.” Tennock’s most established customer leased the same tree for 12 years.

With prices to buy some cut trees starting from £14.99 in supermarkets, hiring isn’t always the cheapest (Claus’ hire starts at £25 for a 3ft tree). However, it has a huge environmental benefit.

The Carbon Trust says leasing reduces the average amount of cut trees going to landfill (estimated at 7 million), which in turn reduces CO2. Artificial trees, a popular alternative to real versions, have twice the carbon footprint of a real tree that ends up in landfill and 10 times that of one that gets burned.

For Christmas 2022 so far, Clare Slater, the co-founder of Christmas On The Hill, says she has leased more than 1,000 trees. Prices start at £30 for a 2ft Norway Spruce.

“People book them months in advance. Our biggest trees were sold out in August,” she said. Nostalgia also plays its part. “Families buy them when their kids are quite young. They name them – think Treena Turner and Treesa May – and every year they come to take them home.”

With one in five people admitting they won’t wear the same outfit more than once to a party, renting is a smart option for dressing up. At Matchesfashion.com you can hire designer clothes from £49 for four days. Anya Hindmarch’s shimmering Dairy Milk bag costs £92 for four days compared to £995 to buy one, while Hirestreet stocks cozy knitwear and coats from brands including M&S. For children’s clothing there is My Wardrobe Kids and Little Loop.

As for the big day, for extra guests you can hire a larger dining table and even sofas. A five-person corner sofa costs £84 a month from Roomservice By Cort, while a long dining table starts at £42.

For an Instagram-worthy setup, use Clicc and Maison Margaux to borrow table decorations like eucalyptus wreaths and candle holders, as well as gold-rimmed glassware, cutlery, and plates with pretty patterns. They even share tips for setting a table for maximum likes. Unfortunately, washing is not included.

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