Dear Mrs. Riches:
We live in an area of the U.S. that is frequently visited by tourists, which also means that my husband and I get a lot of relatives who come for a visit. This summer alone we'll have three separate groups of folks who will arrive to take in the sights. This is a decidedly mixed proposition.
While we like entertaining and are happy to see our relatives, the role of host comes with a lot of responsibilities and extra expense. For example, when folks stay with us, we typically end up paying for every other activity (outing or dining out); that can really add up. We also end up footing the bill for the extra household expenses, all the cost for any meal prepared at home, and gas for driving our guests around to see the sights.
I don't mean to sound like a curmudgeon; I really don't. If we were flush with extra cash, I wouldn't mind. But these visits cause us to scramble around for the rest of the month, making sure we can meet our obligations. How can we handle this problem without seeming rude or having to turn people away?
You can be assured that hosts and hostesses in major tourist destinations everywhere feel your pain. Folks who live in places like New York can beg off due to lack of space, but what about the rest of us? We're the ones frantically changing the sheets, meeting the planes, and planning the itineraries.
Unless you decide to move to a decidedly less well-visited place, there will always be folks who want to come visit and enjoy both your hospitality and locale. So my best advice to you is to take the reins in this situation, rather than feeling victimized by circumstance. There are several ways to do this:
Simply tell your friends and family that it's not a good time to visit. (If you're as lousy as I am at saying no, proceed to #2.)
Agree to the visit, but set the expectations before they arrive. "We're happy to have you come and stay for four days (give a specific number) this September, but we hope you'll understand that it's a busy time for our family so we won't be available to do much touring or sightseeing."
Decide in advance how much you can afford to do and plan accordingly. If your budget only allows for pasta or chili at home, then decline invitations to dine out. You can say to your guests, "We're happy to have you join us at home for chili or if you guys want to go out, we can give you some recommendations of where to go." Look for low-cost or free outings that you can make whole-group activities. Pack picnic lunches to save on the expense of food. You don't need to make your cost-cutting measures a major focus of the visit; just do them.
Being a good host or hostess doesn't mean that you have to let your guests dictate the terms of the visit. You are allowed (even encouraged) to set the stage for a stay that is enjoyable for both parties involved.
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Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp is a licensed professional counselor who regularly talks money with her honey, Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. She offers sheepish apologies to her relatives in London, Las Vegas, and Florida. The Fool has a disclosure policy.