It’s time to face the fact that we have commitment issues. Financial ones. We love to test drive the newest, fastest and trendiest everything, but when it comes to taking the purchase plunge, we often end up running for the hills.
Luckily, there’s a booming rental industry that caters to our collective “let’s-keep-it-casual” mindset. Here are just a few of the crazy things you can rent nowadays.
Tech Gadgets: Want to take the iPhone 5 for a test drive before you pony up your hard-earned cash to buy one? YBUY has you covered. For $24.95 a month, YBUY lets you try the latest gadgets — from iPads to blenders — from the comfort of your own home (with free shipping both ways). At the end of the month, you can either ship your rented item back or buy it and have your rental fees go toward the purchase cost.
International Phones: If you’re traveling internationally, you probably aren’t going to want to spring for an international cell phone, but you also don’t want to be completely incommunicado for the days or weeks that you’re out of the country. Solution? TravelCell allows you to rent Blackberries with international data plans for $10, or Blackberry SIM cards for $5 a day. Prefer Apple products? iPhoneTrip lets you rent iPhones and SIM cards with international data plans, with pricing dependent on location and rental period. Both sites ship directly to your house, though you foot the bill.
Clothes and Accessories: Can’t afford the designer dress in that department store window? That’s OK, honey, none of us can. However, those name-brand threads may still be within your reach. Sites like Rent the Runway and Bag Borrow or Steal allow members to rent designer clothes and accessories for a fraction of the retail cost — usually about 10 to 20 percent, depending on the site and item.
Pets: Pet rental companies are increasingly popular in Japan and China, but have faced widespread backlash in the U.S. In 2008, Massachusetts even passed a bill banning pet rentals statewide. While renting pets here in the states may be controversial, sites like FindaShare offer doggie timeshares for people who want a pet without the full-time responsibility. Many shelters also offer foster programs, which allow you to keep a pet in your home until the shelter finds someone to adopt permanently.
Camping Gear: Even for people who love the great outdoors, it’s tough to justify spending big bucks on pricey camping equipment that you’ll probably only use a few times a year. Retailers like REI allow you to rent tents, backpacks, sleeping bags and more from stores, with availability and prices varying by location. In the online sphere, LowerGear allows you to mail order camping gear, with pricing based on retail cost, demand and length of the rental period.
Wedding Accessories: Why not have your “something borrowed” be your wedding accessories? Sites like Happily Ever BorroWED let you rent wedding accessories like veils, belts and jewelry for around 10 to 20 percent of the retail cost, site managers say. Wedding dresses and accessories are typically single-wear items, but they can run you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars, so why not rent? If you ask us, “sentimental value” caps out at around $100.
Ties: That’s right, fellas — sites like TieTry allow you to rent designer neckties for a monthly fee ranging from $11.99 to $29.99, depending on your membership plan. Dropping triple-digits on a closet full of designer ties might not be the best move for your bank account, but now you can invest in a few classic ties and rent the bolder, more out-there patterns.
Friends: Rentafriend.com allows you to browse through profiles and choose a “friend” to rent, usually starting at around $10/hour. Maybe you want someone to be your platonic date to a friend’s wedding or show you around a new city. Maybe you’re just lonely. While paying someone to be your buddy may not be the purest form of friendship, it might beat another weekend spent watching Nick at Night with your cat.
Prom Date: Back in the pre-Web days, if you didn’t have a prom date you could either go stag or begrudgingly take your second cousin Betty. Today, PromDateDepot.com lets you browse through online profiles to find a “rockin' prom date.” Joining the site is free, but some dates may charge a fee for their prom-going hours. Careful with this one though, kids — sites like this can be a breeding ground for creepers and stranger danger.