What does it mean to be hospitable?
I think for many people the idea of being hospitable means we must be able to craft a beautiful meal and have a picture-perfect home that could be featured on HGTV.
When that’s our standard it’s easy to see why so many people are hesitant to open their homes and host people.
The truth is, hospitality has very little to do with the food or the state of your home. There are no set rules for what this is supposed to look like. We’re simply called to love the people in front of us with what God has given us, be it little or much.
So, what if it’s little?
I know many of us truly desire to serve people in our homes but are working with tight budgets that can make the whole idea feel stressful.
If that’s you don’t worry! There are inexpensive and practical ways to welcome people into your home without breaking your budget.
Here are four budget-friendly ideas that can easily aid you as a host:
1. Make a Plan
Being hospitable isn’t something that happens automatically, it’s something you must choose to be intentional about. I’m not a natural planner, but I’ve come to learn that if I don’t plan to spend intentional time with friends and neighbors, it will never happen. Our schedule will fill up or we will be “too tired,” when the time comes.
A few years ago, my husband and I sat down and made a list of the people we hoped to share a meal with that year. We looked at our calendar to see what nights of the week we routinely had available and committed to keep those nights open, dedicating one night a week to inviting someone to share a meal with us. Planning ahead helped us create regular rhythms of hospitality in our home, and also helped in budgeting time and resources accordingly.
2. Allow Others to Contribute
One of the first things people tend to ask when someone has invited them to their home is “what can I bring?” Often we respond with “Nothing! Just bring yourself!”
That may seem like the most hospitable way to respond, but, by not allowing others to contribute, you are putting more of the burden on yourself while also denying your guests an opportunity to serve you. Simply let guests, who offer, bring something you know they can easily go grab at the store. If you are planning to have a larger group of people over, share the cost by planning a meal in which everyone can easily contribute. Make a list of all the things people can bring to complete the meal.
Remember, the whole point of the meal is not just eating, but creating an opportunity to spend time with people you love. When you allow others to contribute, not only will it cost you less, but it will save you time, and everyone sharing the meal will be blessed.
3. Be Prepared for the Unexpected
While many opportunities to be hospitable are centered around a planned meal, there can be times that demand spontaneity. You could get a phone call from a friend who just needs to come over and talk, or a neighbor may stop by for a quick chat. Maybe it’s a hot day and you notice your mail carrier would benefit from a cold bottle of water, or perhaps your house is the hub for all the neighbor kids, which means they will probably eat all your food too. It’s good to be prepared for little moments like these with small things on hand to offer.
It could be as simple as keeping your fridge stocked with bottles of water, having extra coffee on hand, or stashing break and bake cookie dough in the freezer just in case.
I also always include one meal I know will feed more than just my family of five. The weeks we don’t end up having people over we get good leftovers. But if we do host, we know there is a meal in the refrigerator ready to share. It’s a win-win all around!
4. Be Yourself
Our lives and homes don’t have to be in perfect order to invite others in. If you wait until everything is just right, you will likely wait forever.
When people see that you have unfinished dishes and dirty laundry in your house and you ordered take out instead of cooking, they aren’t going to judge you, and they aren’t going to wish they hadn’t come over.
Instead, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing you are a real person, just like them. In fact, when you’re truly yourself and let people into your life (your REAL life), it dissipates a lot of pressure and allows for genuine community to flourish.
Being a good host does not mean you need to pay someone to clean your house within an inch of perfection or that you should spend a week’s grocery budget on fine wine and a lavish meal.
When you let go of what the world (and Pinterest) tells you your home should look like and just be who you are — who God created you to be — then your table will begin to look more and more like Jesus’ table which was never so much about the table, but rather who sat around it.
So, here’s the moral of the story: you can do this!
And I hope you will!
In the end, few people will remember the quality of that cup of coffee or how perfectly put together your house was. What they won’t forget is the way you opened your doors, welcomed them into your home, and nourished their souls.