A home isn’t the only thing you can rent these days, especially as consumers look to make less of a financial commitment to a variety of life's needs and wants. (That’s code for: We’re all looking for deals, even if it means not taking ownership.) 

Rentals are everywhere. You just need to know where to look.   

1. Clothing. Why spend hundreds of dollars on an evening dress from Saks (Stock Quote: SKS) that you’ll likely only wear once this year? My first stop would be to shop in a friend’s closet. Next, check local rental boutiques. They exist! At Ilus, a shop in New York City, you can pick out a designer dress to wear for up to three days. (If you live outside the city, you can arrange to have a dress shipped to you.) Prices range from $60 to $400. At Alexandria’s Formal in Roseville, Calif., you can rent strapless bras, prom and cocktail dresses, bridal gowns and jewelry.

2. Accessories. The new Louis VuittonTivoli handbag (Stock Quote: LVMH) retails for $935, but if you’re a member of Bag, Borrow or Steal, it’ll cost you $43 for the week or $125 per month. You can choose from a plethora of designer purses and accessories. Prices vary per item.  At FromBagstoRiches.com, a similar strategy exists where fancy bag rental prices range from $22.95 to $299.95, depending on the designer and make. 

3. Electronics.
Want to entertain guests at your next party, but don’t want to burn $300 on a Wii? Zilok offers Microsoft’s Xbox 360 (Stock Quote: MSFT) and Nintendo Wii rentals. While you’re there, find rental listings in your ZIP code for computers, phones and PDAs.  

4. Athletic Gear. It’s hard to commit to $400 skis, especially if you’re only going on a few ski trips this season. In fact, when it comes to skis, bikes, snowboards, tennis racquets and golf clubs, there’s usually no need to invest in owning the stuff if you’re not an avid player. Most athletic facilities and shops offer a selection of rental gear all year round. Try also searching for “athletic equipment rentals” online.

5. Furniture. Renting furniture is a great way to inexpensively “stage” your home for an open house or to provide seating for an upcoming business meeting or party. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s office and home furniture rental company, Cort.com, offers temporary furniture including conference tables, desks, couches, chairs and lamps. Other national furniture rental companies include Rent-A-Center (Stock Quote: RCII)  and American Furniture Rentals.

6. Books. It may take your local library a while to stock the newest Patricia Cornwell hardcover and it costs $18.45 on Amazon.com (Stock Quote: AMZN). There’s a cheaper alternative.  At BookSwim, “the Netflix for books,” $10 a month gets you unlimited book rentals.  It’s so far the only web-based book rental company that offers newly-released hardcover titles, along with older books in paperback. College students can also rent textbooks here and at Chegg.com, saving an average of 60% to 85% on books per semester. Meantime, there’s also BooksFree.com, which offers plans also starting at $10 a month. 

7. Home. With so many people losing their homes due to foreclosure, and potential first-time buyers turned off by the recent housing debacle, renting living space may be a more suitable choice for some.  The timing couldn’t be better. Apartment rental rates are dropping across the country, as inventory skyrockets. That’s great news for new tenants and existing renters. It’s also a silver lining for folks who’ve lost their homes due to foreclosure and are desperate to find a new place to live. If you have a lease that’s about to expire in the next three to four months, call up your landlord to negotiate a lower monthly payment based on the current market rental rates in your neighborhood. For new renters, definitely ask for a deal, along with some concessions like free parking or discounts to a local gym. In New York City, where a majority of residents rent their apartments, rates have fallen five to six percent in the last year and there are anecdotes of people negotiating deals 20% less than the asking price.  

8. Cars. Maybe you work mostly from home or maybe everything you need is within walking distance.  Buying a car or leasing one for a few years may be more of a commitment than you can afford to make right now.  Companies such as ConnectByHertz.com and ZipCar, which operate pay-as-you-go car agencies, are becoming more popular.  Members pay $8.50 an hour for using a car at Connect By Hertz (Stock Quote: HTZ).  At ZipCar, share cars and pay roughly $10 an hour during the week.

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