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As a mum of three on a single-income budget, Melissa Beeton is determined to make every household purchase count. 

“I pretty much just got sick of buying toys,” she said.

“There’s not a whole lot of disposable income for us to spend on stuff that’s not going to be used all the time.”

For the past year, Ms Beeton has been a member and volunteer at her local toy library in Townsville in north Queensland, which allows her to rent from a large collection of toys each month for a subscription fee.

A mother and her three daughters pose and smile while holding toys, in front of a shelf of more toysA mother and her three daughters pose and smile while holding toys, in front of a shelf of more toys
Melissa Beeton says she saved $5,000 by renting toys through the Townsville Toy Library. (ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

“We’ll get board games, puzzles, there are some beautiful wooden toys – really expensive wooden toys – that we probably wouldn’t be able to afford to purchase normally.

“It’s made a huge difference for us … and it’s really supported a whole lifestyle shift.”

There are more than 280 not-for-profit toy libraries across the country, from major city centres to small rural towns.

The Townsville Toy Library reopened its doors on Sunday after a three-month hunt for a new space to house its growing collection.

The library has about 300 members and 2,000 toys on its shelves.

A woman in a purple volunteer shirt stares at a wall of toys in small plastic boxes A woman in a purple volunteer shirt stares at a wall of toys in small plastic boxes
The Townsville Toy Library caters to babies through to 12 year olds.(ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

Hundreds of families attended the opening and the queue of eager borrowers stretched out the door. 

President Catherine Cipollino said she expected membership to grow significantly as families looked for solutions to alleviate soaring household costs, including groceries and fuel.

“Everything’s going up except our payslips – it is very tough at the moment,” Ms Cipollino said.

“I have a 14-year-old, and back when he was younger, I would be spending around $15 for a toy to take with him to a party.

A woman in a pink shirt behind a desk serves toys to a customer A woman in a pink shirt behind a desk serves toys to a customer
Catherine Cipollino says she expects interest in toy libraries to grow as families look for ways to keep costs down. (ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

Members can borrow up to eight toys a month, with the collection catering for babies to children aged 12.

For Townsville environmental scientist Stephanie Duce, the decision to rent toys for her young children is about sustainability as much as money-saving.

“They get sick of toys so quickly that it’s really exciting each month for them to get a new batch of toys, and also to learn that we don’t need to keep everything – we can borrow things and then give them back,” Ms Duce said.

A mother and young son sit at a table and smile while playing with a toy truckA mother and young son sit at a table and smile while playing with a toy truck
Stephanie Duce and her son Clancy are enthusiastic members of the Townsville Toy Library. (ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

“Waste is a huge issue at the moment, and most toys now are made of plastics and degrade and break down into microplastics that damage the environment and particularly the ocean.

“So in a small way, I guess this helps to offset that and not drive more and more demand for them.”

A toddler in a play room filled with toys holds a colourful truck made of blocks.A toddler in a play room filled with toys holds a colourful truck made of blocks.
Members of the Townsville Toy Library have a collection of 2,000 toys to borrow from. (ABC North Qld: Lily Nothling)

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