The BITAs moved into the house we currently live in in late 2012. Between then and now we’ve had over twenty sets of house guests (what can I say? we are just such fun people to be around). Parents, in-laws, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, aunts and uncles, second cousins – we have hosted them all. Some have stayed for months, others for a long weekend. We have guests that make us laugh, and we stay up late chatting and sharing, others that make us weep silently in our bedroom and we count down the hours until they leave. Some guests help enormously around the house, and we are sad to see them go. Others are messy and increase our daily workload. There is one thing that all our houseguests have in common – they cause our spending to increase.
Why do we spend more when we have houseguests?
- More mouths to feed = higher grocery bills.
- More mouths drinking = higher alcohol bills.
- We tend to eat out more. A whole lot more.
- Depending on the length of the stay, we may end up with higher utilities bills.
- More gas/electricity because we drive more, or let them borrow our cars.
- Higher entertainment costs – tickets to the zoo, shows, the aquarium, museums, whale watching….
If, like us, you often host houseguests, and therefore go over budget fairly frequently, you have a significant hurdle on your path to FIRE.
So, what are your options?
Option 1: No houseguests
Just say no. This isn’t an option for me. I (the vast majority of the time) love having houseguests. Our closest family lives 2000 miles away. We have family and friends spread across India, the U.S., the Netherlands, Spain, Botswana, Singapore, the Philippines and Dubai. I miss them all enormously, and I love opportunities for Toddler BITA to spend time with the people we love and for them to get to know her. So, if any of them ever wants to visit, our answer is always a resounding yes.
Option 2: Ask them to pay
Explain to your houseguests that you can’t afford to foot the bills and ask them to chip in. If you can do this, more power to you. It feels icky to me. That isn’t rational, but that is how I feel.
Many of our houseguests do chip in, without us asking. They pick up the tab when we go out, or buy something for the house, or cook for us. We are grateful when it does happen, but we don’t expect it, and we certainly won’t ask for it.
So, I went with option 3.
Option 3: Make a plan
In the past, when we’ve had houseguests we have just winged it. Almost every meal is based on a last minute conversation that goes something like this.
“What’s for lunch?”
Open fridge. Stare at everything. Close fridge door.
“I don’t know. What do you feel like?” (poking prone guest with my toe)
“That is not useful. What about you?” (hoping guest no. 2 will prove more useful)
“Anything except Chinese.”
Open fridge again, just in case something changed in the last five seconds. It did not.
“Love, should we get Chipotle?”
And just like that we’re $40 poorer.
Benjamin Franklin wisely said:
This time, when we knew we had guests coming over for the week of Thanksgiving, I decided that preparing to fail was kind of dumb. So instead, I made a plan. Here is a screenshot of the Google Sheets format I used (numbers and names changed):
Pretty simple stuff. I started with a budget for eating out and for entertainment. As the blue highlighted box shows, I had a couple of simple formulae in place to subtract from the total budget as I wrote out the plan. I didn’t budget for groceries. I knew I was planning to cook ‘regular’ meals (nothing fancy) and that the extra cost of groceries wouldn’t break the bank.
How does the houseguest plan help?
- It limited the number of times we ate out. Since I had made a meal plan, I bought all the groceries I would need to prepare those meals, and every day if the plan indicated that I had to cook, then that is what I did. We weren’t forced to go out to eat simply because we had nothing ready at home to feed 5 hungry mouths.
- It actually helped us splurge on a couple of things. We wanted to take my father-in-law to a fancy restaurant to celebrate his birthday and having this plan in place helped us to do it and enjoy it. It was budgeted for, and because we knew we were doing plenty of eating in the rest of the week, we splurged and enjoyed it.
- It made the visit less stressful. I spent no time worrying about where the next meal was going to come from, or how to entertain our houseguests. We had several entertainment options to put on the table thanks to the plan. If our guests wanted to do something else (or do nothing, and vegetate on the couch), that was fine too.
So, the next time you’re expecting house guests, fluff the pillows, change the sheets and make a plan. Your budget will be ever so thankful.