Along our journey to financial freedom, Ryan and I have made sacrifices by living in a small apartment and budgeting very carefully. One thing we aren’t willing to sacrifice is hosting dinner guests. The idea of saving money by not building relationships and blessing others by having them over for dinner seems selfish. If you’re in the same boat, I’d like to share a few ways to help you host dinner guests breaking the bank.
- Go casual.
Having friends over doesn’t have to mean that you pull out fine china and serve steak and caviar. Good food can be enjoyed on a patio or in a living room just as easily as it can in a dining room. Perhaps you could do a picnic or host a cookout on lawn chairs in the yard. Plan a middle-eastern themed dinner and eat on the floor. Get creative.
- Plan an inexpensive menu.
This tip sort of goes along with being casual, but it doesn’t have to. Fancy food can be inexpensive too. Think pasta, appetizers, bite-size desserts. Put a little leg work into researching recipes and make things yourself. You will save a ton by cooking from scratch instead of buying appetizers or desserts ready-made.
A great tip is to make meat an ingredient in a dish, but not the star. Think chicken-fried rice, homemade pizza, or vegetable beef soup. Pasta is a great way to feel fancy, but stay budget friendly. If you think about it, some of the best comfort foods are inexpensive to make and might be the perfect thing to help dinner guests feel relaxed and welcome in your home.
- Make homemade beverages.
I don’t drink alcohol, so this tip is geared toward avoiding purchasing a bunch of sugary lemonades, teas, or soft drinks. Making tea or lemonade yourself can be much cheaper than buying it at the store. Making iced tea is simply some sugar, water, and a few tea bags! If you take the time to make tea or lemonade, your guests will have options without you spending an extra $5-$10 on soft drinks or other expensive bottled drinks.
- Allow friends to contribute.
When someone invites me over, I try to always ask, “what can I bring?” When you host dinner guests, be prepared to answer this question. While I don’t suggest asking them to bring anything expensive, allow your friends to contribute to the meal even if it’s in a small way. Bringing bread or a salad might help them feel like they’re encouraging you and thanking you for your hospitality.
- Avoid disposable utensils and dishes.
Plastic utensils and paper plates can be tempting when you live in a small apartment with no dishwasher, but they really add up if you buy them every time you entertain. Instead, get in the habit of using real silverware and plates, which are sturdier anyway. This will save you money and will allow things to feel less cheap when you host dinner guests.
- Clean the space you have.
Your home may be small, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be clean. It is so important to clean the space you have so that your guests feel comfortable in your home. Vacuum, dust, clean the bathrooms, and put away any extra clutter. Consider removing items from the kitchen or entertaining space that aren’t necessary for the evening. De-cluttering is also a great way to make a small space feel bigger and more inviting.
- Decorate with household items.
It can be tempting to go purchase décor when hosting dinner guests who might have more expensive things than you can afford. Don’t do it! True friends will understand that you have great taste even if it isn’t manifested in expensive household décor. If you’re going to decorate, do it with items that you have around the house like silk flowers, candles, tablecloths, or picture frames. Decorating in this simple way can be chic and personal.
- Remember the goal.
Ultimately, remember that your goal is to spend time with friends and deepen relationships. The goal of hosting dinner guests should not be to impress them with fancy food or to brag about yourself and your belongings. When you keep in mind that goal of quality time, then a small apartment, an inexpensive meal, or simple decorations will not worry you. Use your home to love other people.