Teacher cuts costs and carbon footprint with ingenious Christmas hack

A single mum and teacher from Shrewsbury has decided to cut costs and reduce her carbon footprint at Christmas by renting her children’s presents – and then returning them once the kids get bored.

Jen Otter, 34, was determined not to fill her new home with unloved toys when she moved back to England in March 2019 after living in Thailand for seven years.

However, she still wanted to treat her daughters, Lilly and Rosie, for Christmas – so she came up with a different way of doing things.

Jen joined the toy swapping website Whirli, which costs £13.33 for a monthly subscription – a steal compared to a recent Nationwide Building Society survey saying that parents spent around £100 per child at Christmas.

The mum 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.’

She sent her elder daughter’s present ‘back on New Year’s Eve’ last year. It was a ‘big Lottie tree house with all the dolls’.



‘It was amazing and should have cost around £236, but within a few days, she was bored and wasn’t playing with it anymore, so I sent it back,’ explained Jen.

Not only is this approach more cost effective, Jen also wanted to be conscious of her children’s environmental impact.

‘This has to be far better than binning unwanted items and seeing them end up in a landfill,’ she said.



‘I witnessed [my daughters] show interest in toys for a few moths and then get bored of them so I wanted to find a way to not create a lot of landfill.

‘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.’

The scheme on Whirli allows Otter to rent toys all year around, so she will pick Christmas presents in early December, returning just a month later in the new year.

‘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,’ Jen added. ‘Last year, Lilly’s Lottie Tree House was beautiful. She woke up on Christmas morning to it and loved it.’

‘But then, by New Year, I sent it back because she stopped playing with it. It’s completely normal to my daughter now for their toys not the be there forever.’

A poll by the British Heart Foundation reported that 25% of parents admit to throw away toys that work perfectly, while children have an average of four toys they have never played with. Otter is determined to change this for her own family.


Jen and her family live in a ‘two-bedroom house and don’t have the space for lots of toys,’ and this was a good solution for her to keep the clutter away from her home.

Additionally, though she previously ‘would buy from charity shops,’ and donate them back when the kids were done with them, she was always ‘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 will often encourage family members and friends to buy experiences for the kids, like dance lessons or theatre tickets as ‘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’.



However, if Jen’s daughters love a present and get ‘really attached to something,’ she will buy it. Whirli allows you to buy the toy you’re renting if you want to keep it. After a few months, the toy will be discounted so Jen can ‘make sure the girls liked [the toy] before spending a lot of money on it’.

‘By doing it this way, I was able to make sure that the girls liked it before spending a lot of money on it.’

Jen is hoping more parents will support her idea and choose ‘renting over buying,’ as it doesn’t reduce the fun and excitement around Christmas Day and ‘it means that you’re not buying presents for the sake of it… you’re getting the kids what they want… without breaking the bank’.

‘It’s the gift that keeps on giving,’ Jen added.

How Whirli works

Go to Whirli’s website, sign up and then pick your package – there are different packages with different token limits. For instance, you can get 120 tokens, which are worth £120.

After you pick your package, choose your first pick of toys from the website equalling the amount of tokens that come with your subscription and pay the fee for pick-up or delivery.

You will be able to get access to the toys you’ve chosen within a few days, and then you can use them to play with your little one.

Once they get bored, you can send the unloved toys back to Whirli, where they will be ‘recycled’ and chosen by other families.

You can then pick brand-new toys to rent!

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