Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous…on Lease

Most of us, at one time or another, have seen a photo of a celebrity with an “it” bag, even if just in tabloids at the supermarket check-out. Most of the time they are over-sized totes, logo prominently displayed, on the arm of an actress or pop star. (Sometimes I wonder if the tinier celebrities could, in fact, fit inside their own handbag.)

And as ridiculous as it might seem, you can bet that if a pop star is carrying a bag, the masses are sure to want it, too.

The problem is the price sticker. Most people can't afford a $2,000 bag. Besides, usually the Hollywood elite, who can afford these bags, receive them as gifts (think product placement).

Riches for rent
I'm a bit late to this party, but I recently learned that one can rent designer bags, sunglasses, and jewelry. Yep, companies like Avelle, Bling Yourself, and Wear Today, Gone Tomorrow will rent merchandise by the likes of Chanel, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chloé, Herve Leger, and more. For a monthly fee, you can carry the “it” bag.

One site, for example, will rent a vintage Birkin bag for $600 per week. The cost to buy a vintage Birkin is about $17,000 (I'll give you a moment to stop choking…mmkay, better now?). A Coach bag that retails for $350 can be rented for about $30 a week, or $20 per week if you keep it for a month. And so on. You also have the option to buy anything you rent and can't bear to return, and there's insurance available if you're worried about a cosmo spilling on your rented Gucci.

The arguments for renting
According to the companies, renting allows people to enjoy items they can't afford to buy. Also, if someone decides they need a change, they can send the item back and choose something else.

Some members say that the monthly membership is actually less than what they spend on bags and jewelry in a given year, and that they wind up with less Stuff, since the items go back into circulation for others to borrow.

Fair enough.

My arguments against
Full disclosure? I think it's nuts. Let's take that Coach bag, for example. It costs $350 retail, or it can be rented for $20 per week. In about 4-1/2 months, the amount spent renting the bag could be saved to purchase it.

No, it can't be returned on a whim. No, it can't be exchanged at will. But it is more cost-effective to purchase one or two quality handbags and own them indefinitely. If you continued to rent bags at $20 per week, in one year the total amount of fees would come to $1,040.

More disclosure? I don't necessarily have a problem with $350 handbags. If that sounds like an insane amount of money to pay and/or you couldn't care less about fashion, that's good news for your pocketbook. Do what works for you and spend your money on what matters to you. If, however, you do love a little fashion in your life and you believe in quality over quantity, forget bag rentals and abide by these guidelines:

  • Choose a handbag in line with your discretionary income. There are nice things at most price levels.
  • Wait for a sale. Salespeople are always happy to put you on their mailing list, which will alert you to store sales and special events.
  • Check out online discount retailers like Bluefly.
  • For in-store deals, try T.J. Maxx, if there's one nearby. I am always surprised by the quality brands they carry—at a fraction of the cost in the boutique stores. Be sure to check out your item carefully for marks and scratches, since the merchandise isn't handled with kid gloves.
  • Pay for it in cash (or put it on a credit card that you pay in full at the end of each month).
  • Purchase something classic. If it's trendy, you probably won't love it by next season.
  • Baby the heck out of it. Get it professionally cleaned if you aren't sure how to do it yourself.
  • Store it carefully. Fill the bag with tissue to hold the shape, and place it in a plastic bag when not in use.

I wasn't able to find much about company profits, but since these rental companies continue to grow and add new products for rent (clothing, jewelry, golf clubs), I assume they're doing well. But it's not for me.

If I'm being dismissive and overly critical, feel free to comment and tell me so! Have you ever rented a luxury item through a monthly membership fee? If not, would you try out a service like this?

More about...Budgeting, Clothing

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Beth
Beth
10 years ago

All in all, I think a lot of those rental places provide accessories for the special occasion. I can imagine a lot of situations where I would want a special bag or piece of jewelry (say, a unique invitation to a gala); there are also women professionals who attend high-glitz events on a regular basis and don’t want to wear the exact same ensemble to each. It’s certainly less expensive variety than buying new dresses each time. The point is, that Coach bag won’t be rented for several months – the point of there being a weekly price is that… Read more »

Mrs. Money
Mrs. Money
10 years ago

I’ve heard of the rent a handbag service but never tried it. I think it’s a great idea but I’m too cheap to spend money on something like that! 😉

Writers Coin
Writers Coin
10 years ago

Obviously, I agree that if you can’t afford it you shouldn’t buy it. But it’s a fantastic idea! Think about it: these are fashion items and fashions go in and out of style. Rather than save for 4 months and buy a bag that’s already out of style, you’ve spent a fraction of that to “enjoy the ride.” Is it vain? Sure. Is it financially sound? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s definitely a smarter alternative than plunking down thousands of dollars on a bag that will have a relatively short shelf like (for the price) and will wind up deep… Read more »

lostAnnfound
lostAnnfound
10 years ago

To me it is a good idea if you go to one or two special events a year and need something out of the ordinary and extra special.

My bags usually come from a department store and one of my favorites comes from JCP that I bought about 5+ years ago. Always get compliments on it, looks in great shape after all this time (I use it regularly), and it cost about $30.00 (the price of a one week rental).

George
George
10 years ago

Even though I’m a guy, I’m strongly against this idea. I have quite a few friends – male and female – who wear designer clothing and accessories (in fact, they wear *solely* designer). The argument is that this isn’t just about looking good – it’s about knowing that what you wear is also exclusive because it’s outside the price range of the majority. The second these things become publicly accessible through rental schemes is the moment the brand itself becomes devalued. Quite frankly, as someone who periodically shops designer, I’d be happy to see fashion houses stipulate a legal provision… Read more »

Marie
Marie
10 years ago

My bags end up looking like they went through a meat grinder, so I can’t imagine renting a bag and having them happy with how it looks when I return it.

I’m so hard on my stuff, I ended up buying a canvas tote from Land’s End and using it in place of a purse. They’re virtually indestructible, and I’ve still managed to beat the crap out of it.

Emily @ Under$1000PerMonth
Emily @ Under$1000PerMonth
10 years ago

If this were something I cared about, I think this would be a good way to go. For some reason, the latest hand bag is a priority for people, and for them, getting the trendiest new look is cheaper by renting. For me, I have a decent black Goodwill purse that serves me well.

Sam
Sam
10 years ago

I think it makes more sense to rent the bag than buy a new bag every other month. I think it also makes sense to rent for special occassions. We normally attend 3-4 black tie charity events per year and while Mr. Sam can wear either his tuxedo or his black suit to all I have to be careful about which dress to wear since some of the same people go to all these events. I normally buy one new dress a year for my favorivite event and then recycle gowns from prior years for the other events. It would… Read more »

Cat
Cat
10 years ago

I haven’t heard of renting luxury accessories before, but think it’s a good idea for those who are into that kind of thing, and want to try out an expensive (to them) item before making the commitment to buy, or who just want it for a special occasion. I do agree that renting the same item for months on end is silly though – better to buy it in that case – you could always sell it later on if you get tired of it, as designer bags often hold their value pretty well. I don’t think I’d use such… Read more »

rzrshrp
rzrshrp
10 years ago

I’m not much into fashion and I scoff at the price of women’s accessories sometimes but I think that this can fill a niche and even save some people money. When I see these, I think of the stereotype that buys a $400-$1000 bag and uses it once or twice then decides that it’s out of fashion or just doesn’t feel like using it anymore. Instead of having a closet full of bags that aren’t used, I see this being a cheaper and neater option. I don’t really know if that stereotype exists or if my mind is warped by… Read more »

chamoiswillow
chamoiswillow
10 years ago

I’ve not rented items, however, I just found a “unique boutique” in my hometown that takes in fancy dresses and rents them out, a portion of the proceeds go to the owner, the rest to the shop owner. I intend to bring my years and years accumulation of fancy dresses to her as soon as I dig them out of storage! Now I can make a little money on items that would otherwise take up space.

Ben
Ben
10 years ago

I imagine this is a good bet for something like a wedding where the item is for one time use… rent a wedding dress, cake, accessories, etc.

Dustin | Engaged Marriage
Dustin | Engaged Marriage
10 years ago

This sounds a lot like a high-end rent-to-own TV or couch service except the rent is a bit more reasonable, and you never own the item. If high fashion is your “thing”, then I could see this as a reasonable way to live it up for one or two major events per year. However, if you are going to rent a handbag for 6 months, you’d be better off buying your own. I’m curious what the policies are regarding damage charges? If my wife carried a bag for more than a few days, I’m sure it would end up with… Read more »

cnc
cnc
10 years ago

The quality of merchandise has gone down dramatically at TJ Maxx and Marshalls, at least for men it has. Women seem to have good luck at those stores, but their men’s stuff has really taken a nose dive over the past 2-3 years.

frugalscholar
frugalscholar
10 years ago

The funny thing is that many celebs receive these status items for free–don’t they?

The other thing is that many uber-status bags (like Hermes) sell for almost as much as new on the secondary market. So if I HAD to HAVE it, I wouldn’t rent. I would buy and use for a while and then re-sell.

Something like Coach wouldn’t be worth renting since they are fairly affordable to begin with.

TosaJen
TosaJen
10 years ago

I’ve always envied how men can rent a tuxedo for an occasion, but women have to buy dresses and most accessories! I have a number of “once a year” clothes that I have to store — more stuff! I don’t have a lifestyle where people care what I carry on my arm. Folks here are more likely to gush over a cat-themed purse than a Jimmy Choo! I have a really nice consignment store near my house, so I can buy myself a name-brand purse at a price I can stand, if I want to. However, if I were to… Read more »

Kate
Kate
10 years ago

I think it’s genius. Like Sam (#5) we have to attend a number of black-tie events per year, and the crowd is usually the same. By renting, I can get a way nicer dress than I would for the same amount of money spent buying one, I don’t have to clean it/baby it etc. and (the big plus for me) I don’t have to store it.

Jennifer
Jennifer
10 years ago

While I’ve never done handbag rentals, I think Wear Today, Gone Tomorrow’s clothing rental’s are a wonderfully frugal and green alternative for special occasion outfits. Once or twice a year my husband and I attend a very dressy event. By renting a cocktail dress for a week a couple times a year, I get to wear a gorgeous designer dress, always get compliments, and spend less than $100 on the rental and dry cleaning. Also, I don’t have to worry about being able to fit into my cocktail dress if I gain or lose weight. I just order a different… Read more »

George
George
10 years ago

Great idea! I never thought of renting luxury items (except cars). Definitely a wonderful option.

Also, getting good at buying things on the cheap is a another idea. Just because the bag sells for $350 retail doesn’t mean it costs $350 everywhere. Ebay, online stores, outlets, other countries (like Mexico) could have the item for much less. I bet there are ways of purchasing it for less than 50% of the “retail” prices.

retired
retired
10 years ago

Rent a handbag? Not for me I tend to carry one handbag all the time. I like small purses you cannot weigh down with 5,000lbs of junk. I carry a small brush, lipstick, wallet cell phone, Keys, tissue, one safety pin and one band-aid. Evenings out I carry a vintage beaded purse I pick up for $20 at a resale shop. I get more complements on it than any more expensive bag I have ever owned.

Now Pearls are great accessories, but then I am biased. I wear them everyday.

Meagan
Meagan
10 years ago

April, it looks like we’re in the minority here, but I would have to agree with you. The “rental” fees seem insanely expensive, and for that amount of money you could save up to buy a designer bag in a few months to a year. A good bag (not trendy) will look good for years to come. There’s really no need to get a new one every month, or every year, or even every few years. I have a few quality bags that I rotate over the year. I’m not super-high-fashion or anything, but it always looks well put-together. The… Read more »

Blake
Blake
10 years ago

Personally, I think it is crazy to spend more than one can afford on any luxury item. If you can’t afford a new house, then your old one will serve just fine for now. If you have millions to spend, then do as you wish. It just goes back to don’t spend more than your income. After all, 1 – 2 does not equal -1, it equals -1 with interest… I personally don’t see why ANY middle income family would need something to carry around their lipstick in that cost > $300. But if you insist that this is something… Read more »

christine
christine
10 years ago

I would consider going through something like Rent the Runway, definitely. They rent formal gowns and fill a HUGE market gap, contiguous with tux rentals. Whereas I feel all men should definitely own a tuxedo, dresses are not as flexible, and something five or ten years old isn’t going to necessarily hold up. If I’m going to a wedding or formal event where I absolutely HAVE TO be glamorous, I’d much rather spend $50 than a couple hundred dollars for a dress I’m never going to wear again. If I am ever convinced to have a formal wedding ceremony with… Read more »

sashie
sashie
10 years ago

April

Just one correction in the piece…you should never store leather bags into plastic ones. Plastic doesn’t breathe, and if there was any moisture it can ruin the bag. You should store leather purses (stuffed with tissue) into cloth bags. As for everything else in your article, well said!

Allison Blass
Allison Blass
10 years ago

The only reason this would be worth it is if you were renting something you would not be able to use again, such as a ballgown for an event, or maybe you wanted to “try out” a new style without committing. I bought a $200 grown (on sale) for a gala, plus $50 of alterations, but if I could have rented a gown for $100 and not have to deal with it later, that would have been ideal. Unfortunately, I’m plus-sized and these places don’t cater to us. As for bags – which everyone is talking about – it’s not… Read more »

Carrie
Carrie
10 years ago

Like others, I can see renting a designer handbag as a man might rent a tuxedo, to attend a black-tie event once or twice a year. I’d also happily rent a designer cocktail dress. I’m getting married next year, and if a family member wasn’t making my dress, I might have considered renting a wedding dress. (Had I purchased one, I would have immediately either sold it or donated it to a charity for sale after the wedding. So I would have essentially rented it anyway.) I can’t really see renting a bag as a daily use item though. I… Read more »

N. Avery
N. Avery
10 years ago

While it isn’t for me, I think the most compelling argument for a luxury rental service is that you don’t accumulate a lot of stuff that you are going to be sick of in six months and that you can rotate frequently if that’s important to you. It’s not a financial win to buy a $300 bag if you want to rotate between 10 $300 bags. One thing I think you missed in your buying tips – keep your eyes peeled for a deal on a barely used one! There are some very nice high-end consignment shops and online sites… Read more »

Patrick
Patrick
10 years ago

Instead of thinking about this growing practice from the consumer side, why not turn it around and think about what gaps exist in the market that could be rented as a side business for the more entrepreneurial readers out there. I see some comments from folks who have found stores that will split rental fees for them donating their dresses, but I’m sure there are some other items out there that people have which can be rented out.

J.D.
J.D.
10 years ago

I don’t know what to think about this. I’m like the anti-luxury guy, not out of some moral high ground, but because I just don’t care about jewelry, fashion, or any of that other stuff. But what if I did care? Would I buy or would I rent? I don’t know. I like the “no stuff” aspect of renting, but April’s right: If you’re going to rent long-term (or pay a membership fee), why not buy? But I can see how this would be useful for special occasions. For me, I’ll stick to my cheap Costco clothes for now, thanks.… Read more »

Alexandra
Alexandra
10 years ago

I am not into high fashion, so this kind of thing wouldn’t appeal to me, but for the Fashionistas who need to have the latest trend, this idea work out to be cheaper than buying. The problem with trends is that one day something is in and the next week it isn’t. Keeping up with the latest trends means being able to switch out last month’s bag for this month’s. Renting allows the Fashionista to do this spending way less money than if she had to buy it all.

Bradley
Bradley
10 years ago

i can’t see myself ever wanting to rent clothing or fashion accessories…. a ferrari.. hell yeah. it is well outside what my price range will ever be, but i would love to drive one… even if just for a few days.

ami | 40daystochange
ami | 40daystochange
10 years ago

Hmmmmmm. Curmudgeon alert. If you’re the type of person who loves high-end bags . . . ? I thought this was the Get Rich Slowly site, not the fritter your money on fripperies site. For me, Getting Rich Slowly is about changing your mindset about what’s necessary and important, which reduces your list of financial needs. Even when my family hits our big financial milestones, even if we have a nest egg big enough to retire permanently on, I want to continue living relatively simply. (living simply means that we can hit that milestone quicker, too) I’ve seen friends who… Read more »

Beth
Beth
10 years ago

H&M has great knockoff purses for $20. I got a Hermes Birkin lookalike and a lady in the elevator asked me if it was Italian leather. It has lasted a long time, good construction and quality. $20.

Brigid
Brigid
10 years ago

Good thing I don’t follow the lifestyles of the “rich & famous”. If you don’t pay attention to them, you generally don’t know what they have, let alone covet what they have.

Willow
Willow
10 years ago

I was very confused by this article. I thought I was on the wrong website at first. I read it thinking it would somehow wrap around to living a frugal life, saving, or one of the reasons I come here every day, but no. I didn’t find this piece helpful and as a woman was more than a little irked that the female staff writer chose to address high priced luxury fashion items. I’ve spent my life working to dismantle these ridiculous Madison Avenue-implanted desires for arbitrary status items. I seem to be in the minority but I do not… Read more »

Jackie
Jackie
10 years ago

I’m not a fan of this for handbags in particular (because I don’t think most of the ones with logos all over them would really “go” at a fancy event) but like others have said I think renting an evening dress would make sense.

elysianconfusion
elysianconfusion
10 years ago

Personally this seems like a total waste of money to me. I have a couple of handbags I like. Two cost $100 and I do really love them, which is a good thing because I don’t think I’d do that again. The others are perfectly adorable & from TJ Maxx or similar.
That said… I’m not a fashion person. I know it’s huge for some people. I guess do what works for you. But it doesn’t work for me.

Laura
Laura
10 years ago

I’m with in terms of it’s generally being silly. The one good reason I’ve heard is to give you the chance to try out a couple crazy expensive bags to make sure you really like UT before you invest in one.
Did you know there is a guys version? http://www.stealthetime.com

PA Mom
PA Mom
10 years ago

$5 at a flea market gets you a perfectly usable handbag. I bought mine probably 2-3 years ago. I have a total of two. One for every day use, one for special occasions like weddings. They’re both black. They both match everything. And they’re both small, because I don’t need to carry around a lot of stuff that I’ll probably never use. Anyone who’s chasing that celebrity lifestyle just doesn’t get it. I watch celebrities for the entertainment value they provide while they are WORKING. As for the rest of their time, I don’t care how it’s spent, where they… Read more »

Kevin
Kevin
10 years ago

I haven’t seen it mentioned yet, so I’ll just throw out one word of caution: Beware of counterfeits! Counterfeiting designer clothing and accessories has become epidemic. If you find a brand-new or barely-used designer item for a price that seems too-good-to-be-true, there’s an excellent chance it’s a cheap knockoff.

If you’re going to buy an expensive luxury item, do your homework and learn what to look for so you don’t get ripped off and pay $100 for a $20 purse that really, really looks like a $300 purse.

Danielle
Danielle
10 years ago

I find renting to be helpful for special occasions, such as a wedding or function. Why pay for jewelry or a tux that you’ll only use once? An ongoing rental, however, doesn’t make much financial sense.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
10 years ago

I rented my wedding dress 🙂 But then I really fell in love with it and my husband bought it for me as a wedding present.

However if we’d stuck to the rental plan, the price would have been 1/3 the cost of buying and they did minor alterations and I wouldn’t have had to clean it and store it.

Now, of course, it’s in a box under a bed in my mother-in-law’s house (we live in a tiny place in Boston).

Nicole
Nicole
10 years ago

I agree with the people who say it is a great idea. This is like the one case where car leasing is a good idea. IF you are the type of person who MUST have a new luxury car every 2 years, then leasing will work for you. If you’re the type of person who MUST have a different luxury handbag at every event, then this is a great deal. Most of us think driving a new Mercedes for only two years or not getting full use out of a handbag is ridiculous… but this service is not for us.… Read more »

George
George
10 years ago

At #35: I respect your views, but I don’t think that the desire for status items is somehow artifical or Madison Avenue-implanted. If you look at economics, you will discover that there’s a whole category of products the quantity demanded of which DECREASES as the price decreases; in other words, the cheaper a product gets, the less people want it. Products that fall into these category are luxury items, the attraction of which lies in exclusivity and status. Having lived here in Switzerland for the past seven years and having witnessed these lifestyles first-hand (we’re talking $3,600 Chanel Coco Cabas… Read more »

Katrina
Katrina
10 years ago

I understand this post. Designer isn’t necessarily evil — it’s what people do to achieve it or how they flaunt it that’s evil. I appreciate a good designer bag because I feel the first items noticed on a body are glasses, shoes and purses. I’d like to be noticed as someone who takes care of their presentation and has earned their luxuries, not someone who wants to flaunt them. I also see designer as antiques because that is what they become. I dress discount in practically everything else. It all balances itself out and I probably spend less in clothing… Read more »

Marie
Marie
10 years ago

I have to agree about watching for counterfeits. While some people may not care about copyright infringement, the darker side of counterfeit designer products is that they use child labor. Do you need a fake bag so badly that you don’t mind that a kid got smacked around for not sewing it quickly enough?

Ellen
Ellen
10 years ago

I agree with Willow… I come to GRS to read about financial/lifestyle sanity. I was surprised at this blog article. It does not seem to fit into the tone of the blog.

It’s a PURSE. To hold your lipstick, Kleenex and cash. I’m not suggesting switching to a brown paper bag, I question the need of a $350-$2000 purse (an item that WILL get beat up over time– not an investment).

Jacque
Jacque
10 years ago

#32 Ami, I would counter that this site is more about making sound financial choices so you can get to a point where you are able to align your finances with your life goals and achieve financial independence. Although many here prefer a more minimalist approach to material goods, that doesn’t mean that those who don’t are to be looked down upon for having a less informed lifestyle. If a person like J.D. gets to the point in his financial journey that he can spend money on travel or a mini or another hobby, that’s great and we should all… Read more »

Des
Des
10 years ago

To the naysayers I would ask whether or not you rent a hotel room on vacation rather than buying a vacation home? A few will choose to buy, because they use the same vacation spot year end and year out. But, for most people, renting makes sense because it allows for variety and doesn’t tie you down to a large investment. To those who say designer clothes can never be frugal, I would ask if you EVER go on vacation. Vacations aren’t frugal, but they are fun. Some people (myself included) don’t take them because my money is better used… Read more »

Meg
Meg
10 years ago

I’m with Jacque. I think this post works for this site. Besides, there are people who might scoff at spending $400 on a designer purse, but think nothing of dropping as much (if not more) on a good entertainment system. It’s all about taste and personal preferences – while you might not want a designer purse, maybe you want a great sound system, or maybe you want to take your partner out for a fantastic meal. This is post is basically saying “If you want a designer purse or dress, here’s a way you can get one for less.” I’m… Read more »

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