Holiday Hosting Tips: 6 Ways To Save Time and Money Entertaining Overnight Guests

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Santa Claus may be coming to town soon, but so are the kids from college, cousins from several states away and maybe even a few guest pets, too. If you’re planning to host the whole brood at your home for the holidays, it can be overwhelming. However, there are a few ways you can still do it calmly while saving time and money.

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Taste of Home has posted several etiquette standards to abide by when opening your home up to guests this time of year. They include creating cozy guest rooms with fresh linens, stocking up bathrooms with all the essentials and travel goods they may have forgotten, and creating a schedule of events to keep everyone entertained. Consumer Reports even has a rundown of the best items to buy to make everyone feel at home, from coffee machines to the best air mattresses.

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But when it comes to being a good host while saving yourself from blowing your holiday budget or all your precious time, here are some key tips to do it all while still enjoying the most wonderful time of the year.

1. Shop at Thrift Stores

Secondhand shops are a great way to stock up on extra goods you might need and do so affordably. If you need extra wine glasses or dinner plates, you can find those at thrift shops. There’s also plenty of holiday decor to pick through, so if you need more stockings to hang, you can find those here, too. CNBC found you can save up to $150 a month by thrifting so just imagine how much your holiday hosting savings can add up here.

2. Do Meal Buffets

Unless it’s Christmas Day, there’s no reason you have to be super formal every day your guests are in town. Make it easy on yourself — and make it fun for the younger ones — by having buffets set out for meals. Maybe you set up a coffee bar for the mornings with flavored syrups, different K cups and flavored creamers. And for dinners, tacos, burgers and pasta work great for buffet spreads. This option also allows picky eaters ways to customize their meals without having to be a short-order cook. 

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3. Exchange Secret Santa Gifts

Depending on how many people are in your family, getting a gift for everyone can really add up. Instead, pre-arrange a Secret Santa exchange where everyone just has to buy one gift. On the first night everyone is together, have guests write their name on a piece of paper along with their wish list (setting a dollar amount threshold is helpful) and everyone will be happy come Christmas Day.

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4. Rely on Neighbors for Extras

Asking neighbors for a bowl of sugar is now standard practice, and at the holidays, you might want to see if they have extra supplies they can offer like chairs or folding tables for your large gathering so you don’t have to spend a fortune renting the essentials. Especially call upon neighbors you know are heading out of town, as they may not be needing their place settings and could lend them to you.

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5. Find Free Activities

Entertaining a group is no easy task, but there are ways to do so creatively and for free. If you live in an area that gets snow, sledding is a great way to bond. Share sleds and bring a thermos of hot chocolate to share over stories. Or, do a movie night every night at home where one person is the designated person to pick the film; create a few trivia questions, too, to up the stakes and keep the fun going. 

6. Create a Group Google Calendar

Communication is key when you have a large group sharing the same house. If you create a group calendar, everyone can input their specific needs. For example, if they know they will need a ride, need to shower at a certain time or want to suggest an activity, a calendar is a great way to ensure someone doesn’t fill up the time unknowingly.

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If you want additional ideas, GOBankingRates previously shared a few tips on sticking to a budget when hosting a group, such as meal planning in advance and allowing people to bring items you may need.

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About the Author

Selena Fragassi joined GOBankingRates.com in 2022, adding to her 15 years in journalism with bylines in Spin, Paste, Nylon, Popmatters, The A.V. Club, Loudwire, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine and others. She currently resides in Chicago with her rescue pets and is working on a debut historical fiction novel about WWII. She holds a degree in fiction writing from Columbia College Chicago.
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