One week from today my husband and I will be hosting my father and four of my aunts and uncles for an impromptu reunion at our home. This is truly a historic event, as my father’s side of the family lives all over the country (Michigan, PA, Arizona, and New Jersey) and rarely gets together outside of funerals and weddings (and not everyone, even for these occasions). As such, we want to make our home and Houston a great backdrop for such a special occasion. This will also be my father’s first trip to Houston since I moved here in 2008 and the first time seeing our home. It means a lot to us! I thought I would take the time to discuss ways to save money when preparing for guests, as well as when guests arrive.
Don’t Try to Do it All
We purchased our home two and a half years ago and have done some great work to it—renovating our master bathroom, renovating the powder room, painting several rooms, renovating the laundry room, etc. But we still want to upgrade some more of the rooms. The list of what I would love to accomplish before guests arrive is quite long: paint the dining room, install a new toilet in the guest bathroom, finish the garage floor, etc. Fortunately, I realized several months ago that not only could we not physically finish all of these projects before everyone arrives, but our bank account would take an unnecessary hit if we tried. It is far better to stretch the projects out for sanity and monetary purposes.
Fix What is Important
Typically only two of us live in our home. When I found out five extra people would be here for a week, I started to think about any weak spots that would add unnecessary stress to our time together. For one, the guest bathroom had a slow draining bathtub. Another issue was that our dishwasher broke a few months ago. These are two issues that we decided needed to be addressed before anything else, so we turned our resources to these areas. We are fortunate to have brought in a plumber for the bathtub, because it turns out we had a leak that we did not know about (that is, until the water started leaking through our living room ceiling days before he came). It turns out that the previous owners had tried to fix the leak on their own and did a poor job; our home inspector missed it . Because this is a bathroom we rarely use, it was a ticking time bomb. Thank goodness the bomb exploded (i.e. part of our ceiling collapsed) before the five guests began taking showers! We also scored free delivery and installation on a new dishwasher, and were able to use a 10% coupon. This was a lot of money spent all at once, but these are issues that needed to be fixed anyway and by prioritizing we had the budget in place to handle these costs.
Borrow from Friends and Neighbors
Having lots of family and friends under the same roof is so much fun—you really get to spend a lot more time together. Also, providing a place to stay for everyone can cut down on their costs substantially. However, most of us do not have three extra beds hanging around! You may be able to borrow air beds from friends, family in the area, or neighbors. For extra seating at dining and kitchen areas, you can also borrow chairs and perhaps a fold-up table. People who like to give parties typically have extra seating and depending on your relationship with them, you could ask to borrow these.
Plan a Few Meals Together
Everyone needs to eat, and usually meals are together to get the most amount of time with everyone. If it’s your home, you have the ability to cut down on everyone’s costs (as you would likely go out to eat at restaurants all week as well) by planning a few big meals in your home. Offering this option could be a great alternative for your guests as well. You may wish to ask for volunteers to contribute for a breakfast, a lunch, a dinner, etc. If everyone pitches in, the savings can be substantial versus the alternative of eating out each meal.
Hosting breakfast is probably the easiest meal as well as the least expensive to purchase. If you don’t want to get up to cook, you could make a variety of flavored cream cheeses  and provide bagels from a local shop. Pancake batter (here is a recipe for my favorite pumpkin pancakes —the scratch version) can be made ahead of time and cooked-to-order as people wake up. Breakfast casseroles  are easy to prepare and crowd pleasers.
Deli meats, cheeses, fruit or a salad, condiments, and sandwich rolls could provide a few lunches (and mid-afternoon snacks—I know my husband is obsessed with sandwiches). Another lunch could be made in the crock pot, such as pulled pork sandwiches  or sloppy Joes.
A large salad and homemade lasagna is a manageable dinner to make for group of people.
Consider Purchasing Coupons
There are probably several attractions you would love everyone to go to in your hometown. In order to save people (and yourself) money, it might be worth it to purchase an Entertainment book or a CityPASS  if you are in a city where it is available. It is definitely worth researching any free days/discount days at museums and other attractions in your area. For example, the Houston Zoo offers free first Tuesdays of the month after 2:00, and the Houston Museum of Art offers free Thursdays. Call ahead to a few places to see if they offer group discounts.
No matter what, remember that time spent with family and friends is priceless. You do not need to break your bank or back attempting to make things perfect. You also don’t need to paint the town red and see everything at the location you are at; in fact, my husband and I think that just choosing a few specific attractions will lead to a better trip because no one will be worn out and more time can be spent on each experience.
Have you ever hosted a group of people? Any suggestions for how to save everyone money?