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How to be a Generous Host Without Busting the Budget

Guest post by Katey from Having Fun at Home

With the holidays nearing, many families find themselves with a house full of guests and a temptation to overspend so that their visitors feel welcome and have a nice visit. Here are some creative ideas for being warmly hospitable without spending too much money:

1. Be attentive to little details.

  • Place a bouquet of bright fall leaves from the backyard on the guestroom dresser.
  • Have your kids make a welcome banner.
  • Spread a couple of magazines you think your guests might enjoy on the nightstand in their room.
  • If your guests are coffee drinkers, put a coffeemaker and coffee in their bedroom.
  • Keep a basket full of travel toiletries available in case someone forgets something.
  • If you wanted to be over the top, you could even put chocolates on their pillow or try your hand at toilet paper origami!
  • These ideas cost next to nothing but communicate care!

2. Become familiar with free outings in your area.

  • Look into factory tours.
  • Find good hiking trails.
  • Figure out if there are any unusual claims to fame nearby. For example, here in Austin, we have North America’s largest urban bat colony. Every night, they make a dramatic appearance and are lots of fun to watch!
  • Around Christmas, keep an eye on the neighborhoods that seem to be the most decorated and drive through them together one evening.
  • Ask around to find out the best sledding hill in town.

3. Opt for fun, community-building meals rather than impressive menus.

  • Make homemade pizzas together.
  • Build a fire in the backyard and roast hot dogs.
  • Set out lots of fresh ingredients, and let everyone string their own shish kabobs.
  • Serve “Breakfast for Dinner.”
  • Arrange for the men to be the chefs one night (or the kids if they are old enough!).

4. Make your home an enjoyable place to be.

  • Stock your closet with lots of cards and board games. (German board games can be especially absorbing for adults and teenagers.)
  • Keep a mental list of fun projects that everyone can do at the same time while still enjoying conversation (stringing popcorn garlands, putting together a surprise gift package for a mutual friend).
  • Start a fire in the fireplace and roast marshmallows.
  • Allow the kids a place of their own where they can make things together, get dirty, and have adventures (a basement or a fort in the back yard).

5. Apply yourself to the task of heartily enjoying your guests.

Heartily enjoy your guests and it will make it almost impossible for them not to have a good time!

Katey enjoys hosting her own house guests as a stay-at-home wife and mother in Austin, Texas. Her blog, Having Fun at Home, is resource for fun, inexpensive ideas for families.

photo credit

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37 Comments

  • I love your final suggestion: “Apply yourself to the task of heartily enjoying your guests.”
    It is the most important tip of all. Thanks for your great insight into home entertaining.

  • DonnaJ says:

    I would also add, to have a basket of goodies that anyone can get when the munchies strike…ind. packs of raisins, fruit snacks, snack size cracker packs, etc. Then people don’t have to “ask” if they get hungry. The ind. packs do cost more than bulk packaging but with planning/coupons/sales this can still be a cost effective splurge for your company. (And leftovers, we put in a basket in our van, so we have a snack when we are running errands and it didn’t cost us anything.)

    • Elise says:

      Oh yes, that’s a fantastic idea! I can’t even remember all the times staying at a friend’s home that I’ve wished I’d had room to pack more snacks.

    • Ashley says:

      Or you can create your own snack-size bags by dividing up bigger bags into snack size baggies. 🙂

    • I agree! We have a “snack” basket on the kitchen counter with granola bars, packets of nuts, raisins, and other goodies. The kids, guests or anyone passing through knows where it is and they can help themselves at any time.

      *We keep cheese sticks, yogurt, and drinks in the fridge as well.

      *On the back of our guest room toilets we have a basket full of toiletry items – toothpaste, mouthwash, new toothbrush, brush, comb, lotion, soap, hairspray, deodorant, etc…. that your guests can use. They don’t have to ask you for it and if you shop the sales it really doesn’t cost you much and makes your home a welcoming place for others.

      *Empty out a dresser drawer(s) or closet space in the guest room for them to put their items.

      *Plan fun activities that all the guests will enjoy. If it is a family staying with you for a long period of time (sometimes we’ll have missionaries stay with us). You can offer to watch all the kids so the parents can have a “Date Night”!

      We love having guests stay with us and have had people stay from a couple days to 3 weeks.

    • I love that idea! A lot of guests would feel shy about rummaging through one’s refrigerator but not a basket set out specifically for them.

  • Katie says:

    What are some German board games and where does one find them?

  • kelli says:

    What great ideas! What German board games are fun? Sounds intriguing!

  • Vieve says:

    I third the question, German board games? Fabulous, fabulous post. It all sounds so welcoming and cozy!

  • Great ideas!

    We live in London and it’s very expensive here. We know all the free stuff that’s going on and do not go with our guests if they want to visit expensive tourist places we have been several times.

    We also have several London tour books, tube maps, 2 for 1 deals, for our guests to check out.

  • We love German board games! Days of Wonder publishes two of our favorites, Ticket to Ride and Smallworld. Ticket to Ride is a great, simple first German board game. Ravensburger also makes good German board games. Overall, German board games are more of a genre of games than being specific to Germany. Lots of fun!

    • Stephanie says:

      ticket to ride is fun, settlers of catan, carcassone, alhambra, zooloretto, elfenland, transamerica, san juan, dominion are all good games and hey that’s my fish is fun for kids.
      boardgamegeek.com is a good place to get game ratings from players and to purchase/trade new and used games.

    • Hmmm…I just looked at the Ravensburger site in more depth and realized those might be some of the games we enjoy, but not really within the German board games genre. Board Game Geek, a site my husband uses a lot, has a good list of German board games that are good for family play.

  • Ashley says:

    My husband and I travel full-time for a Christian college and spend part of the time as leaders for a college singing group. Because of this, we stay in people’s houses all the time. Some of the most welcoming gestures were these simple ones already listed.

    One more thing I would suggest would be to simply put a card in their room with a personal greeting. It means so much! It was actually the houses that were perfect and had everything in order that were usually the least comfortable. Don’t stress and as Crystal said…just enjoy!

  • What about doing your events pot luck? I’ve always been able to save tons of $$$ by having my guests bring some of the food.

  • Rachel says:

    Thanks so much for this post and all the wonderful tips! We am hosting my sister and brother in law for Thanksgiving, and I was starting to fret with un-necessary complicated menus and such! I love all the little touch ideas too!

  • Kelly says:

    Timely advice as I am hosting a long-time friend and her baby later this week!

  • Lindsie says:

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing!

  • I agree with the great ideas the author listed! Thanks for sharing!

    *We have a “snack” basket on the kitchen counter with granola bars, packets of nuts, raisins, and other goodies. The kids, guests or anyone passing through knows where it is and they can help themselves at any time.

    *We keep cheese sticks, yogurt, and drinks in the fridge as well for our guests.

    *On the back of our guest room toilets we have a basket full of toiletry items – toothpaste, mouthwash, new toothbrush, brush, comb, lotion, soap, hairspray, deodorant, etc…. that your guests can use. They don’t have to ask you for it and if you shop the sales it really doesn’t cost you much and makes your home a welcoming place for others.

    *Empty out a dresser drawer(s) or closet space in the guest room for them to put their items.

    *Plan fun activities that all the guests will enjoy. If it is a family staying with you for a long period of time (sometimes we’ll have missionaries stay with us). You can offer to watch all the kids so the parents can have a “Date Night”!

    *Check on your guests dietary / food or other allergies prior to their arrival. Find out if they like coffee in the morning or other items so you can be prepared with the appropriate items to make them comfortable (which also helps you avoid purchasing extra items that they normally wouldn’t eat or use).

    We love having guests stay with us and have had people stay from a couple days to 3 weeks.

  • Nancy says:

    Great tips! It is so easy to overdo on the holidays. I think trying to be a relaxed host helps guests relax. I also like for my guests to help themselves to beverages and snacks so I am not trying to anticipate everyone’s needs. I like the goody basket idea!

  • Keira says:

    Settlers of Catan (and all its variations!) and “Thurn and Taxis” are some German-origin board games our extended family likes to play. They’re not played IN German, mind you! 🙂

    • Kristie says:

      We love Settlers! And I may have missed it on here, but did anyone mentioned Dutch Blitz (not exactly German . . .). Very fun and simple! Loved this post. Very sweet ideas!

      • Jennifer C. says:

        We love Settlers, too! Definitely recommend to anyone who is really “into” games, especially strategy games. They also have a particular add on too called Das Buch, it’s a bunch of variations of the orginal game that were entered into a contest.

  • Jennifer says:

    Great ideas! I will never forget staying unexpectedly with our friends parents one night. They insisted on us having their bedroom and I was surprised to see she kept a box of “extra” toiletries for guests. It was so nice to be able to brush our teeth and have a razor. It was a good lesson for me to remember.

  • Meredith says:

    I love this post since my thanksgiving visitors are coming tomorrow (not staying the whole time, doing a state tour). However, the only one I don’t do is the simple meals believe it or not. Maybe for a random Tuesday but I don’t do fancy the rest of the year so it gives me an excuse to go a bit over the top. Which I actually love to do in the kitchen.

  • Lana says:

    Last year I put enough main dishes in the freezer to cover all of the supper meals that our kids and grandkids were home for during Christmas. I got to spend so much more time with the family and the visit was so enjoyable for me since all I had to do was thaw and heat and make salads. I will be starting on this years’ meals soon as I plan to do it that way from now on!

    One other item I put out for guests is a few bottles of water. They don’t have to be refrigerator cold to quench night time thirst. I hate waking up thirsty in the night as a guest and wondering if I should go to the kitchen and get a drink or what.

  • sarah beals says:

    I loved this post! A pretty tray of tea and cookies served up beautifully shows forethought, and it is always the fellowship that makes your time enjoyable.

  • Suzanne H says:

    Also, always make sure you put out towels that are CLEARLY for the guests’ use and plenty of them. There is nothing worse than staying somewhere and not having enough towels and/or not knowing which ones are intended for your use. Personally I use 2 towels – 1 for hair and 1 for body so I hate only having 1 towel esp. a tiny towel! LOL I always put out a hand towel, 2 bath towels, bath sheet (if it’s a lady – we like our big towels) and a washcloth for every guest when they come. If they are staying for awhile, I put out 2 washclothes. I try to lay them out in a decorative manner on the bed they will be sleeping in. Also, I love putting together baskets for them with all of the freebie samples I get in the mail. Most people really like it – not only are they okay if they forgot something but they frequently get to try something new!

  • Clarissa says:

    Another suggestion is to have a small fan or method of temperature control in the room your guests will spend the night. They’ll probably sleep with the door closed for privacy, and rooms can get stuffy with no air flow.

    Having a mirror on the wall for getting ready in the morning is also a help (bonus points if it’s close to an outlet for a curling iron or blow dryer cord to reach!).

    The bottles of water are also a great idea!

  • Kristy says:

    This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. I have been worrying about this topic with 8 family members invited to our house for Christmas and then an unexpected big expense that will cut our budget for the holidays. #1 and #5 are going to be the very most important things for me to focus on, I think. People will have a drastically different time depending on whether they are being hosted by someone who is anxious or someone who is just happy to see them.

    Oh, and everyone who posted about euro or German games…we love those, too, and always break out at least one when we have guests. Love boardgamegeek.com! My favorite is Pandemic for a cooperative game. We found Tales of the Arabian Nights to be a visitor-friendly game, although I will never count it as one of my personal favorites.

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