Hosting Guests on the Cheap Without Appearing Cheap

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — According to Trip Advisor, 39% of Americans are planning on traveling this Thanksgiving, and if you're a mom, dad, grandma or grandpa, chances are those holiday itinerants are coming to your house.

Budgets are tight, and while no one wants to appear cheap, most hosts would like to impress the in-laws or fuzzy Aunt Jane without breaking the bank.

Mainstreet has compiled a list of ideas on how you can show your guests a good time and good meals without breaking out the clipped coupon at dinner:

1. Welcome your guests with four-star note: If you've ever been greeted in your luxury hotel room with a note from the manager or concierge, you know how special it makes you feel. "After arriving from a long trip, there's little more inviting than coming home to a clean space with a thoughtful note," says Joel Goyette of BetterDoctor.com, who also loves to host guests in his home. "Have fun with this, and play around with leaving sticky notes on the bathroom mirror or a note tucked under the pillow." You can also include instructions for the alarm system directions to local shops (if you have to work during the day), password for the Wi-Fi and an extra set of keys.

2. Snack Pack: "Make it easy for your guests to grab a healthy snack or treat by putting together a basket of fresh fruit, nuts and other goodies," says Goyette. If you know they like coffee, you can also stock their favorite and a tasty creamer.

3. Toiletry Basket: Who doesn't on occasion forget toothpaste, deodorant or floss? One trick this writer always uses is to leave a basket in the guest bathroom stocked with travel sized shampoo, toothpaste and other toiletries, as well as an extra hairdryer, hair spray and a curling iron. I've had guests tell me that this always makes them feel pampered and special. Always make sure you put out your best towels, and don't forget to leave plenty of toilet paper in their bathroom.

4. Big Batch Meals: Now that your guests are settled in and feeling like you've put in a million dollars' worth of effort for their comfort, it's time to feed them, which can get really expensive. Big batches of chili or spaghetti Bolognese can go a long way and get more fancy with homemade garlic bread and a side salad.

5. Wine decanter: Serve some wine with that meal, and it could make it complete. It doesn't need to be an expensive brand, either, says Brittany Deal, author of the book Savvy Girl: A Guide to Wine.

6. Treat them to a meal out: Teresa Mears, editor for LivingontheCheap.com, says that you can enjoy a meal out and get it for half price, without your guests even realizing you're paying less. If it requires a coupon purchase, do it before they arrive. Mears says it's also typically cheaper to eat out lunch rather than dinner. "Find regular free or discounted times at local restaurants," says Mears. "For example, some restaurants offer discounted dinners or drinks before 7 p.m."

7. Drive to see the Christmas lights: Almost every major metropolitan area has a special neighborhood with lights. "A drive to see Christmas lights is free everywhere, and many cities have fabulous displays," says Mears.

8. Build a fire: What can be more fun for children and adults alike than to build a fire and enjoy some hot cocoa and/or Smores? Whether you do this at the indoor wood burning fireplace or build a fire in an outdoor pit, it's "low budget, high fun," says Brian Nickerson, co-founder and CEO of Chippmunk.com.

9. Use your public library: No, not to have your guests check out books, but many public libraries offer discounted passes or tickets to museums, aquariums, tours, performances and historic sites, says Jodi R. R. Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.

10. Plan a fun night in: Introduce your relative's kids to board games, hold a holiday movie marathon (make sure to pop some popcorn) or do a craft activity such as making ornaments or a gingerbread house, says Vanessa Evans, spokesperson for Keycode.com.

--Written by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

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