Hosting for the Holidays? 5 Tips to Save Money and Preserve Your Mental Health
The holiday season is practically here, and for a lot of people, this means they will either be visiting friends and family or *gasp* called upon to host visitors. The winter holidays are already a large source of extra expenses and stress for a lot of people -- according to data from the National Retail Federation, Americans are expecting to spend an average of $875 this holiday season.
If it's your turn to play host this year, you might already be dreading it. Thankfully, there are a few ways to keep your costs down and also keep your mental health in check.
1. Borrow gear strategically
If you're staring down a turkey that you need to roast but don't own a roasting pan, how will you cope? You might assume your best move is to turn to Amazon or your favorite housewares retailer and plunk down a credit card to buy a pan. But do you really need to own and store something you might use just once a year -- or once a decade? I say no.
Instead of buying the gear that will make it easier to host extra people in your home (which could include cookware, air mattresses, or dining chairs), see if you can borrow them. Ask friends or neighbors who are perhaps traveling for the holidays or otherwise not responsible for hosting family if they're willing to loan you these items so you can save the cash.
2. Plan a menu in advance
It's true -- meal planning before you go to the grocery store really can save you money. This is even more true when you're responsible for feeding a crowd. If it's your turn to host this year, figure out in advance what you want to feed everyone, and go through your pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what ingredients you already have on hand. Be sure to use one of our favorite grocery rewards credit cards to get cash back on your food purchases.
Make sure you plan at least one meal consisting of takeout or a restaurant visit, too. I'm betting your visitors would love to sample the unique cuisine in your hometown, and supporting a small business during the holidays is always a great move. Plus, you're going to get tired of doing dishes sooner or later.
3. Buy some items in bulk
If you have a Costco membership, now is the time to flex it. Paper products are a slam dunk for bulk buying, especially when you've got extra people around to use more toilet paper and paper towels. You might also want to consider how much milk you're likely to go through if you have houseguests. And if you're cooking for a crowd, you might find savings on bulk meat, vegetables, and other essential ingredients for your holiday dinner.
4. Give your guests a local "guidebook"
If you have the time, I recommend doing some research into local attractions before your guests arrive. Give your city's social media pages a scroll (or even get a copy of the local paper), and see what events are happening while you have visitors -- I bet your local parks, museums, and libraries will have free or low-cost fun available.
Don't forget to recommend your favorite local coffee shops and lunch spots. If you encourage your visitors to explore the area on their own (with your helpful hints), you'll buy yourself some precious peace and quiet, even while you're playing host.
5. Accept help
Finally, if any of your gracious guests offers to provide help, be it in the form of bringing a dish for a potluck meal, buying a bottle of wine, or even grabbing some extra paper goods to contribute, let them. If they ask what to bring, I recommend asking for dish towels and inexpensive food containers so people can take leftovers home. Ideally, your guests will also decide to chip in for a restaurant meal while they're visiting (I don't know how to compel them to offer this, but maybe you can drop some strong hints).
The holidays are almost here, and you might be feeling quite overwhelmed at the prospect of opening your home to friends and relatives. Just remember, you like these people, and sharing this time with them is the most important part of the holidays. Rely on the tips above to make your hosting experience as smooth and cost-effective as possible.