This year’s most thrifty Christmas hack isn’t about making your own fudge or looking for pine cones — it’s about renting everything from toys to the tree.
With the cost of living crisis and sustainability at the forefront of everyone’s mind, 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. This year, due to soaring inflation, alongside rising energy and food prices, spending is expected to be even higher. Figures from market research firm Kantar show that households will spend almost 10% more on Christmas dinner alone (and that’s using a frozen turkey), so it makes financial sense to rent some items rather than renting them out. ‘to buy.
Then you have to think about the planet. From disposable trees to once-worn sequin tops and toys you hardly play with, the holiday season has one of the worst impacts on the environment.
For anyone who’s seen a child pay more attention to a cardboard box than the toy inside, renting makes sense. “People started looking for alternatives to buying Christmas toys as early as August,” says Russell Khan, COO of toy rental company Whirli. “The cost of living crisis and all the discussions around energy and mortgages are the cause. There’s also huge lasting 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 had lost interest after 11 hours of play. Meanwhile, as many as 80% of toys end up in landfill.
A Whirli subscription starts from £9.71 per month for £80 worth of toys. Users can then choose how many toys they want as part of their token allocation.
They can swap out individual toys, rather than the whole package, at any time. “It’s a great way to try out toys they might like,” says Khan. “They can open them all on Christmas Day and then in January you can swap out the ones they miss.”
Magformers, a kind of magnetic construction kit, are very popular in this festive season. For kids who get attached to a particular toy (“mostly Baby Annabell dolls,” Khan says), after 12 months of rental, it’s theirs.
Elsewhere, bikes and scooters – another popular Christmas gift – can be hired from the Bike Club, from £4.49 a month.
As for placing gifts under a tree, this can also be praised. Rental Claus in Cotswold Fir and Christmas On The Hill in North London are seeing strong demand this year.
Each year, Craig Tennock of Rental Claus rents out thousands of trees: 80% are repeat rentals, with families baptizing them with names such as “Twiggy” and “Spike”. Tennock’s most established customer has rented the same tree for 12 years.
With prices to buy cut trees from £14.99 in supermarkets, renting isn’t always the cheapest (Claus renting starts from £25 for a 3ft tree). However, it has a huge environmental benefit.
The Carbon Trust says renting reduces the average amount of cut trees that end up in landfills (estimated at 7m), which in turn reduces CO2. Artificial trees, a popular alternative to real-life versions, have twice the carbon footprint of a real tree that goes to landfill and 10 times that of a tree that is burned.
So far for Christmas 2022, Clare Slater, the co-founder of Christmas On The Hill, claims to have rented more than 1,000 trees. Prices start from £30 for a 2ft Norway spruce.
“People book them months in advance. Our biggest trees were reserved in August,” she said. Nostalgia also plays a role. “Families buy them when their children are small enough. They name them – think Treena Turner and Treesa May – and every year come and 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 dresses from £49 for four days. Anya Hindmarch’s glittering Dairy Milk tote costs £92 for four days versus £995 to buy one, while Hirestreet offers cozy knitwear and coats from brands such as M&S. For children’s clothing, there’s My Wardrobe Kids and the Little Loop.
As for the big day itself, for additional guests you can rent a larger dining table and even canapes. A five-person corner sofa costs £84 a month at Roomservice By Cort, while a long dining table starts from £42.
For an Instagram-worthy setup, use the Clicc and Maison Margaux to borrow table decorations such as eucalyptus wreaths and candle holders as well as gold-rimmed glassware, cutlery and pretty patterned plates. They even share tips for setting a table for maximum likes. Unfortunately, the dishes are not included.