Now you can RENT the perfect Christmas: Thanks to eco awareness, you can now hire everything from party frocks to table settings… even your children’s presents. It’s better for the planet — but how do you tell your four-year-old to give it all back?

  • The average person is likely to spend £1,275 on festive purchases
  • Dinah Van Tulleken reveals how to put on an extravaganza for less than £1,000 
  • Fashion editor hired tree lights, toys to entertain children and tableware  

Food, presents, decorations, something special to wear … Christmas may be a magical time of year but it’s also a very expensive one — and wasteful, too. The average person is likely to spend £1,275 on festive purchases, and produce a mountain of plastic waste in the process.

Speaking as the mother of two little girls, and the person who will be hosting Christmas Day for my extended family, the last thing I want to be is the Grinch. I love Christmas, but what if it was possible to celebrate in style without breaking the bank? What if I could rent my entire luxury family Christmas?

A fortune saved and no contribution to the landfill mountain? That’s got to be worth more than a few smug points.

As a fashion editor, I’m no stranger to the rental market for clothes, with hiring the hottest way to shop. Clothing and accessory rental app, By Rotation, which loaned the fabulous Borgo de Nor dress I’m wearing here, has seen a massive 600 per cent growth in the last year.

Dinah Van Tulleken reveals how renting can make it possible to put on a Christmas extravaganza for less than £1,000. Pictured: Dinah with Lyra, four, and their returnable Christmas goodies

And you may well have heard of My Wardrobe HQ after it made headlines for renting Carrie Johnson her wedding dress.

But the rental industry doesn’t end with clothes and accessories. In a retail revolution, more and more brands now allow customers to enjoy whatever they long for, or need, for a while without having to bankrupt themselves.

From books to bikes, tables to trees, it turns out it is possible to put on a Christmas extravaganza worth £10k, while spending less than £1,000. And the best bit? Come Twelfth Night, you won’t have to find somewhere to store it all until next year!

LET A PART-TIME TREE LIGHTEN THE LOAD

We have a sorry specimen which lives a sad life in a pot in the corner of the garden all year, apart from a brief spell in the house in December. At barely 2 ft tall, it hardly has the wow factor and is not something we can have a lovely time decorating together as a family.

Step forward Hallingbury Christmas Trees in Essex. It’ll deliver a tree in a pot (removing the torturous process of trying to make your tree stand up straight), then take it away at the end of the season and care for it until next Christmas. You can even request the same one year after year.

I opted for a 6 ft Nordmann Fir, at a cost of £60 for the festive period, and it arrived looking vibrant and healthy, filling the room with its wonderful pine smell. Hallingbury only delivers locally, but there are similar services all over the country.

And what about the decorations, I hear you ask? For me, the worst part of Christmas isn’t the queuing in the supermarket for spare sprouts, it’s crawling around the attic for our lights, detangling the knotty mess and trying to work out which blown bulb is ruining the great van Tulleken switch-on.

Well, not any more. This year, I’ve hired some wonderful lights from Christmas Direct, where a string of 300 bulbs will cost you £30. These are excellent quality and, frankly, not having to tighten every bulb is worth every penny.

Dinah (pictured) said Toy Box Club lets you rent fantastic hand-picked toys, books and puzzles, that can be swapped for a different collection of toys at the end of each month 

TREE   

HIRE: £60

BUY: £140

SAVED: £80

  • hallingburychristmastrees.co.uk

LIGHTS

HIRE: £30

BUY: £50

SAVED: £20

  • xmasdirect.co.uk

THE GIFTS THAT KEEP ON GIVING

TOYS

My daughter Lyra, four, is giddy with excitement about Santa visiting her. The problem is that she’s barely unwrapped a present before she’s bored with it.

How to keep your child happy on Christmas Day without spending a fortune on toys that will soon be forgotten? With Whirli, customers pay £9.99 a month to access around £80 worth of toys. In a year, you might pay £120 (a figure I could spend on one item at Christmas) to access hundreds of toys.

Toy Box Club also lets you rent fantastic hand-picked toys, books and puzzles, delivered straight to your door for £35 a month. At the end of each month, it swaps the old box for a new one with a different set of toys.

This way, you get all the excitement of unwrapping on Christmas Day and, once it’s no longer loved, you can simply send it back. The toys may have been enjoyed by other children, but they arrive sparkling and look like new. They come individually wrapped in dust bags, too.

Dinah (pictured) said children grow out their books even quicker than their clothes, but Reading Chest offers age-appropriate rental 

You can fill the boxes yourself online to ensure your child gets a box they’re going to love. I picked a mix of plastic and wooden designs, and while 18-month-old Sasha loved the wooden activity station, both girls ran straight for the noisy plastic stuff.

Lyra’s favourite was the interactive globe (pictured). She started finding countries her friends were from and telling me things I didn’t know about geography. Educational and fun.

HIRE: £44.99

BUY: £683.23

SAVED: £638.24

  • whirli.com and toybox club.co.uk

BOOKS 

Children grow out of their books even quicker than their clothes. Toy rentals, like those above, include books in their offerings, but if yours are just learning to read, sign up to Reading Chest, which will send age-appropriate material. Lyra has only just started to read so I included a couple of educational Oxford Reading Tree books — the same series she is using at school, but these ones have all their pages and aren’t covered in scribble.

For £9.95, you’ll get up to six books per month. Simply return them in the pre-paid envelope when you’re finished and wait for more to arrive.

HIRE: £9.95

BUY: £24

SAVED: £14.05

  • readingchest.co.uk

BIKES

Surely there’s nothing more Christmassy than a new set of kids’ wheels under the tree?

My primary requirement for a child’s bike is that it is light enough to carry, since I’m the one who always ends up lugging it back from the park when little legs get tired. But the good, light ones are all around the £300 mark and will need to be resold and replaced every six months as your child gets bigger.

Dinah (pictured) rented a fancy exercise bike for her husband Chris as every year he goes through a fitness machine phase 

At Bike Club you can rent a bike from only £4.49 a month (plus joining fee) and just return and upgrade as your child grows. We chose a shiny blue Forme Cubley (pictured, £269.99 new) and Lyra was over the moon.

It arrived ready to ride: tyres fully inflated, clean chain, brakes adjusted. Far better than me trying to set up a new one after a few glasses of wine on Christmas Eve. I added a few ribbons and a bit of tinsel and Lyra tore off round the block with a huge smile on her face. A massive win.

HIRE: £10.49

BUY: £269.99

SAVED: £259.50

  • bikeclub.com

AND FOR ADULTS…

Lyra’s not the only one who’s been longing for a new bike. Every year, my husband Chris goes through the same phase — with the result that our bedroom ceiling now bows under the weight of a loft full of dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells and a partially dismantled rowing machine.

This year, Chris is desperate for a fancy exercise bike, which I refuse to buy.

Luckily, Hire Fitness allows me to rent one, then smugly return it in eight weeks. (Trust me, he’ll have stopped using it in four.) A Peloton-style bike will set you back £16 a week plus delivery.

HIRE: £16

BUY: £500

SAVED: £484

  • hirefitness.co.uk

GIVE YOUR FOOD THE TABLE IT DESERVES

Big family gatherings are lovely, but they often mean that everyone ends up crammed around a table that’s too small while garden chairs are dusted down and brought out of the shed.

Does anyone ever really have a grand table with enough chairs for the whole gang? With grandparents, siblings, their partners and their kids, I certainly don’t. I also don’t have a drinks trolley, but I’ve been longing for one.

Dinah hired a dining table, extra chairs and a glam drinks trolley from Fat Llama, who’ve teamed up with John Lewis 

So hurrah for John Lewis, which has teamed up with Fat Llama, the world’s largest rental marketplace, so that you can hire furniture whenever you need it.

Fat Llama provided desks during lockdown when we were suddenly working from home — and, now, thanks to John Lewis, it’s here to ensure Christmas runs smoothly.

I hired a lovely dining table for £36, extra chairs for £12 each and that gorgeous, glam drinks trolley for £18 (pictured).

While it used to be enough to dig out the ancient gravy jug and double up your cutlery, these days the way you style your Christmas table has become as important as the food you serve.

I’d love to be the kind of person who owns a cupboard full of beautiful, event-appropriate tableware that can be wheeled out whatever the occasion, but I’m not.

Luckily, Maison Margaux is here to help. Its table settings have graced the pages of Vogue and items are available to hire.

I went for its winter collection, which is all opulent tones of gold, red, copper and orange.

It felt impossibly classy and Christmassy and, best of all, I don’t have to find space to store it all afterwards.

FURNITURE

HIRE: £78

BUY: £1,296

SAVED: £1,218

  • johnlewis.fatllama.com

TABLEWARE FOR EIGHT

HIRE: £266.70

BUY: £1,448

SAVED: £1,181.30

  • maisonmargauxltd.com

Dinah said Rotation’s wizard fashion app is invaluable, as items can be filtered by size and there is an option to follow people with a similar style 

PLAY DRESS-UP AND LOOK FABULOUS

The pandemic means I haven’t needed any smart clothes for nearly two years. But with the 2021 party season upon us, By Rotation’s wizard fashion app is invaluable. It’s essentially Airbnb for clothing.

Items are lent by individual lenders so you can filter by size and then follow people with a similar taste, shape and style, and a wardrobe you envy. Check out the ‘Festive for under £50’ section.

There’s also a pop-up By Rotation store (98 Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2QA), where I found this fabulous Borgo de Nor dress costing £63 for the week. It’s perfect for playing dress-up on Christmas Day, but it’s so loud I wouldn’t have the confidence to wear it more than once a year —and at north of £600, while I adore it, it’s simply out of my league.

By Rotation has everything from coats to ballgowns. Brands include High Street stalwarts Asos and & Other Stories and designer labels including Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton.

It’s one of the most inclusive sites I’ve ever been to, with lots of availability at size 16 and above, so you’re bound to find something fabulous for the big day.

HIRE: £63

BUY: £650

SAVED: £587

  • byrotation.com

CHILDRENSWEAR 

With seven cousins, my kids live in hand-me-downs. When I do buy clothes, I just can’t bring myself to spend money on things they will grow out of in a few months.

The Little Loop has pieces that are so nice I could have wrapped them up as presents for the girls. They arrive in tissue, as if I’d ordered from a fancy boutique.

I chose a couple of wearable day dresses that will keep the grandparents happy on the big day.

There are thousands of items of sustainable kids’ clothing from the best ethical and organic brands such as Frugi, Little Green Radicals and Kite.

You’ll get six to seven items for £18 per month — that’s about £165 worth of clothes — and there are unlimited swaps.

HIRE: £18

BUY: £34

SAVED: £16

  • thelittleloop.com

Dinah (pictured) said she would be furious if her husband splurged on a designer bag for her Christmas present, but she’s happy to spend a few hundred on renting an accessory

DESIGNER BAGS

I’ve dropped some heavy hints to my husband about the designer bag I’d like to see under the tree this month, but as much as I want it, I’ll also be furious if he spends that much on an accessory.

However, I’m happy to spend a few hundred on renting these beauties if I have an event I want to show off at. This gorgeous Chanel design (pictured) retails at £3,000, but you can have it for £50 a day on My Wardrobe HQ.

HIRE: £50

BUY: £3,000

SAVED: £2,950

  • mywardrobehq.com

JEWELLERY  

We all want to sparkle, and at 4element there is a tantalising array of designer goodies to choose from.

I picked a vintage Art Deco bracelet from Dior costing £50 for four days, and some vintage pearl Chanel earrings (pictured), which were £60 for four days.

They’d have cost ten times that if I tried to buy them at auction. There’s no hefty deposit to pay either, you just need to upload ID when you set up an account.

HIRE: £110

BUY: £1,100

SAVED: £990

  • 4element.co.uk

GRAND TOTAL SAVED 

What Dinah hired …………………………….. £757.13

What it would have cost to buy …… £9,195.22

Total savings ……………………………….. £8,438.09

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