Mum Rents Her Children’s Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They’re Bored

A teacher is cutting her Christmas spending down by renting her children’s presents and returning them once they are bored – which can be as early as New Year. Single mum Jen Otter, 34, was determined not to fill her new home with unloved toys when she returned to England in March 2019, after living in Thailand for seven years – then five months pregnant with Rosie, now two, and with daughter Lilly, four. So, she killed three birds with one stone by joining the toy swapping website Whirli, which helps the environment by reducing waste, allows Jen to save money and cut back on clutter in her home all at the same time.

Costing just GBP13.33 a month (GBP160 a year) – compared to a recent Nationwide building society survey claiming parents spend on average GBP100 per child at Christmas alone – Jen of Shrewsbury, Shropshire, was thrilled by the concept. She said: “It’s great. As a single mum, I can’t afford high-end gifts, but by swapping them I can get my kids really nice presents for a fraction of the cost – and I get to send them back when they’re done with them!”

Jen rents the majority of her children’s toys
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For more of the news you care about, straight to your inbox, sign up for one of our daily newsletters here. The early years teacher has no qualms about returning presents the moment her children tire of them. She said: “Last year I sent Lilly’s present back on New Year’s Eve.

“She had this big Lottie treehouse with all the dolls. It was amazing and should have cost around GBP236. But within a few days, she was bored and wasn’t playing with it anymore, so I sent it back.

“This has to be far better for the environment than binning unwanted items and seeing them end up in landfill.” Returning from Bangkok in Thailand in 2019 after splitting with her partner, Jen and arrived back in England virtually empty-handed.

Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're Bored
Jen moved back to the UK with just a suitcase
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She said: “Lilly was nearly two and I was five months pregnant with Rosie.

We moved in with one suitcase, so we didn’t have any toys with us. “Friends offered to buy them for Lilly, but the idea of having all these new toys annoyed me because it was such a waste.” She added: “I witnessed her show interest in toys for a few months and then get bored of them, so I wanted to find a way to not create a lot of landfill.”

When her research revealed sites where she could rent toys, she decided the “borrowing scheme” was a far better option and meant she could afford to get them big ticket presents for Christmas and birthdays that she could never normally afford. “I use it for their birthday and Christmas presents,” she said.

Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're BoredShe says the girls get so excited about their presents arriving
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Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're BoredLilly playing with her rented espresso machine toy
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She added: “My children feel treated and get access to really high-end toys which I wouldn’t be able to afford and then they go back when they’re done. “At the moment, Rosie has this ride on recycling truck that she loves and would have cost about GBP37 to buy. “But I know in a few days she’ll be bored of it, so it’ll be going back for another family to use.”

The scheme means Jen can rent toys all year round and she selects her Christmas items in early December, then returns them as early as New Year. “You can rent the toys for as long as you want,” she said.

Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're BoredThe girls playing with an ice cream shop
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“So there are different packages, but on mine I get 120 tokens to spend on the website, which is equivalent to GBP120.

The extra GBP40 is for free pick up and delivery.” She added: “If you keep a toy for over eight months it’s yours to keep forever and if you want a really popular toy, you can get it waitlisted. “So if you’re organised, you could do that at the beginning of December and then hide it away until the 25th.

“I’ve always been able to get the toys the girls want as there are so many and you never have to wait very long.” She added: “Last year, Lilly’s Lottie treehouse was beautiful. She woke up on Christmas morning to it and loved it.

Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're BoredJen rotates her two daughters toys throughout the year
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“But then, by New Year, I sent it back because she stopped playing with it. It’s completely normal to my daughters now for their toys not to be there forever.” With a poll by the British Heart Foundation reporting that a quarter of parents admit to throwing away toys that work perfectly, while children have an average of four toys they have never played with, Jen is determined her family will buck this wasteful trend.

She said: “We live in a two-bedroom house and don’t have the space for lots of toys. “In the past, I would buy from charity shops and then when the kids were done with the toys, I’d give them back. “But then I worried about them not being used, as you don’t always know what will happen to that toy once you’ve given it away.”

She added: “I like renting the kids’ toys because instead of going to a landfill or gathering dust on a shelf, they go to another family for their children to enjoy.

Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're BoredJen rented this tree house and dolls worth GBP236 for Christmas, returning it by New Year
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Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're BoredShe ordered this piano too
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Image: PA Real Life)

“Obviously, my kids also have permanent toys like magnet tiles, a toy kitchen, a dolls house, wooden dolls and lots of books.

“But I do feel, especially with Christmas gifts, that by swapping them for other toys we get the best of both worlds.” And she encourages her family to buy experiences like dance lessons or theatre tickets for her girls, rather than toys, to further reduce the risk of things being thrown away. “People always ask if they can buy them gifts, but I say no, suggesting they get them an experience instead,” she said.

“That’s far more valuable and the memory will stay with them for a long time, rather than wasting money on a gift they’ll be bored with in a matter of days.” But Jen is clear that if her girls love a present she will keep it.

Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're BoredIf the girls love it, she’ll buy it rather than return it
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Mum Rents Her Children's Christmas Presents And Returns Them When They're BoredBut she returned this sand table as soon as her two daughters stopped playing with it
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“If the girls ever get really attached to something, I will buy it,” she said. “The site we use allows you to buy the toy you’re renting. So a few months ago we got a Toniebox, an audio and music player, and they just loved it.”

She added: “It stayed for about four months and in the end, I decided to buy it. The longer you rent a toy the more it decreases in value so it was actually at a discounted price when I bought it. I paid GBP35 when it would have been GBP65 if I’d bought it new in a shop.

“By doing it this way I was able to make sure that the girls liked it before spending a lot of money on it.” Now Jen hopes to inspire more parents to join the Christmas revolution, by renting instead of buying their little ones’ festive gifts.

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“I do hope people think about renting over buying,” she said. She added: “I think people find it hard to wrap their head around renting gifts, but I think it’s the new way to do Christmas.

“Sometimes I go to people’s houses and there are just so many toys. They have loads of stuff and it just never gets played with.” Renting toys does not reduce the fun and excitement on Christmas Day, according to Jen, who says the most expensive item she has rented was the Lottie doll’s house.

She also rented a micro scooter with a seat which would have cost approximately GBP117 to buy. She said: “I tell my daughters that I give money to Santa. “Lilly will choose the toys she wants, or talk to me about them, then I hide them away for December.”

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She added: “By swapping the kids toys throughout the year I am able to afford high end presents and not spend a fortune.

“I think it’s a great idea and is a great way to ensure an exciting Christmas for the little ones without breaking the bank. “It makes Christmas affordable but also it means that you’re not buying presents for the sake of it. You’re getting the kids what they want.”

She added: “It’s great because even though they get bored of them in a few days, we just swap them for something else. “Instead of the toy becoming unused, we swap it for something else they love in a few weeks time and the excitement happens all over again. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving!”

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