Saving money while hosting guests

Having just spent the last 48 hours desperately scrubbing my home from top-to-bottom in anticipation of the arrival of some house guests, I appreciated The Simple Dollar's post this morning about how to prepare (and save money) when you are expecting overnight visitors.

Hosting is fun, but it can be pricey. Here are some ideas for making guests feel welcome without breaking the bank.

Some of Trent's tips:

Dine in more often - Wow, this is a big one for me. People who visit me tend to hark from small towns with lousy Chinese food, so it's tempting to take my guests out for every single meal. I mean, Seattle has a wide range of good eats, so I can easily spend a fortune showing off the culinary variety of the city. But hot damn, is that expensive. What I've settled on is one meal out for every three meals eaten at home. I still get to show off my city's cuisine, but I don't have to hand over my first-born to the credit card companies when the visit is over. Because I don't like cooking in the summer, I just go to Trader Joe's and buy some nice cheeses, cracker, fruit, salad and wine. For $30, I can feed four people a nice, light meal.

Make a list of inexpensive local activities - This is tough in Seattle, where all the cool stuff is pricey (especially for kids). This is when taking advantage of local parks is key. Visitors who bring their dogs might be happy to see some of your local pet-friendly areas. While our museums and zoo/aquarium are ridiculously pricey, we have lots of art galleries, and of course, the local gem that is Pike Place Market. That's where I drag my guests, and no one has every complained.

Get your car ready - Gas up and inflate your tires. This kind of maintenance is key to keeping your car happy, but doing it before guests arrive also saves the hassle of trying to do it once they are actually there.

Check out more of Trent's tips at The Simple Dollar.

Some other tips for gracious-but-not-spendy hosting:

  • OK, so this one is pricey, but worth it! If you, like me, don't have a lot of extra furniture for guests, inflatable air mattresses are a godsend. I shelled out over $200 for mine (it's the taller kind), but it's been a lifesaver. I don't have a couch, and no one likes sleeping on a pull-out bed anyway. It's easy to store, and most people find it really comfortable. I make a point of using a mattress protector, my best sheets, and a nice comforter on it, so it feels more luxurious than it really is.
  • Coffee! A lot of people drink coffee in the morning. I don't anymore, but when I used to, I remember the feeling of horror when I would wake up and realize that my guests didn't have a coffeemaker, and the nearest Starbucks was 10 miles away. Now, even though I don't drink coffee, I keep a coffeemaker in a storage closet and some good, ground beans in the freezer, where they will keep for months. It saves my guests the withdrawal headaches, and saves me the hassle of running down to Starbucks for four lattes every morning. Tea will suffice for British house guests, in my experience. Make sure to have cream on hand!
  • Collect some tourist maps and brochures from travel agencies, or your local chamber of commerce. These should be free, and guests often appreciate having some idea of what to do, especially if you aren't free to entertain them every day of their visit.
  • I like to give my guests access to my computer. I just set up a guest account so they can get online and check out whatever they need.
  • For guests who haven't brought their own car, a handful of bus schedules and some extra quarters can be a lifesaver. This one doesn't save you much money, but it'll make your Euro-guests happy.
  • I don't have a TV, but I leave interesting books (both fiction and non-fiction, often about local interest) in the guest room, just in case my visitors are bored or have trouble sleeping.
  • I rarely have much in my fridge, but I try to stock up on the basics when guests arrive. Milk, eggs, cheese, bread, and whatever produce is in season. If you trust your guests in your kitchen, letting them cook can help THEM save money. Plus, they might end up cooking for you.
  • I ALWAYS wash the guests towels before they arrive, even if they are clean. Something about summertime humidity can leave linens smelling musty, so I just throw everything through a quick cold wash and tumble dry before everyone gets there. Nice-smelling sheets and towels make people feel more at home, and it barely costs anything.

One thing that I used to do, but don't anymore, is buy fresh flowers for each room in the house. Most of my guests prefer to buy me flowers as a thank-you fo the visit, so I just sit back and let the blooms arrive. Unless you have your own garden, cut flowers can get really pricey.

What do Wise Bread readers do to make people feel at home when visiting?

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Jessica Okon's picture

when can I come visit?

Guest's picture

I tend to prepare before my guest arrive by making and freezing a lasagna. I then pull it out and set the oven timer to start and hour and a half before I serve. All I need to do is throw a salad together and fresh fruit for desert. I also assemble and freezing breakfast bread pudding. Bake banana bread and muffins.
This allows me to spend more time relaxing when company is here. Last time I had a total of 16 to feed. We dined in as the logistics of going out was more frightening!