Entertaining at Home: Not Always Cost Effective

by Lauren Bowling on May 23, 2013

Entertaining at homeWe all know the drill, when looking to tighten our belts and save money the first things to go are the eating out and the entertainment portions of the budget. I had always thought entertaining at home was a cheaper alternative to going out, but after my recent birthday party I realized I was wrong. Entertaining at home is cheaper than going out, but only in certain instances.

Movie Theater vs. Movie Night In

This is probably the most obvious example of how entertaining at home is cheaper than going out-movies are so expensive! Add a trip to the concession stand and it is no contest on how much money you can save. For my boyfriend and myself we save about $25 each time we watch a movie at home. Viewing over Netflix or Hulu is negligible when you break the cost down per day or per view, and a box of popcorn is only $3.00 from the local grocery store.

Having friends over for a movie night is often a lot more fun than going out to the movies, because you are in your own home, there is a lot more conversation and playful banter than out at a public theater. Winner: Movie Night In

Restaurant vs. Having Friends for Dinner

I’m in my mid-twenties; I don’t really frequent uber-expensive restaurants. Yet, when I have people over I feel compelled to buy wine and asparagus-the works. And I cook dessert, which I’d never have at a restaurant! The inner Martha in me comes out and I feel the need to put on a show, which wreaks havoc on my budget.

Having people over for dinner usually costs about $25-$30 bucks for four people, unless we cook something cheap like spaghetti. If we went to a decently priced restaurant, we’d probably spend that much, so this is negligible to me. Having people over for dinner really only makes financial sense if you do a potluck where everyone brings something instead of “hosting” others.

Having a legitimate “dinner party” (more than four people) isn’t even economical. That’s just showing off, and then you really begin to rack up a bill. Winner: Neither

Event Hall Party vs. Hosting at Home

For my birthday I had the option of either hosting the get-together at my house, or at a local restaurant. Even though the “party room” at the restaurant wouldn’t have cost anything, I didn’t want to force my friends to pay for an expensive night out with dinner and drinks. By opting to have the event at my house however, I spent over $250 for food, the cake, the party decorations (again, the Martha), and alcohol. I’m still slowly drinking the leftover alcohol and bottled water. I don’t mind the expense so much since it was a fabulous time, but aside from what I spent on the event itself, I also spent a lot of my time on house clean-up before and after. If I’d had the event at an outside venue, I could have saved myself this trouble.

In my opinion, the event hall wins this one, unless you have to pay for use of the venue. Winner: Event Hall

Do disagree and think entertaining at home is always the cheaper option? What are some ways you entertain at home on the cheap?

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Lauren Bowling

Lauren Bee is a freelance writer and social media specialist based in Atlanta, Georgia. When not writing for One Smart Dollar, she is hard at work blogging over at L Bee and the Money Tree. Lauren enjoys editing, red wine, karaoke and the color pink.

Latest posts by Lauren Bowling (see all)

  • People love my homemade pizza, so this is often the dish I make when we have guests over. Cost is under $8 but our guests tend to drink a lot, bringing the total to your $25 estimate. However, guests will generally reciprocate, so for $25, you will get a night in and a free night out at their place.

  • I guess having a pot luck is the only real way to save money if doing a dinner party, though maybe that’s not a real dinner party then. Definitely do the movie nights at home with friends though!

  • Entertaining at home sometimes is actually more costly. Especially for the host, who is on the hook for the costs. I find that too, with feeding friends and family. I go all out!

    • I used to go all out. It’s fine if others do the same thing, but I hate going all out for people who never host.

  • This is why we host and do potlucks. It works for our group of friends and family as we are all on the same page. This makes entertaining at home much cheaper for us.

  • CanadianBudgetBinder

    I think you can get creative enough in the kitchen with foods that won’t break the budget at all. Eating out is by far more expensive but when you have to feed more than who you would be paying for eating out then going frugal is an easy way to go. Stretching meals and making them delicious is fairly easy. You could also make it a potluck dinner party for you and the friends which is always a hit. Everyone is a winner because when they host they aren’t forking out more money than normal either.

    • I love doing potlucks. Lucky for us most if not all of our friends are more than willing to always ship in a side dish.

  • If the restaurant were ‘dutch treat’ and you picked up the tab for the whole function, that’s a tough one. I know that for us, for what dinner for two would cost in a restaurant, I can feed 3 to 4 couples in my house.

    Better yet, is some type of pot luck. I can call a friend up, ask if they’re up for company, and offer to bring food for the grill. In the end, we’re all better off. My biggest pet peeve is the $5-$6 drink cost in a restaurant. Asking friends to join you for movie night, but bring a six pack or bottle should be ok all around.

  • Catherine

    The dinner out/vs hosting thing is tough! I also feel compelled to buy wine, all the ingredients etc and costs add up but eating at home, when planned properly is usually much cheaper.

    • When we have people over it’s usually in the summer so we can grill out. I will fix all of the food and then tell everything to bring whatever drinks they want. A lot of times people will bring appetizers.

  • I hate paying $5 for a beer when I go out to dinner. Sadly enough I usually spend it.

  • Entertaining at home can DEFINITELY be more expensive! I never even fully calculated the damage from our housewarming party….but damn was it memorable 😉 My wife loves to host, though, and we don’t do it nearly as much as she’d like. I also like to host but worry a bit too much about what people think. We both have weird allergies (she can’t eat beef or pork without getting migraines, I can’t drink beer without having some strange sinus attack) so we are ultra-accommodating in general and usually have multiple options for drinks, and with foods we are always sensitive to vegetarians and ppl that can’t eat certain meats or other food.. I guess you COULD host on the cheap, but people usually will remember the fact that you spent almost no money on food/drinks so usually better to just go out if you are trying to host without spending anything.

    • We also have a few vegetarian friends so we have to be able to accomodate them. Vegetarians are much less costly than meat eaters though 🙂

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