For many of us, there’s no better party than one in which we’re surrounded by our relatives. But these events aren’t always cheap. If you’re the host, how should you pay for your family reunion costs?
Scope your needs and hopes
If your family likes to keep it simple, celebrate! You may well be able to get away with a barbecue, some store-bought cakes and chips, cases of soft drinks and some boxed wine. And you can probably host the event in your backyard. Or, better yet, in the back yard of your least-favorite cousin. Recreational parks are also popular outdoor venues.
However, your family might have grander expectations. And even a modest bash can cost a bit if your family is large. For instance, some community parks want you to purchase a $1 million liability insurance policy (if you don’t already have such coverage) to host a party. In case your event goes sideways and someone files a lawsuit. There’s a few hundred dollars in addition to the cost of renting the space.
So you first need to imagine what your perfect event should look like. Is it a backyard party, something in a local hotel, or a luxury destination event? Is catering involved? Entertainment? Will you order flowers or other decorations? Will there be a cash bar or an open one?
Set a figure for how much you can afford to pay for your family reunion based on that vision. And be prepared to scale back your dream to match your budget.
There are two advantages to beginning your planning as far as a year or 18 months in advance. First, you’re more likely to get into your relatives’ calendars. And, second, you may be able to get discounted rates from lodging and food providers by booking and paying in advance.
But there’s also a downside to booking (and paying a deposit) early. Even if your family kicks in when they arrive, that’s a long time for you to carry the cost of a family reunion.
You have less time to save and cover the upfront costs. And you’re locked into a date, which may get awkward when your most popular cousin gets engaged and wants a destination wedding the same week.
Control costs of a family reunion
If you do some online research, you’ll find various estimates for the cost per person of a family reunion. One, for example, puts it between $51 and $99. But that surely depends on the lavishness of the event and who’s paying for what. No doubt the Sultan of Brunei pays for his guests’ airfares and hotel accommodation. You probably won’t.
If it’s a general family reunion, you need not pay much. In families who host annual reunions, it’s often expected that everyone contributes to cover the host’s cost. Others just take up a collection for a gift and that’s that.
One venue suggests, “You could charge adults $95, then offer students and seniors at $75, and children at $60.” That was based on an average cost per person of $84. By the way, it urges you to get payments upfront because it knows how often organizers get stiffed by their kin.
If your celebration is to honor someone closer to home (your spouse’s birthday, your anniversary, your daughter’s graduation …) you may want to shoulder more or all of the costs yourself. And that’s when it can get expensive.
How to pay for your family reunion
The best way to pay for things is almost always out of your savings. Yields on “regular” savings accounts are low. And interest on most borrowing is high. Besides, nobody likes being burdened with debt.
But, if this event means a lot to you, there’s no reason you shouldn’t finance it. Just be sure beforehand that you can comfortably afford the payments, and won’t resent the expense a year (or a month) after the last balloon’s burst.
Personal loan often the best choice
Your first instinct may be to reach for your plastic. But that’s almost always a bad idea, unless you can afford to zero your balance at the end of the first payment cycle. Credit card rates are often painfully high. You could end up paying way more than you need if you carry the debt for a lengthy time.
Meanwhile, an ultra-low-interest second mortgage (a home equity loan or home equity line of credit) only works if you’re borrowing seriously large sums. That’s because they typically come with high closing costs that make them uneconomical for borrowing a few thousand dollars. This is really only an option if you’re already planning to borrow a big sum and decide to add your family reunion costs to that.
In many cases, a personal loan is your smartest choice. They generally have low or zero set-up costs, and much lower interest rates than most credit cards. And they have fixed installments (assuming you opt for a fixed-rate loan) that have to be paid down within a set period. So you can’t be tempted to spread your payments thinner and longer or to run up your balance again.
Of course, you can still make payments using your rewards credit card so you get miles, points or cash back. Just pay down the balance at the first opportunity using the proceeds of your new personal loan.