When I moved from New York City to Massachusetts, plenty of friends wanted to visit. They not only missed me, but also wanted to escape from the city. During the first few months after my move, I hosted groups of these out-of-town guests nearly every other weekend. They were on vacation and ready to shell out for expensive brunches, hefty bar tabs, and pricey coffees.
I budget for an occasional weekend splurge, but twice a month proved too rich for my blood. I needed to strike a balance between my guests’ expectations and my financial constraints. Here are a few tricks I learned for how to be a good host, even when you're on a budget:
1. Mention Your Budget in Advance
Discussing your budget doesn’t have to be a big conversation. Start by asking what your friends want to do during the visit or what their budget for the trip is.
Try saying, “I’m excited to have you visit. But just FYI, I’m on a bit of a tight budget these days, but there’s tons of stuff I have in mind and you’re welcome to break away for an afternoon if you’re interested in doing something or eating somewhere on the more expensive side.”
2. Step Back and Figure Out Why Your Friends Are Visiting
Chances are, your friends are in town to check out your city. But mainly, they’re in town to see you.
Sometimes out-of-town guests care about how they spend every minute of every day, but they often just want to hang out.
One of the biggest mental blocks I had was making sure they had a good time doing visitor-y things. The truth is, though, that they were really visiting because they missed me. (I swear I’m not just saying this — I asked!) So don’t be afraid of “ruining” their chance to see your city by being budget-conscious.
3. Build in Cheap or Free Things to Do With Friends
If you plan in advance, you won’t end up feeling like a killjoy or a drag. Try eating at least one meal at home every day (this could increase to two or even three, depending on your budget). Don’t just make this the fallback option. Besides, it can be fun!
A couple of days before my friends’ arrival, I assess what I already have in my fridge and come up with a tasty extra I can add to it — fresh berries if I’ve got a lot of yogurt, fancy cream cheese if I have bagels, or avocados if I have eggs and tortillas (breakfast tacos!).
4. Suggest Alternative Things to Do With Your Friends
It’s so easy to go along with the pack, but chances are, your guests will be down to spend less money. Don’t be afraid to be the person to suggest cheaper — or even free — options for things to do with friends.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”
Sometimes it’s worth sticking your neck out for the relief of staying within your financial bounds. If the visit is a source of stress, not joy, then what’s the point?
6. You Don’t Have to Do Something Every Second of Every Day
Build in some chill time at home (board games! movie nights!), in a park, or at a free museum. Or you can hang out at the coffee shop or restaurant longer.
Activities, entertainment, barhopping, and meals out are all expensive. Do you really have to spend all your time doing things that cost money?
7. Make Mini Compromises
Maybe you’re going to spend a bit more cash this weekend than you would otherwise, but that doesn’t mean you should spend more at every opportunity. You can take your friends to your favorite restaurant, but maybe you should skip the pricey special. You can use a Groupon to make the night a bit cheaper. You can budget for an extra 10 minutes to find free street parking instead of paying for a valet. You can have a fun night in instead of a fancy night out.
Final Thoughts on How to Be a Good Host
Having out-of-town guests stay with you can be a blast on any budget. By planning in advance and asserting your needs during your friends’ visit, you’ll eliminate most of the stress of having different budgets.