Coupon Sherpa Blog

How to Entertain Houseguests Without Breaking the Bank

People sometimes think living a frugal life means never having fun. In fact worrying about money is the exact opposite result of my lifestyle. In truth, being careful with money leads to less grief over money and an infusion of joy in living simply.

For example, entertaining houseguests on a budget is a perfect opportunity to share the love. I can hear the protests: “But you never buy things!”

Au contraire! I’ve simply changed the way I buy things. Let me explain how this can work with guests by emphasizing the important stuff, like time spent together doing things my guests like, and downplaying the fluff, like impressing people with a fat wallet.

Read on for seven tips on how to entertain houseguests on a budget.

1. Plan, Plan, Plan
Let’s begin with the vintage wisdom that “time is money.” In other words, thinking ahead is key. Last-minute ideas mean paying someone else to do your job of entertaining. So as soon as you post a visit on the calendar, get to work so you can space things out and make it easier.

2. Atmosphere is Everything
Craft a plan for your guests’ comfort and enjoyment. Start with your home.  Get the guest bedroom (or couch) in shape. Put flowers and magazines on the nightstand. Make the bathroom into a spa by pulling out toiletries and placing them in a basket on the counter. Purchase a sampler-size gourmet coffee for the a.m. happy feeling.

3. Little Things Mean A Lot
Things I put in the spa basket include shampoo and conditioner, nice-smelling soap, body lotion, cotton ear swabs, pain killer and lip balm. All are selected from my collection of discounted bulk purchases or store samplers. I also put a sheet with our Internet log-in info, and notes about my schedule -- an appointment I had to keep, etc. -- and some emergency contact info.

4. Never Buy When You Can Borrow (or Rent)
If I need anything extra like an air mattress, I’ll borrow it. Ditto for chairs and tables when I throw a party for my visitors. I’ll rent things like cribs and car seats for babies, or bicycles for people who like to hit the trail. A rented movie with homemade popcorn and your guests’ choice of flick is an inexpensive way to entertain.

5. “Who” Matters More Than “How Much”
The key to keeping entertainment activities from costing a fortune is to make it personal. Some guests love a game night party with new people. Some would rather do activities during the day and have the night off to sit around and read a book or even do some work. In any case, overloading the schedule is a no-no.

6. Get Creative
Talk to your friends after you’ve done some research on activities. Look for coupons, promotions or free things to do. Some thoughts are hiking a nature trail with a picnic, buying discount tickets to a ball game, and hitting the farmers’ market before heading home to play “Top Chef.”

7. Frugal Food Ideas
I have an annual guest who absolutely loves to show off in the kitchen. Then again, some people announce cooking is the last thing they want to do. In that case, I’ll cook ahead or freeze tea breads and muffins to have treats for breakfast. The idea is to enjoy time with friends, instead of spending all my time in the kitchen.

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