11 Things You Should Be Renting Instead of Buying

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Recent years have seen the flowering of the rental economy. What started with streaming services such as Netflix and Pandora has become a full-on profusion of rental options as an alternative to buying. The upshot is less personal debt, less waste, and less over-accumulation even as you still get your hands on things you need or want. Cheapism.com researched rent-instead-of-buy concepts and identified 11 to consider -- including some that may surprise you.

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Stop wasting money on toys and check out companies like Pley.com, which rents members one sanitized Lego set for $15 to $39 a month. Sparkbox Toys is an online rental program for educational toys.

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Dress for less by renting, not buying, when it's time to go formal or strut a designer name. Rent the Runway, through stores and online, has attracted quite a following by renting out designer duds for a fraction of the purchase price; that new Vera Wang gown can be yours for four days at the low price of $60 or it can hang in your closet for years for a sum that exceeds $1,200. Men can step up their game by renting high-end labels for formal events from places like The Black Tux, where suits and tuxedos start at $95.

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Need the right designer purse to carry to an important meeting or a piece of jewelry to wear to an upcoming formal gig? Rent the Runway also loans out accessories, as do Bag Borrow or Steal and other online accessory rental companies. Prices start at about $50 a month, but can climb well into the triple digits.

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Anyone who wants to spiff up their home or office with a rotation of conversation-inspiring art can call on providers such as TurningArt, where monthly prices start at $10, or Hang Art, which operates a gallery in San Francisco and charges 12 percent of the purchase price to rent a piece for three months.

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Forget that long-term lease. Did you know that you can rent office space for very short periods? Regus, for example, rents office space, conference rooms, business lounges, and more at starting prices of about $15 an hour. The company maintains more than 2,000 locations scattered throughout 750 cities.

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Home improvement projects can cost big bucks, but there's no need to waste money by buying a power tool you'll use once or twice. Rental services provided by the likes of Home Depot and Lowe's offer larger power tools for a fraction of the purchase price. For example, you can rent a tile saw at Home Depot for four hours and pay about $34 or buy one and shell out more than $250.

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In an effort to get people moving and go green, many communities are offering bike-share (renting) opportunities. Cities such as New York, Chicago, Denver, Boulder, and even Columbus, Ohio, are leading the way. CoGo in Columbus offers a 24-hour pass ($6) good for unlimited 30-minute bike trips or annual memberships ($75) good for unlimited 30-minute trips. Visit a CoGo station kiosk, sign up, and you're off.

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It's common practice to rent skis, snowboards, and other gear for outdoor sports you might partake in once a year. Now you can also rent camping gear. Many small outfitters located near popular camping spots rent the necessary equipment. REI, a national purveyor of outdoor clothing and gear, likewise rents camping necessities in states where camping is a main attraction.

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End-of-life expenses can be steep, and the casket is one major cost component. Instead of spending $2,000 or more to buy a casket, rentals are available at a starting price of about $750, according to Kiplinger. Everplans, an online resource for dealing with death, explains that the body is placed in a wooden box inside the casket for the viewing and funeral. It is then removed and either cremated, with the ashes placed back in the box, or buried in the box. This saves families a lot of money and stress during the grieving process.

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These days you can even rent a pet. Dog rental companies (really more akin to dog sharing companies) such as DogVacay connect dog owners with dog lovers who will borrow (i.e., take care of) the pet while the owner is on vacation. The arrangement is a win-win: dog owners evade costly kennel boarding fees while the local pet lover gets some enjoyment without any full-time commitment. Cheapism.com also found opportunities to rent goats (RentAGoat.com) and chickens (Rent The Chicken). The former offers a sustainable and affordable approach to clearing land of grass and scrub, and the latter assures you of farm fresh eggs for several months without the hassle and expense of acquiring the coop and chickens (the deal is all-inclusive).

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Renting certain things for a wedding, like tables, chairs, place settings, and so on, is standard practice. Now you can carry this one step further and rent your wedding cake. How, you may wonder? Companies such as CakeRental.com offer lavishly decorated "wedding cakes" (Styrofoam covered in real fondant), with a small cut-out in the back to hold a small piece of real cake or a cupcake that you "slice" and eat for your pictures. The guests feast on sheet cakes that are cut out of sight. A rental cake plus sheet cake starts at around $440 compared with $1,320 for the real thing, according to the company.