Jun 17, 2013

Entertaining Out-of-Town Guests on the Cheap (or, what to expect if you ever come visit)

Feeding your visitors rice and lentils frees up your money
for better things, like tubing trips... or next month's rent.
Today, my lovely mother and her fantastic husband arrived in town with motorcycles in tow for a week and a half long visit. It has been something like nine months since we saw them last, and we are so happy to have this extended time to spend together.

As you know, though, we just got back from a rather long and expensive trip. Because it is so hard to stick to a budget on a multi-state road trip wherein you are scheduled to see nearly everyone you know,  I am hyper-aware of my spending now that I'm home.

B and I will be working during the weekdays, and so our visitors will be on their own to tour the land on their two-wheelers (I believe "hogs" might be the correct term here). But how do we keep our cash in check for the next ten evenings and weekend days of entertaining guests? I've got two key strategies:

1. Rice and Lentils and Craft Beer—at Home

Have I mentioned we have a tiny kitchen? I've been worried we'd have to eat out for every meal, which would cost an arm and a leg. We probably will have a few restaurant meals, but I realized I can make a big, hearty batch of rice and lentils—perfect for my vegan mom and my gluten-free self—easily and for next to nothing. When eaten on our new back deck with a bottle of locally-brewed beer, it will feel nearly as fancy as dinner at a local restaurant (but at grocery-store prices). We'll also make full use of our CSA basket this week!

2. Free (or nearly) Entertainment

Because my folks live in a dry, deserty state, I want to take them on a river trip while they are here. You can either float for 2.5 hours on sit-atop kayaks for $38 per person, or for one hour on an innertube for only $8 per person if you walk a mile first rather than taking their transport. I like that innertube idea. This is a great price and, if they are up for it, will likely be my mom's birthday gift... but it still adds up to $32+ tax for the four of us. In addition, we hope to get to a contra dance (a must-do on the east coast) on Thursday for $6 a piece (including a half-hour beginners lesson). So $24 for dancing and $32 for floating equals $56 of spending already. And I have a few more things I'd like to do that cost money (such as ride the comedy tour bus. How cool is that?). That means we will need to get pretty creative for the rest of the visit's entertainment.

Luckily, we live in a wonderful area with ample opportunities for low cost fun. The local film society is offering a free movie showing tomorrow night, and next Tuesday too (or we have a free movie rental pass if we want to stay in). We may enjoy some free stand-up comedy on Wednesday night. Thursday is either the contra dance or biker night at a local BBQ joint. We will attend a free concert downtown on Friday. The river float will likely take place on Saturday. Sunday brings a free outdoor performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

But wait! There's more!

We will play board games (again, on that lovely deck we've got out back). We will go hiking. We may visit the free botanical gardens, or the farm animals at the college that B works at. We will visit with each other and catch up. We will listen to the buskars on the street corners downtown—and hopefully we will find my favorites, the Carolina Catskins.

We will have fun (and not go broke). And you can too. Check out your local entertainment calendars through arts organizations, bars and other music venues, the local newspaper, the public library, colleges, or tourism websites. You are bound to find some great free fun to be had.

The One-Bedroom Apartment Payoff

We live in a one bedroom apartment, which we got even though we knew that we would be getting a lot of out-of-town guests. I wish I had an extra bedroom to offer up, but because I don't, I save $100-$300 per month in rent. That is $1,200-$3,600 per year just for the inconvenience of asking guests to stay in hotels or campgrounds during the two or three visits they might make here each year. It also happens to give us a little time and space so our introverted selves can recharge each day. I don't expect we will stay in a one-bedroom forever, but until we pay off all of our debts the savings is worth it.

How do you keep costs down when entertaining guests?

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