The U.S. economy may be starting to show signs of life, but that's not stopping many people from begging, borrowing and stealing to make sure their cash goes a little further. And while some the largest U.S. banks and Bernard Madoff might have cornered the market on the "begging" and "stealing" parts, respectively, consumers have an ever-widening array of methods for handling of the "borrowing" part, and with far more pride and less public scrutiny.

With that in mind, here's are a few unusual items people can save money on by renting instead of buying.

car rimsLoan Riders: Car Rims

The license plate frame on your car may say "Don't laugh, it's paid for," but that doesn't mean its bling has to be. Whether you're pimping the ride or tricking the truck, dozens of stores across the U.S. let customers rent car rims. For as little as $20 a week for a set of 20-inch rims, customers can start rent-to-own programs at chains such as EZ Rims 4 Rent, which has a half-dozen stores in California and Nevada, and RimTyme, which operates primarily out of the Southeast. Both companies offer the option of returning the rims and canceling the rental agreement if your financial situation -- or mind -- changes.

designer handbagFashion Forward: Handbags

If you take pride in the logo that's on your handbag, but still care about how much cash is actually in it, take heart. Some companies will let you rent the perfect fashion accessory for a few days. Orange County, Calif.-based BagTropolis offers short-term possession of Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs and a half-dozen other brands whose retail prices often run well into the thousands of dollars. Rentals range from $20 a week to about $300 a month, and the company, which takes orders online, can ship the same day as the order.

Home Depot toolsRatchet Up the Savings: Tools

Now that average U.S. home prices having dropped back to 2003 levels, lots of folks are figuring that it's better to fix up the home they have than to sell it at a loss and try to secure financing from that oh-so-cautious bank. The good news is that you don't even have to buy the tools to tackle your projects. Some of the biggest home-improvement chains let people rent tools by the hour or day.

Home Depot (HD) offers rentals of more than 300 tools at about half of its nearly 2,000 U.S. stores. Machinery is a big draw, with carpet cleaners fetching for $18 for a four-hour rental.

"The rental business has shown strong demand as DIY customers tackle more projects," says David Dorton, vice president of tool rental for Home Depot. And if you really want to save cash, cities such as Berkeley, Calif., and Portland, Ore., have public libraries that offer tool rentals to people who show proof of city residency, meaning you can borrow everything from a hammer to a portable workbench to a carpet power stretcher. You even get charged a late fee if you bring the tool back after the checkout period expires, just like you were a kid again.

iPhoneTalk of the Town: iPhones

Apple (AAPL) may be selling its iPhones to 15 million people every quarter, but that doesn't mean you need to be one of them, at least for the short term. If you're stuck in your existing mobile phone plan and don't want to shell out the $500 or so for a 3G phone, there are companies that offer people the chance to test drive iPhones before being lured into Steve Jobs's web of influence. InTouch USA charges $89 a week and $240 a month, while iPhone Trip offers iPhone and SIM Card plans that start at $11 a day for people who either want to try out the iPhone or take it on an overseas trip.

casketLast Chance to Save: Caskets

Your final financial decision may be a smart one if you decide ahead of time that you don't need to own your casket eternally. The concept is more compromise than creepy. For families who want a public viewing or service for a person whose remains will be cremated, some funeral homes offer the option of renting a casket. These caskets, which can cost as much as $10,000 when purchased -- are fitted with "inner containers" that can be removed along with the deceased, leaving the rest of the casket available for reuse, and giving the family one last reason to toast your frugality.

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G2 Services, Ltd

I wish that I could have rented my first wife. It would have saved me a lot of money. LOL

March 17 2011 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If you are going to rent a phone for $240 a month, why not just shell out the other $260 and own it? You could always sell it later.

March 16 2011 at 12:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

You even have to pay for cremation. I for one will be donating my body to science. let some high school and college students try to figure out what was going on... :D that way, no money paid for expenses of disposal.

March 14 2011 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Can Obama rent a rational brain?

March 13 2011 at 5:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Renting a coffin does sound gross. Once your dead, your dead.... The avrage cost of a funeral, including burial, its a lot. Its immoral and disgusting and sad. Its just not right to have their family suffer to pay a hell of a lot of money for that thing. Its just gross and you can spend much more money on the things that are fun and better use. Just pathetic.....

March 10 2011 at 3:31 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to NYPurpleGirl's comment

There is no law that says anyone has to pay anything for a funeral. You can go from the morgue to the crematoriam for the price of your government death benefit.Scatter the ashes at sea. Case closed. People want to spend the money in death for the same reasons they want to spend the money in life.And some very religious people need the ceremonies that they feel bring them closure.

March 16 2011 at 7:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd have no problem with renting a casket. Cremation and embalming are against my religion, and I see no point in wasting money on a fancy casket when I just want my body to return to the earth the way the Goddess intended. Actually, just stick my body in a cheap wood box and a sliver of earth. No embalming, no concrete vault (which defeats the purpose of a burial, after all-the worms can't get at your body that way), no fancy casket. The trouble is, around here the cemeteries don't go in for "green" burials like that for the stupidest reasons. The one in our town insists on vaults because "they keep the backhoe from getting stuck." Go back to gravediggers then, for crying out loud! After all, it works for the Amish!

March 10 2011 at 9:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dragondancer1814's comment

Most people dont want to think of their loved ones writhing in a mass of maggots 6 feet under.They are not mentally prepared for that.Although a few years in a casket is no beauty treatment either I guess they feel its more protected and eternal and that the person will "look good" when the last trump blows.

March 16 2011 at 7:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mikie walker


March 09 2011 at 11:08 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mikie walker's comment

Heres a thought....maybe we are spending enough money overseas?????

March 16 2011 at 7:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So what is so unusual about renting? in certain counties here in Nevada, you can even legally rent a woman at a bordello and it is completely legal, but NOT in Clark county (Las Vegas) or Washoe County, (Reno).

March 09 2011 at 8:29 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

when was this article written?
$500. for a 3g iphone? rent for $89 a week?
you can buy one for $50.

March 09 2011 at 6:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

At first I thought renting a casket was a good idea, but why does it have to cost $1,200? All you need it for is 1-2 days, maybe even just a few hours if it is for the funeral only or if the wake is restricted to certain hours. This is a rip-off! I'll get a cardboard box.

March 09 2011 at 6:45 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply