I did, and I was. In 2011, I was on the Pilot Episode of TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates… and now I want to tell the REAL story of what happened, nothing held back.
There’s a lot the world doesn’t know about Reality Shows, namely, that it’s not reality. I’ll share the secrets of the industry, and what it’s like to be on a Reality TV Show.
See my segment here:
Allow me to answer your deeply burning questions:
I saw an ad on Craigslist (Heaven on earth, for a “Cheapskate”) asking for the world’s cheapest people. While I AM pretty dang frugal (more on this in a minute) I don’t consider myself to be “cheap”. I prefer “a selective and strategic steward” of what I have. I responded to the casting call and told the story of how I was bartering and trading for almost every aspect of my wedding. After hundreds of applicants, I was selected to be on the show.
Weddings are (as we say in my house) “stupid expensive”, and it was a great opportunity to test my bartering skills. My main method of bartering lies in trading commercial video work, for something of value. I traded a commercial for all of the tuxes for myself and my groomsmen (WATCH IT HERE), a video for the chapel and venue we got married at (WATCH IT HERE), and even contacted the founder of CheapCaribbean.com (Caribbean Jim) and made a commercial for a nice discount on our all-inclusive Honeymoon to Cancun. All in all, we turned a $23,000 wedding into a $1,875 wedding (and nobody knew the difference)!
The production company came from New York for 3 days and shot 12 hours of footage each day. I whipped out the best barters I could. As you saw on the show, helped some friends get an engagement party, bartered for a donut (which was reciting “The Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carol, learned it in 5th grade), a haircut for cleaning, and food for the party as well.
Here’s the truth:
1. My friends appeared on the show as a favor to me, they certainly could “afford their engagement party”.
2. The donut shop segment wasn’t even supposed to air, it was just “something extra, in case they needed something”.
3. The haircut place is actually my regular barbershop… they had no idea I was coming, so their reactions were real. I typically tip a lot… they do great work! In fact, I had just gotten my haircut there a week beforehand.
4. Jonathan really did sing for the food at the party, and he REALLY is talented. Pretty much everything in that scene is real.
What they DIDN’T air, was the purpose of going on the show in the first place, which was to teach people to barter their skills with businesses. By offering something of VALUE (construction, artwork, photography, video, whatever), you can get almost anything on earth you want…. with a few ground rules:
1. Affirmation: be NICE, and WILLING to pay if the barter doesn’t work. Genuine kindness towards the business goes a long way.
2. Establish: Explain why you’re there, and the value of your offer. Don’t lie, you may have to prove what you can do.
3. Barter: You’ll be able to tell if they’re interested, be willing to wiggle a bit on your deal to make it work for them. Partial trades often help cover cost, and help ease the business owner into a good deal.
4. Cherry On Top: Leave everyone smiling! The people in the store, the owner or manager, make sure you’re leaving a good impression. If the barter doesn’t work, buy something from them anyway.
Two words: Absolutely Not. In fact, I didn’t even get a copy of the show. I bought it from Youtube. Unless you’re a recurring character on a show (like Duck Dynasty), you don’t make anything. I have friends who have been on ABC’s Shark Tank, American Idol and The Biggest Loser, and they’ll say the same thing. You may win a prize on those shows, but you are VERY rarely paid anything for being there. You actually have to PAY to be there; your own gas, typically your own hotel room if you need it, etc.
There have been quite a few barter offers for my services and some job offers. I love when people email me with ideas to barter (Want to Barter with Me? Contact Me Here). I love teaching people about how to save BIG money by trading services instead of paying for them. I think it’s a FAR superior method to saving money than Extreme Couponing (do it well, or don’t do it at all… you’re holding up the line).
Being on a Reality Show was a very strange experience. I’ll probably never do it again. I got off lucky, but the other people on the show looked like absolute freaks. The internet ripped us all apart in forums and chat rooms right after the show released, but since things calmed down a bit, it’s encouraging to hear from people who have learned how to save money in one way or another (apart from reusing your toilet paper… don’t do that).
If you’d like to talk further, feel free to contact me, or leave a comment below. If you end up on your own Reality Show, take it for what it is, share a positive message worth spreading.