Saturday, June 14, 2014

My Invitation to be Filmed for TLC's "Extreme Cheapskates"


You read that right.

Last month, I was contacted by the casting director for TLC's show, Extreme Cheapskates. Remember what I thought of that show the first, and only, time I watched an episode? If not, you can read about my reaction here.

I received an email in May from the casting director. She had somehow been referred to my blog. She read it, loved it, and thought I'd be perfect for the show. She gave me all her contact info., and asked that I get back with her.


I thought it was one of those email scams and laughed at the idea. I did nothing about it for several days. I eventually read it to my husband so he could get a laugh in as well.

But he didn't laugh.

He told me it sounded like the real deal. Not a scam. He thought it could be a cool once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that I should at least respond.

I hemmed and hawed. I really did not want to respond if it was, in fact, a scam. I researched the casting director's name, and found someone by the same name who was a casting director for a different show. I checked out the area code of the cell phone number she left. I looked on TLC's webpage to see how they went about casting for the show.

I wasn't thoroughly convinced, but decide to email her back anyway. Here's my emailed response:

Wow! I must say, I am quite flattered that you would reach out to me in this way. Never in a million years would I have thought myself a candidate for your show. 

I have seen an episode, and to be honest, I'm not sure I'd be the ideal candidate for an episode. I feel there is a definite difference between being a "cheapskate" and being "consciously frugal." (For example, I won't be dumpster-diving for anniversary gifts, or using washcloths in lieu of TP anytime soon.) I doubt I'd make for very entertaining television.

I do appreciate that you are hoping to teach viewers "how to save money in the easiest way." I choose to be frugal in part because of how I was raised, and also to combat our extremely high debt-load. My husband will complete his medical training the end of June, and it was an EXPENSIVE journey. However, we won't be splurging with his new income any time soon. Getting out of debt is priority #1, so our frugal lifestyle will continue. 

Anyway, as I said, I'm not sure I'm your best candidate, and I'm really only responding because my husband loves the idea... but if you are still interested in pursuing this, I would be open to learning more about what would be involved.

Thank you again for reaching out to me,

After I sent her my response, she quickly emailed back, assured me they'd LOVE to have me on the show, that I was an ideal candidate, that it would increase my blog viewership, that my frugal ideas and lifestyle could help a lot of people, and that I should proceed to fill out the casting questionnaire she had attached.

Well, I hemmed and hawed for a couple more days, but in the end, it was her point that "my frugal ideas and lifestyle could help a lot of people" that got me to fill out the questionnaire and get the ball rolling. I truly believe in living fugally and well at the same time, and felt this could be an opportunity to share that belief on a larger platform.

After the questionnaire, a headshot (which was truly laughable, and taken by Photobooth on this very computer), several phone calls from New York, and more emails wherein I answered more questions about my every day life, I recieved directions for putting together a casting video that they would show on their website, and they began putting together "my story." Everything started coming together really fast, and the filming of my episode was a few short weeks away.

Since we are moving soon, (two weeks... I should probably start packing instead of blogging) they decided that on top of filming me doing frugal every day things, my "angle" should be how to move as cheaply as possible.

Great! I could get excited about this!

This will be my 8th move, and we really are getting pretty darn good at it.

For example:

I told them about the boxes we STILL have from our first move, and how we didn't buy those boxes, but collected them from grocery stores that didn't need them. Those poor boxes are nearly ready to bite the dust, and have Kitchen Bathroom Living Room Baby Room and Bedroom written on various parts of them depending on what they were filled with for that particular move. 

We pack, wrap, load, move, and unload everything ourselves.

When required, we clean the carpets before moving out rather than paying an expensive company to do so.

For our upcoming move that is only 30 miles away, the plan was to borrow a truck and trailer, and our only cost would be gas. 

I was excited to share all this with people. I couldn't wait to show them how to grind their own wheat to make their own bread, how to re-use swim diapers, how to refill their own ink cartridges to save a boat-load, how to get free reams of paper for kids to color on, etc...

Then, things started to get a little iffy.

I got in touch with a couple other people who had done the show to ask about their personal experience. I was getting on board with just about everything, but I didn't want to get into something I would regret. I knew it would be important to reach out and learn more.

The previous "extreme cheapskates' " answers were similar: 

You will be a "willing actor" and the things you show on TV will hardly be a true depiction of "reality." You have to be okay with seeing this as just another TV show... not reality at all. They are going for shock value.

One woman who has a frugal-living blog like me, mentioned that she was so excited to do the show, had so many awesome ideas she wanted to share, but when the camera crew showed up, they didn't want to film ANY of that. They came with a packet of things they wanted to film her doing, even though they were things she'd never done before and would never do again in real life.

That got me a little nervous, but I figured they couldn't possibly film me and my family moving and make it seem too far out there.

The very next phone call I got from the director was about planning the details for my episode. I told her about borrowing the trailer, and how moving and filming at the same time might be kinda crazy, but we'd make it work. 


She laughed and said they wouldn't film me actually moving... that they would stage me moving.

Okay... I get that... sort of.

She was in love with the fact that my husband is a doctor and that we still live on the cheap. (He finishes training in two weeks, and we are literally up to our EYEBALLS in school loan debt... that's a big reason why we live on less.) She didn't want to mention that he's just getting out of training. Not nearly as interesting. Then she asked something like this:

"Since he's a doctor, do you think the hospital would like, let you borrow an ambulance, and we could stage you using that to move your stuff?"

HA!!.....HAHA!!!... You're joking right? Do you have any idea how many problems there are with that scenario?

Anyway, I told her no. That there was no way that would happen. 

So then she asked something like this:

"Well, since you've got a daughter in school, do you think you could borrow a school bus? It would be perfect to film a staged move with a school bus."

Uhhh.... are you being serious? No way! 
1.) Can you imagine getting furniture and boxes to fit in a bus full of seats? 
2.) The gas to drive a bus is pricey. Not cheap. And you'd have to somehow return the bus instead of dropping it off in the new town, using even MORE gas in the process.

I firmly told her that I wasn't comfortable doing anything on TV that I wouldn't normally do in real life... even if it was for entertainment value.

The more little ideas she threw out (filming me taking empty ketchup bottles to restaurants, and filling them up with ketchup packets), the more I realized I just couldn't win. This show was not going to help people live frugally. It was strictly for shock/entertainment value, with maybe a very FEW valid frugal ideas thrown in. 

I ended up emailing her to say I couldn't do it, very nicely explained why, and thanked them for the opportunity.

It really was too bad.

It made me wish there was a TV show that depicted REAL frugal living, and how helpful that would be to people. I know I'd watch it looking for valid new ideas. But the whole concept of the Extreme Cheapskates show goes against my grain.

I am extremely frugal.

I am not an extreme cheapskate.

There is a difference.

If any of you hear of any opportunities to film a show the celebrates real-life frugality, let me know! 

In the mean time, I'll stick to sharing what I know with you lovely readers. 

Have a great Saturday!


  1. Ahhhhh good for you! Stick to your guns on this, I understand what you are talking about, I get approached about once a month (sometimes more) by different TV companies and agents wanting to do a story about us living off grid, I politely turn each one down, I have seen those reality shows and it's all about the shock value, they can film a perfectly good scene and by the time they are done with it, the good parts are on the cutting room floor and what's left makes you look like a complete idiot.... no thank you. I'm glad you didn't cave in to their ridiculous suggestions/demands....

  2. This is too funny. The same thing happened to us. My bf refinishes furniture and we were contacted by a reality show wanting to film a trash to treasure type show. We both looked into it and it seemed legit, so we responded. In the end, we also turned them down. They wanted to stage a piece of junk furniture that he was to 'find' in a junk yard or dumpster - all while the cameras were rolling. They wanted to re-arrange his workshop to make it fit their idea of what a workshop should look like. They told him how the piece should look when done. The whole thing is scripted. To me it seemed more like an episode of Lost!

  3. Good for you wanting to stay true to who you are! I agree that truth should be depicted rather than ideas they have dreamed up. Praying God will honor your decision with some tangible encouragement!!!

  4. Oh, my....this was an interesting read! They've contacted me twice now and I've flatly turned them down both times partly because I just had the feeling that it was more about making people look cooky to get views than anything. But I had no idea that they'd stoop quite so low. Wow!

    I'm with you on the whole thing of wishing that a there was a show that was truly real life. Now THAT would be awesome and I think you would be perfect for it!

  5. Good for you! I really hate all of these "reality" shows. That is one of many reasons why we don't watch t.v. I love your blog and have found it very helpful while my husband was in school too. Keep up the great work. Best of luck in your move!

  6. I really appreciate your post on this. I have watched episodes, and seen other folks I look up to in the frugal category doing weird things that were never implied in their previous work. It all makes much more sense now. the sad thing, is I'd totally watch a show about real frugal stuff, like your blog. These shows are not about that, though. I'm less interested in scripted reality crap, than real life people working out real life problems.

  7. Just reading the title "Extreme Cheapskate" makes me gag. The one episode I watched, I kept saying no way, no one is REALLY doing this. Now I know, it's not really as bad as they've made it out to be. I'm relieved. :o)

  8. Good for you, and thank you for the truth. I have watched that show a couple of times and it has a huge "ewwww....gross" factor, so didn't keep watching. Also, I have wondered if reality shows are staged and scripted, now I know!!
    Best wishes on moving.......we have moved sooooo many times also. Now I think it's in my dna.....

    I am totally with you on frugality, it is a way of life. At first we did it because we were broke newlyweds, then broke little family, then a broke family of "yours mine and ours / 13 children".......eventually not as broke but habits were formed to stretch every dollar. I came up with great ways over the years to utilize food storage and basic foods, realized the use of whole grains, dry beans/lentils, our garden....made us healthier (the fiber), that led to teaching others, teaching classes, doing more research/experimenting, writing recipes, cookbooks, blog, etc. If someone asks me a question about food storage or eating healthy and I don't know the answer, I love the research to find out, seeking/learning from others experiences. Right now I am compiling healthy main meal recipes that are 30 cents or less per serving (breakfast can often be way less than 30 cents per serving because oatmeal, brown rice, and wheat are just a few cents per serve). The secret is seeking nutritionally-dense foods, and taking time to train tastes to change.


  9. Good for you!!! Glad you said no and stood for what you believe. I enjoy your blog and when I saw this post I was like oh no please don't tell me you are doing this show! Glad you didn't.

  10. Congratulations on standing up for who you are and not giving into the 15 mins. of fame and the $. I love your blog and would be so sad to know that you went the way of "reality" tv. Keep up the wonderful sharing on your blog and that alone will increase traffic to it.

  11. Shame on TLC. Everyone should share this post to let them know that America wants real lessons in frugality, not shock TV and that this show is a fraud. I imagine a lot of people watch this show and are turned off by the extreme things that the producers dream up.

  12. Wow. That is terrible. I have seen one episode of that show and it was horrible. It was about a man who was so cheap that he embarrassed his family - took them out to dinner, wanted them to share meals, and paid with a huge bag of change. It was so incredibly bad that it was obviously not reality. Good for you for saying no! I love frugal blogs and get so many good ideas from them. My big cost-cutters are couponing, baking from scratch, and making my own baby food. I still treat my kids to birthday meals at the restaurant of their choice, pay for their sports fees, buy their clothes and toys (albeit with coupons and sales), take my pets to the vet (although we travel an extra 15 minutes to a cheaper clinic), etc. I do home hair cuts for my husband and sons. I consider myself moderately-frugal and my big goal is to one day be debt free.

  13. Good for you. you have a lovely encouraging blog that has become my go to for recipes! I love your cost breakdowns and tips and everything I have made has been a total winner. That show is all about the gross out factor...

  14. Thank you for sharing this. I think it's WONDERFUL that you stuck to your convictions and wouldn't do something on TV that you wouldn't do in real life. I get so frustrated with "reality tv" for this very reason.

    I like that you exposed manipulation for what it is. Just feels good!

  15. Thanks for sharing your experience with "reality" TV. Reality becomes an oxymoron when applied to this type of television programming. Seriously, I laughed until I cried about the suggestions to borrow an ambulance or a school bus. Thanks for remaining faithful to your frugal lifestyle.

  16. I think back when reality tv first came about it WAS really real. But now, well, it's the shock value ... come on, do you really think people behave like that all the time and STILL have people who want to be with them (friends, family, etc.)? I agree with you though, frugal and cheap are totally different from each other and by you saying "no thank you" to the shows suggestions, I definitely say you are frugal, which means you have CLASS ;-) ... don't call ME cheap but I'll smile if you call me frugal or thrifty! That was interesting though how things all panned out ... I guess that means I can't ask to borrow the ambulance for the next Halloween party of Dr. Mark and Nurse Jan?? :-)

  17. That is awesome! I just found your blog and saw the picture of your family...Corey was in my ward at BYUI! Cool...Anyways, I think that is great you did what you did. I really admire that!

  18. Hi Andrea! I had a good laugh while reading this because I went through the exact same thing this summer. Email from the casting director I was going to ignore, but then my family told me to reply. Several emails and phone calls, questionnaires and casting videos. Then the crazy suggestions.

    But I'd already committed. I wasn't going to back out and just went along with all the producers made up shenanigans. None of my suggestions mattered. My episode will be on next week, 10.22.14 at 9 pm. I'm really nervous to see myself depicted as a crazy person, haha.

    Chic on the Cheap

    1. Oh my goodness, good luck!! I wish you the best in your episode. :) one of the gals. Some with who'd done it said hers was definitely a little out there, and not what she did normal,y, but it turned out to not look too crazy...I think they called her the extreme housewife cheapskate or something. I watched hers and it wasn't too bad, but she said she did hardly any of that stuff in real life. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

  19. Thanks for the information. I watched an episode of Extreme Cheapskates today & figured it was exactly as you stated - staged. Had to be considering the camera had to be at all the places they went to. I, too, live frugally - but not to the extreme they show.


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