Hosting Guests Without Spending Too Much Money

by Katy on April 20, 2024 · 21 comments

My college age nephew arrives tonight for a week-and-a-half long visit from New York and my plan is to indulge him without breaking the bank. Mind you, I’ll spoil him silly, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do so on a tight budget. My husband and I only have one niece, one nephew so we go all out when they visit.

Here’s what I’ve done to prepare to be the hostess with the mostess.

  • He’ll sleep in my adult son’s old childhood bedroom, which I’ve slowly set back up with the help of my local Buy Nothing group and a dash of creativity. I had to start from scratch refurnishing this room as my son moved his old furniture to his own apartment after college. I otherwise used what I already owned to pull the room back together and didn’t use this occasion as an excuse to buy anything new, or even used.

  • We’ll be dining out here and there, (Portland has almost endless amazing restaurant choices!) but I want to make sure it’s deliberate and not just because our days get away from us. I prepared and froze a variety of meals and also have ingredients for multiple crowd pleaser dishes that are quick to throw together. I’ll end up hosting multiple extended family meals and don’t want to be tied to the kitchen on those days. I jotted down all the planned food on a post-it note and stuck it on the front of the fridge so I won’t space out on my best laid plans.

  • We’ll indulge in some outings that cost nothing more than the exorbitant price of gasoline. Think day trips to the Oregon coast, Mount Hood, The Columbia Gorge and around the Portland area. He’d originally planned on visiting in January and we’d even booked hotel rooms for a couple days in Seattle, but we took that off the table as better weather means more stuff to do around town.

  • I wanted to give my nephew a bit of pocket money and coincidentally sold a thrifted $3 American Girl doll through Facebook Marketplace for $40 last night. I even told the buyer that I preferred cash to save myself a trip to the ATM. Also, my daughter gave me a box of Pocky a couple days ago and I saved it for guest room amenities.

I’ve hosted out of town family too many times to count and I know it can get expensive, especially when it comes to food as we’ll be out and about and then don’t have the time (or bandwidth) to pull together our standard frugal dinners. These meals can be served on almost any day of my nephew’s trip and I think of them as a favor to my future self.

Future Katy is a very lucky woman!

Do you have tips and tricks to hosting without breaking the bank? I’d love it if you shared your ideas in the comments section below!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Ann April 20, 2024 at 11:42 am

Hosting younger family members is very different than hosting adult friends.

Last summer I hosted a couple of ladies group at our cabin. Since I am not very comfortable in the kitchen, everyone buddied up and took a meal. I provided breakfast basics and coffee. Everyone is so generous and pleased to cook and pleased with the cabin I usually end up being treated most of the weekend. I also did the driving and the airport pickup – things that are very comfortable for me to do. To prep for their arrival, I found a fab piece of cloth and made piping for the 70s lime green towels I use up there. I added piping loops out of six different colors. I paired a bath towel with a hand towel of the matching color loop. I have an over the door hanger on the community bathroom. Everyone had their own hook and color.

For non-adults, I do a big run at Grocery outlet and buy the best deal snack since teens will eat anything. I stick with chicken pesto pasta for a dinner with my freezer save pesto I buy on the cheap. Any kind of home baked good is a huge hit. I make 3 ingredient biscuits, homemade bread, and or molasses cookies. I also have a nice cream cheese dip ( whipped cream cheese, sugar, lemon and vanilla.) I cut up a bunch of apples, and put them in a ziplock. Then I add pineapple juice or lemon juice and shake. Put a cute small bowl of the cream cheese on a large plate with the apple slices. So easy and there is always a good price on one kind of apple variety. A big hit and it can substitute for a salad.


Ecoteri April 20, 2024 at 10:15 pm

Brilliant and thoughtful and creative idea about the towels!


Lindsey April 20, 2024 at 12:03 pm

I had an adult friend visit during the coldest part of our winter, and it was about 40 below zero the entire week. I had not purchased any snacks so the first day we spent the day baking enough for a different snack every day of her visit, and froze the other half for future husband and me treats. It turned out to be a wonderful day, chatting and doing something together, plus we had treats she liked for the rest of the week—and for much cheaper than they would have cost at the grocery store. (And I learned that I love homemade caramel corn!) This money saving activity would not appeal to many, but she is coming again in a few weeks and asked to do the same thing so for her it was a frugal hit.


Ecoteri April 20, 2024 at 10:19 pm

I love cooking-together-as-THE-activity. Haven’t done it for a few years, must remember how much I enjoy it.
Mind you, I seem to be doing this at my daughter’s condo when I go down – slowly teaching her how to cook now that she is interested (and frugal, and hungry). We cook together and have a grand time


Kristen | The Frugal Girl April 20, 2024 at 12:42 pm

Aww, I hope your visit with him is wonderful!


Katy April 22, 2024 at 9:14 am

Thank you, he’s a great kid so I know it’ll be great!


A. Marie April 20, 2024 at 1:43 pm

Speaking strictly for myself, I find that the best hostessing policy is to roll with my guests’ known talents and preferences. Fortunately, I do not entertain Rockefellers or Gettys. ;-D

My two most frequent visitors in recent years have been my two besties, JASNA BFF and Grad School BFF, who love my local Wegmans superstore for very different reasons. JASNA BFF loves nothing more than to be given a free hand in the Wegmans bakery department (she usually travels home with a suitcase full of bread!), and then we stock up on ingredients for the simple meals she prefers, as she is not a foodie.

Grad School BFF, by contrast, is a foodie and an accomplished cook. So we visit Wegmans for different reasons–to enable her to stock up on any ingredients for her wonderful meals that I can’t conjure up from my freezer and pantry. I then give her a free hand in my kitchen, with delectable results.

I realize that this advice is Wegmans-centric, but for those of you not lucky enough to have a Wegmans in your area, the basic principle is one that both Katy and Kristen at TFG would endorse: Plan for eating as many meals at home as possible. As Kristen would say, even if you’re eating lobster at home, you’re still way ahead of eating meals out.


Pat April 21, 2024 at 8:22 am

Hard not to love Wegmans!
I too am a big fan of the bakery.


Selena April 21, 2024 at 7:12 pm

Rockefeller’s and Getty’s would have received the same hostessing from me as any other person. Doubt if it would have killed them lol.


Katy April 22, 2024 at 9:20 am

I love both of your friends’ reasons for shopping at Wegman’s!


Ruby April 20, 2024 at 2:22 pm

My house is not big enough to host a lot of people, but we made do for several months when a friend lived with us while starting a new job. I did a lot of simple home cooking — our guest loved chicken casseroles. We turned our seldom used living room into a guest room. I set up a spot for him to drink coffee on the front porch. Occasionally we went out to eat, but not often a lot of restaurants had closed for the pandemic. It worked out very well.


Katy April 22, 2024 at 9:11 am

Sounds like you really made do and employed some creative problem solving! Impressive.


Heidi Louise April 20, 2024 at 3:01 pm

As he is a relative, are there any projects you keep thinking you should get around to like sorting through old photos or old papers? Set aside an hour to tell stories about those people from before he was born?
My husband had his family’s home movies copied for all the siblings on VHS, and I wish I had recorded what they said when they watched together for the first time.


Katy April 22, 2024 at 9:10 am

I don’t have any old photos or papers here at my house, but my parents certainly both do.


Coral Clarke April 20, 2024 at 4:18 pm

I brought a series of family photo albums to display at my mother’s (97 years old) memorial service. So many people knew her from a particular time or activity, seeing her life “ in the round” was the source of much sharing, and brought to light previously unheard stories, so many “ I remember when…..” reminiscences!
Well worth bringing out the albums when older family members have visitors, encouraging a walk down memory lane! Take surreptitious notes if you are present for conversations afterwards.


Katy April 22, 2024 at 9:06 am

That’s such a great idea, thank you so much for sharing it!


BettafromdaVille April 21, 2024 at 8:28 am

Last fall I hosted a group of girlfriends (5 plus a small dog) at my work apartment, which is really just 2 rooms and a bathroom. We are all pretty frugal so here is what we did (also, it helps that they all drove).
1. Friday night: staggered arrival. We got “to go” burgers and fries from a local spot that makes exceptional burgers and fries. Friends had brought beer/wine/seltzer, snacks & desserts. I covered the price of the burgers and fries with a gift certificate from someone who had borrowed my apartment another weekend. No out-of-cost expenses.
2. I got tea bags for free from work (high end) that are donated (so did not cost work anything/not stealing!) – it was a total of 5 teabags since some of us drink coffee which I bought from Aldi. Sister has chickens so she brought farm fresh eggs and I made a baked pancake and used maple syrup that I received as a Christmas present.
3. I found a fantastic outdoor sculpture park that was free/entry by donation. I made a small donation for everyone (gotta support the arts!) and considered it equal to the price of gas that they had spent to come visit. We spent all day there with exception to leaving to go to a nearby gastropub.
4. I had made a mac ‘n cheese (using free cheese, milk, and breadcrumbs made from stale bread all free from mystery shop) and broccoli and pasta on sale and had put it in the freezer the previous week. We continued to eat the snacks, desserts, and drinks that everyone had brought.
5. Rather than go to the v. cool independent theatre and buy 5 tickets, we rented a $2.99 movie on Amazon and all watched it on my computer (okay, this was a bit sad, but it worked for us).
6. It helps that all 5 of us are pretty frugal, so everyone brought their own air mattress and towels (yes, it was wall-to-wall air mattresses in the apartment!) Really – it was a grown up slumber party. And it was FANTASTIC.
I think it was about $60 per person (all inclusive) for a fall weekend in the Hudson Valley, which is pretty remarkable.


Katy April 22, 2024 at 9:04 am

That sounds like so much fun, even everyone crowded around a single computer!


cathy April 22, 2024 at 8:56 am

Several years ago I converted our daughter’s old bedroom into a guest room. My goal was to create a nice space only using items we already owned. I gathered things up taking inspiration from the colors/patterns in a vintage patchwork quilt my mom handed down to me. I’m still amazed that the art, nightstands, rocking chair, throw pillows and blankets, planters and plant stands all go together to make the room seem well planned, and not completely haphazard. One of my favorite rooms in the house.


Tonya April 22, 2024 at 12:37 pm

I think the most important part of hosting guests frugally is mindset. I can start to want to spruce up parts of my house, buy fancy food and drinks, and spend a lot of money, when really, most guests just want to spend time together and catch up!


Katy April 23, 2024 at 8:19 am

So true, my 24-year-old nephew doesn’t care how my house looks.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: