Being a Responsible House Guest
The Art of Hospitality
I would like to be a financially responsible house guest in the Dollar Stretcher. Thanks for any helpful tips on this issue.
My family stays with an elderly aunt every year and she won't accept money. Because she lives alone, there are always little things that need to be done but she doesn't want to bother anyone. My husband offers to fix anything that needs work while we're there. It only takes a couple of hours but it makes us feel better, and she doesn't feel like she's bothering anyone. We bring snacks and some food with us, cook and help clean up. My aunt now has a list of things for us to do when we come and everyone is happy.
From A House Guest
While my husband and I were waiting to move into our current home, we needed to stay with my in-laws for about 3 months. During this time, my in-laws refused to take 'rent' money from us because they knew we were saving for all the things we would need or want for our new home. We were grateful, but we did not want to be a burden.
To repay them for the financial break, my husband and I did several things to "even the score". I agreed to cook dinner 5 nights a week. I also took on most of the deep-cleaning house chores like scrubbing the kitchen floor, deep cleaning the bathrooms, etc. My husband helped by cutting the grass, cleaning up after the dog, etc. Each month, we paid a telephone bill on the sly, too, which was a nice surprise for my in-laws.
As far as short stays, we've visited relatives that were already having money problems and we did not want to add to them. To "pay" for our stay, we made sure to shop frugally for food and bring plenty for ourselves and to share. We are sure to cook up at least one meal to share over a weekend visit and we don't eat food we didn't buy so it's not a food-bill burden to have us visit. We have brought laundry detergent on occasion, too. When we are invited to stay with friends or family, we try to use as little of their necessities/food as possible. The cost of a spaghetti dinner compared to the cost of a hotel room for the weekend says it all!
We've been house guests at a variety of homes. Some were pretty low income, as we've been. It's good to know a little something about the people you're staying with. By that, I mean, what kind of gift would they really appreciate?
Some folks are finding it hard to pay the grocery bill; others buy expensive antiques on the drop of a hat. The key is to know what they might like and plan ahead. Even the richest of families would probably enjoy a loaf of home-baked bread or jar of pickles as a gift. Our rule of thumb is not to show up empty-handed.
If our hosts are planning for all of us to go out for dinner, we at least offer to pay our share. If we can, we cover the entire bill once during our stay.
If it's a long stay of say, over a week, then you should observe what they like to eat or snack on. Over a week and we believe you should start contributing towards groceries. This usually means take a trip out by yourself if you can and just bring home what they like. If you ask them in the first place they will probably not let you do it. I keep a sharp eye on any expenses I might be incurring on my hosts. I've been there before. At a time when we were watching every penny, we had one guest who stayed a couple of months! No amount of subtle hints could move him out the door. He bought groceries, all right, but only for himself. It was a lesson to me to be sensitive as a guest. I want people to remember the good times they've had with us not resent us for being there.
Guests can be work. You have to prepare for them, plan meals, and sometimes clean up after them. But the best guests are the ones who jump in and contribute when they can. And show a sensitivity to this other family's household.
An Experienced House Guest Speaks
Having lived in California for 25 years and in Arizona for the past 8 years, there were many house guests who came to visit. I love having guests who pick up after themselves, leave the bathroom clean for others and also who take me out for a meal as a thank you for all the free meals and lodging they are getting. I have even had house guests who brought food or went to the store to buy some after they were here a few days. These are responsible people who are invited back often.
Through the years I have had house guests who ordered breakfast, ask when I am going to do the laundry as they have a few things for me to do or want to know what medications I take and if I have a few extra. And if we went to eat out they conveniently left for the bathroom before the check came. These people were not asked backed and I conveniently go on vacation when they want to come again.
If only going for a week a thank you dinner is nice or a house gift. Don't wait to be asked to do something. Floors always need to be swept, dishes need washing or to be put away, and the bed you sleep in needs to be made. There are numerous things that can help the person you are staying with. Just look around and take action. Most like those who set the table for dinner or help clear table, etc.
If staying more than a week or two than I would discuss financial arrangements as to food. If they refuse then what I do is leave an envelope for them to get something personal for themselves. Any time I have visited, I always tried to leave it the way I found it and even a little bit better. Staying more than three weeks is over-staying your visit unless there are extenuating circumstances. After four weeks you might as well pay half the rent or mortgage as then you are no longer a guest but a member of family and paying members are more welcome than not. If this is offensive to you than maybe you should examine your house guest etiquette. Another thing, candy and fresh flowers are still acceptable, as is a nice fine wine.
House Guests Bring Joy
It is a joy to be a house guest. You were invited for your good company, friendship and the fresh air that visitors share with hosts. Think about what you can bring or share to help keep the household running and healthy. Food is always welcome both to eat during your visit or later for your hosts. Make your bed every morning, leave damp towels in a proper drying place, and offer to strip the bed & bath before you leave.
Be willing to pitch in with small maintenance chores, like sweeping the deck or kitchen after a meal, cooking a meal, or taking everyone out to eat. Buying local carryout food can also be a blessing to your hosts. Beverages are also nice gifts and contributions, especially if your hosts enjoy alcoholic beverages that can top a budget. My family entertained a lot of visitors and enjoyed their generosity and the social dinners and visiting.
Thoughtful guests sometimes surprised us by noticing that something was nearly used up, like laundry detergent, and leaving us with a new extra-large box! When you say "financially sensitive" you could mean for meals out, entertainment, or for extra strain on the household, but try to be open to cheaper ideas if your host can't manage the pricier activities. You can offer to treat everyone if you can afford it or seek a less costly option. People who live in areas with tourist attractions may or may not enjoy visiting them again; don't be afraid to go ahead on your own. During a long visit a break is welcome for all concerned.
If you don't know your hosts well, enjoy their company and observe what they might like to have later. Send a thank you gift after you leave with your note of thanks. Flowers, candy, decorative items, toys for pets and children, additions to a collection--you will gather ideas during your stay if you pay attention.
Do Acts of Kindness
I travel quite a bit to visit relatives, friends, etc. What I usually do depends on the length of my stay. If I am staying for a week or less at a friend's house and I get a rental car:
- I go to the nearest supermarket and buy the items that I like to eat for breakfast, lunch, etc. Many of my friends work and leave me at home while they work and I roam around in my car until they return home or snack watching TV, a movie, etc.).
- I usually buy a pizza or Chinese for the whole family at least twice during the week.
- I also buy a gift certificate at a local grocery store and send it back in a very nice Thank You card. Most of my friends call back to say what a nice gesture that was.
Do you think that I save money doing all this? You bet. The savings on lodging are unbelievable.
Take the Next Step:
Also In This Week's Issue
- Money skills key to child's future
- 6 steps to a successful money talk with your spouse
- 5 creative ways to wrap gift cards
- Thrifty stocking stuffers
- Should your kid take a part-time job?
- 6 secrets to saving more at discount stores
- Healthy family breakfasts
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