How Not to Blow your Budget on Houseguests

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)
“Anything really.”
“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):

budget plan for houseguests

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


22 thoughts on “How Not to Blow your Budget on Houseguests”

  1. Awesome plan, Mrs. BITA! Meals tend to really add up when you have guests – a little planning and prep work can save a ton of money. I love that you mentioned enjoying your father-in-law’s birthday more since you budgeted for it. We did the same – my husband took off a few days and I had budgeted for a movie and going out to eat twice – and it was sooo much more fun and relaxing knowing it fit into the money plan.

    1. I know! I was surprised by what a difference that made, knowing that it was all accounted for. Thanks for stopping by Amanda.

  2. Ha! Know the feeling all to well. This year we did not have any Thanksgiving visitors. Only us. We cooked lots, skied, did a winter hike and enjoyed some good ales and wine. The expenses were still way lower than years past.
    When we first moved to the US, every visit by family was like a vacation for us and we spent lots having fun. But it is not sustainable so when people visit now, we let them do their thing and we spend a bit of time making sure we have lots of good food planned or prepared. Often conversations when they help with the food preparation are priceless themselves.

    1. First of all, yay, so glad that you are still reading and popping up here and there in the blogosphere (The last known sighting of the rare PIE was on the bayalis blog at 7.41 a.m.).

      I wish we could let more of our guests just do their own thing. A lot of our guests can’t drive in the U.S., so it is up to us to shuttle them around (for the most part we have rubbish public transport here). Sounds like you had an awesome Thanksgiving.

  3. Love to see the PIE’s here too 😉 We don’t have many house guests at all because we are the ones who travel to see family. My parents (in their 80’s) and my two older brothers live there – so it is much easier for us to go there. My husband’s family live within an hour from us, so no need to stay over. I hadn’t really thought about it – but wow, you are right that it could add up fast! Another “line item” in a good budget – great to have a plan!

    1. I suppose we’ll eventually get to where you are with my parents and in-laws. Mr. BITA’s grandmother now refuses to travel and we have to go and see her.

  4. That is so awesome that you were able to plan ahead. Too often holidays and friends coming in town sneak up on me and I don’t always budget correctly. For 2017 I am definitely going to try to get better about being proactive with my budgeting because it is definitely demoralizing when you are mentally counting pennies instead of enjoying the meal with friends and family. Thanks for sharing such a topical post!!!

    1. “Too often holidays and friends coming in town sneak up on me and I don’t always budget correctly” This was me every single time except this last one, so I know exactly how you feel. Making a plan really is a game changer.

  5. Planning ahead is key!! I find when I wing it I will choose the easiest option just to get it done…and might I say I approve of your Chipotle choice (I’m still hoping that stock goes back up!!). I agree, option A is sucky – you don’t want to have to say no to family and friends due to the cost issue. If it is spread out and well balanced I find anything can get done in a cost effective manner. And yes, it’s probably because you guys are such fun people to hang around!!

    1. I’m glad that my past overspending on Chipotle was benefiting _someone_. You’re right about taking the path of least resistance (and typically the most cost) when winging it.

  6. Mrs. SSC sets a meal plan before her parents get here. We know that at least once, we’ll usually default to a PIzza Hut night, but that stays under $15 for the4/6 of us, so not too shabby. Having a meal plan definitely helps reign n the spending. When we were first together and they’d come to visit we’d go out a LOT more, especially for nicer dinners down around the French Quarter. Ahhh, I miss that food, and the upcoming Reveillon dinners. I don’t miss the 10 lbs I’ve dropped since moving from there, but it was hard finding bad food.

    Sorry to distract myself, and maybe you, but yes, meal plans work! 🙂

    1. Under $15 for all of you is a pretty sweet deal. ‘Repeat’ guests are definitely easier on the wallet than first timers. With first timers we have to hit a lot of touristy spots and some of these spots are an hours drive away so there isn’t time to haul ass back home for a nice home cooked meal.

      1. Oh yeah… first timers. When we first moved to the New Orleans area, it was spendy because everyone wants to go to the French Quarter, check out the touristy stuff and the restaurants. It adds up quickly and being about 45 minutes from home, you’re right, no easy meals. Although, I loved just having an excuse to go down there, as Mrs. SSC wasn’t too big on crowds and that whole scene. Touristy spots definitely add up. 🙂

  7. We had guests over for Christmas last year and our expenses definitely went up. Having a plan prior is definitely a great way to make sure you don’t blow out your budget while having guests over.

    1. Absolutely, and it helps you be relaxed and enjoy the spending that you did plan and budget for. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  8. I have never planned and never even heard of anyone planning for their guests like this. This is awesome! Seems like you’ve made your home a place where friends & family can come and feel welcome, that’s the best part!

    1. You are absolutely right – it is very important to me that our home is a place that friends and family want to visit. Glad you enjoyed the post, and hope that you find a way to deploy a similar plan when the need arises.

  9. Haha, you had me cracking up with “others that make us weep silently in our bedroom and we count down the hours until they leave.”

    I like that you decided to come up with a plan! After years of trying to figure out where everyone wants to eat and then spending a ton of cash we did a similar thing. Now we just plan to cook a bunch of food. If someone doesn’t like what we cook, then tough cookies, but everyone usually looks forward to our cooking anyway. I’ve found it doesn’t take more time or cost much to double a recipe. If someone wants to pay us back they can bring beer, or they can treat us to dinner when we visit them. Staying in also gives us more time to enjoy each others company, or do other things like go for a hike if we prefer to enjoy each others silence 🙂

    1. Once we made the plan this time around I couldn’t believe I had never thought of doing it before. Such a simple, obvious solution. And yes, oh yes, it is important to have ways to enjoy the silences ever so often.

  10. I’m sure some of your family are reading this post thinking ‘Did we have them crying in their bedroom until we left?! was it us?!” Haha!

    Great article, especially with the Christmas period coming up when a lot of us have houseguests!

  11. I understand you, on the one hand thrilled when a lot of guests on the other hand a lot of expenses. When going to the all family, each making its material contribution. Of course excluded grandparents. I think this is the most logical way. Everyone knows that the host Party shall bear the costs.

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