TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates: The True Story

November 11, 2013

Have you ever wanted to be on a Reality Show?

TLC: Extreme Cheapskates

Shooting “Extreme Cheapskates” on location.


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:

How Did I Get On The Show?

Our Wedding

Our wedding cost under $2000, we bartered for everything else!

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)!

TLC Extreme Cheapkskate: Jordan Mederich

Interviewing Jonathan and Angela after their barter.


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.


Was Everything Real?

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:

How Can You Barter?

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.

Did I Get Paid To Be On The Show?

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… ย you’re holding up the line).

TLC Extreme Cheapskates: Jordan Mederich

Interviewing people in line at the donut shop.

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.

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    Ian Nov 15, 2013

    Hi Jordan! Interesting little blurb here… my family has been watching Extreme Cheapskates on Netflix for the past week or so and the show has been… kind of bothering me, to be honest, so I got on the internet to look up stuff about it and eventually found my way to this post of yours.

    It’s disheartening that they change and omit so much stuff to make things seem more shocking. Your segment I actually liked because it was very obvious by your demeanor that you respected the people you were bartering with, and weren’t averse to spending money at all if you needed to.

    It’s important not to make others very uncomfortable in pursuit of saving a bit of money, which I suppose is my main problem with what I’ve seen in the show: people with families that seemed very uncomfortable or embarrassed, or people nagging and making others uncomfortable in order to get better deals from them.

    But now I’m wondering if even a lot of that stuff was staged. Ah, well!


      Jordan Nov 15, 2013

      Hi Ian, thanks for your comment. You’re absolutely right, it’s sad they manipulate so much of the content to make people look horrible. I work hard to leave everyone happy after a barter… that’s the point, to make a better deal for everyone!

      I realize I got out a little better than the others. But these shows will always be around, people love the drama. Keep your head up, there are always good people too! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Skozo Nov 22, 2013

    I knew to never trust TLC about any “reality” shows since they’ve become the icon for “reality.”
    I love (of course, being facetious) how they try to make you look very cheap and frugal in the episode. I completely agreed with everything you did (I knew the donut take was fake) a trade for a trade. There will be times that may not work, but it’s something great to know. I knew you knew the barbershop, because it felt like “what are you doing here? Didn’t you just . . . -notices camera- oooooooh.”
    I’m sorry you couldn’t teach to barter and I’m so sorry that I almost judged you for that fuckin’ donut. Keep up the good work.

      Jordan Nov 22, 2013

      Hi Skozo,
      As long as you watch it as just “entertainment” there’s no harm done, but certainly harm is done when they tweak TLC “Reality Shows” into something VERY far from truth. The principles of the haircut scene and the donut shop scene are just examples, and I encourage to find their own way to barter. You can literally double your salary by bartering for things you want… I still do to this day! Save your cash for a rainy day, use your talents the rest of the week.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    Elise Nov 27, 2013

    hey Jordan, I actually had some questions about your experience of filming with them. I know you answered a lot for us all here but could really use your insight for some upcoming things for me. Please email me if you get a chance. I appreciate it a lot!

      Jordan Nov 27, 2013

      Hi Elise,
      Sounds like you might be on a reality show soon! BEWARE! Kidding… I replied to your email. Any help I can give, I certainly will.

    JC Dec 08, 2013

    I really appreciated that you guys did not try to take advantage of anyone. It seems some of the people on the show would try to cheat money out of shop owners or vendors. You guys seemed respectful and not over the top.

      Jordan Dec 08, 2013

      You’re absolutely right, the editors of the show tried to show us in a false light, but we certainly didn’t give them a lot of ammo! We always treat every person with respect, and never forget the value of treating someone very well.

    Patrick Jan 01, 2014

    I just watched an episode where a millionaire cheapskate bummed a ride on a private aircraft in order to get to a business meeting in LA. The show neglected to black out the tail number of the Cessna she was in (N21893). I decided to google the tail number and behold, it is not a private aircraft but is an aircraft registered to a charter company. Do you still think she bummed the ride?

      Jordan Jan 03, 2014

      That’s some good detective skills! More likely than not, she has bummed a ride before, and they had to shoot an example of it, so they faked it for the cameras. All of the scenes they aired in my segment were slightly fabricated. The people I bartered with had no idea, but we were more giving examples than actually bartering live.

    k Jan 02, 2014

    I felt so bad for that lady in the cake shop I hope the show reimbursed her some way?? She looked so overworked and tired ๐Ÿ™

      Jordan Jan 03, 2014

      She certainly was overworked… she’s the owner of a bakery! But she was very kind and knew we were coming ahead of time. She was very excited to be on the show.

    Jordan Jan 06, 2014

    I was just wondering what some of the people on the show do with the money. I can certainly understand “being cheap” to save some money here and there, possibly to pay large expenses or just build a savings. But one episode, the father showed several bank account totally over $150,000. I can’t imagine the mindset is living cheaply for a short time in order to reach of certain amount of savings. It just doesn’t seem like there is a goal. The psychology of the whole thing is another matter, but considering the incredible amount of time needed to dumpster dive and whatnot, what exactly is the reason for doing it? Just curious!

      Jordan Jan 06, 2014

      For all cheapskates, there is a certain amount of financial OCD. For some it’s a serious mental disorder, living in fear of not having anything. Others do it for fun, I do it as a goal based system. Saved $18k on my wedding pretty easily, saved on cars, saving big time on a house, etc. A lot of cheapskates aren’t cheap because they’re poor, they actually save MUCH more than a non-cheapskate and have stockpiles of assets available.

    Jennifer Jan 08, 2014

    Hello, I noticed that your wedding cost was extremely low and well…my fiance’ and I are having trouble getting everything together (wedding dress, venue, cake, tuxes, etc). I was wondering how you would barter for a wedding dress from big companies (David’s Bridal, Men’s Warehouse). The items that we picked out are not that expensive, but it’s expensive for us knowing it’s mainly just us paying it, nothing from our families. And the venues…well, I don’t want to spend nearly $2000 on a venue that I’ll be at for maybe 4 hours (I work at a retail store, my fiance’ works at a call center). What would you recommend? I did leave my e-mail and facebook info for you.

      Jordan Jan 08, 2014

      Hi Jennifer, it was a lot of work to get our cost down. I traded video work, but if you have something valuable to offer, almost any non-corporate business will pay attention. The trick is, it has to be a deal they can’t pass up. Make it so sweet they can’t resist, that’s why I was successful. I DO NOT recomment trying to barter or negotiate at David’s Bridal or any other corporate store. They don’t have any power to talk down the price or trade services. Go to a local tailor or dress seller. If you’re a photographer, web designer, cake maker, whatever it is, offer it up in exchange or for a discount. But remember, if they say no, be gracious and respectful of their time and their business… it may be the first time anyone has bartered with them.

      In terms of a venue, go somewhere else. Ask for favors, use your church, a friend’s business, whatever it takes. $2k is a lot. Ours was supposed to be $5000 for 2 hours, I knew that wouldn’t work, so I found an alternative.

    Yvonne Jan 16, 2014


    I found your blog after searching for information regarding the extreme Cheapskate show. My husband and I are trying to decide whether we should audition for the show or not. We responded to a Craigslist ad that they posted and were contacted by a casting director. They like our story and would like us to send in a 5 minute preview video, but we’re having some hesitations about it…if you have any insight from your experience that you could share with us that would be really helpful!


      Jordan Jan 16, 2014

      Hi Yvonne, Truth is, it’s totally your choice. Just keep in mind, you’re putting a target on yourself, you’ll inevitably get some hateful comments online, and your friends may think you’re a freak (depending on the severity of your cheapness). If none of that bothers you, have fun with it! Just keep in mind, they won’t pay you a cent or even give you a copy of the show… you’re responsible for all financial consequences of the experience.

    John Jan 27, 2014

    I’m glad someone came forward about this show. I actually watched it to see things other people were doing to save money. I consider myself more of an efficiency addict than a cheapskate. What I found were people spending inordinate amounts of time to save pennies, reusing extremely cheap things they exaggerate the price of, or just being disgusting. A lot of the stuff on the show is inefficient (pulling stems off of cherries to save “4 cents”), ineffective (the lady using a timer on her freezer, when it already uses a thermostat), or just gross (everything having to do with toilet paper). I noticed from the start, either these people are insane (“Extreme OCD” should maybe be the title of the show), typical trash (willing to work harder at not working than they would at working), or play acting for the camera (badly).

      Jordan Jan 27, 2014

      You’re absolutely right. I prefer to consider myself a selective spender. A LOT of people on the show were very strange, almost animal-like behavior… though they portrayed me in a way I never expected. The real shame is that I’m sure a lot of these people have plenty of REALLY good ideas on how to save money, but the producers chose to highlight the “penny pinching” ideas I made up on the spot. Truthfully, anyone can save a couple cents by taking advantage of people and being ‘cheap’, but the story they didn’t air tells one of trading value for value, not begging for free stuff.

      By the way, talking about being cheap, TLC didn’t pay us anything to be on the show, or even give us a copy of the show. After we aired, they never returned emails simply asking for a copy as a keepsake. They got exactly what they wanted from us “cheapskates”… haha, I guess I DID get a donut.

    Brian Jan 30, 2014

    I enjoyed your episode. I, too, was on a reality show years ago, but I was paid for it. Yes, there were whole really good segments cut out. No, I probably wouldn’t do it again, but I will say everyone involved were very professional and pleasure to “work” with. I do know what goes on behind the scenes and that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be when it airs, depending on the “slant” they want to put on it, as there almost always is one. Cheers! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Suze Feb 08, 2014

    I understand that they edit the show, and parts of it do seem set up. But in your episode, they would have had to make magic to make you look the way you did. On that date with the girl, you chose to ask for one rib, and to ask if she got free refills when she asked for tea. If you are saying that they “made” you say those things, that is different from saying that it was just clever editing.

      Jordan Feb 08, 2014

      Um… I think you’re confusing me with someone else. What you’re describing didn’t happen in my segment, or the whole episode as far as I’m aware.

        Suze Feb 08, 2014

        You are right, I did have you mixed up with a different person on the show. Sorry about that. He looked like such a jerk, and I wonder if they told him to say those things, because no amount of editing could make those things come out of his mouth. I am not sure which episode it was. But he was horrible on the date, yet when interviewed, the girl said he was a nice guy.

          Anita Apr 14, 2014

          That guy WAS a jerk and very dishonest too! At least that’s what TLC portrayed. He kept tags on clothes and returned them after a few months or years! He got free rent but charges his roommates a lot, he brought up not flushing a toilet for a week while his date was eating! He is a thief and a jerk (according to what I saw and the clips that they showed). It was totally uncool.

          I love to save money but you are right, a lot of these people are OCD or imbalanced (at least what’s shown). It’s sad that TLC can’t make this more helpful by showing practical ways to save or trade/barter value for value. I write a ton on my blog about saving money and finding cheap ways to live that are balanced/ reasonable. I too saved $22k on my wedding (and it was beautiful & expensive looking like yours) here’s a link if you want to check it out:http://livelikeyouarerich.com/23-ways-save-2798937-on-your-wedding/ . I was considering applying when I came across your website. They don’t pay you anything? And they take liberties with editing? No thanks! Thanks for the heads up so I avoided this whole fiasco.

          Oh just to add, I see where you are coming from when talking about extreme couponing but that show grossly misrepresents couponing. Moderately couponing saves me $100-300.00/month on groceries. So using coupons moderately can save a lot! Just wanted to let you know that the TLC show has put a bad name on couponing as well. -Anita

      Ashley Apr 03, 2014

      That was Greg Insco.. he’s also on other shows and I believe I just read he will be on Survivor. Jordan, yours is actually one of my favorite episodes. I like the concept of “trade” as opposed to free

        Jordan Apr 03, 2014

        Thanks Ashley. Most of the people they put on recurring episodes are the ones willing to come off as a ‘freak’ multiple times…. fool me once… Many are in it for the fame, I’d say. My bartering lifestyle is very real, certainly hope to find another outlet to share the real tools and tips I use to get stuff cheap or free!

    Annie Mar 28, 2014

    I really like your episode and what you represented in the show. Its a great way of life. Bartering is so much nicer than just a simple exchange of cash (aka. transaction). If you ever gonna write a book about it, I’ll be the first one to support. ^^

      Jordan Apr 03, 2014

      Hi Annie,
      I’d love to write a book sometime and share all the details. That’s a great idea! Will take it into consideration.


    Maria Apr 08, 2014

    Hey Jordan! I’ve been on Idol in my country and it’s true these reality shows aren’t so real anyway. They were much more interested in my private life and family than in my actual skills as a singer. So I know better not to trust “reality” TV.
    Anyway, I’m pretty amazed by your voice and your talent to recite poetry, that was by far the most positive episode I’ve seen of this weird show.

      Jordan Apr 08, 2014

      Maria, so good to hear from another reality “star”! haha… the poem and haircut portions were literally made up on the spot, they certainly didn’t tell the story I was hoping for. I didn’t even think those parts would make it on the show. I AM thankful that I came off much better than some others.

      It’s funny, you can look on craigslist and see they’re still casting for the show. Our pilot apparently proved to the network that there are plenty of people willing to appear on TV and show all their weird quirks…

    Tracy May 05, 2014

    Thanks for this. Extreme Cheapskates has just come to air in South Africa but I watched one series on Netflix some time ago (as a frugal person, Netflix is way cheaper than satellite TV!). I have heard peoples reactions to the show and realized many watch it out of some weird fascination as to the lengths people go to save money. This made me feel a little weird myself as, honestly, I watched the series to see what I could learn to further save more money. So, it was great to read that this was actually your intention: to teach others.

    Benjamin May 25, 2014

    Hi Jordan I recently got Netflix, I am disabled, watch alot of Movies, and TV needless to say for some reason I got hooked on this show. Yes my first thought was these people look like freaks. I was happy to come across your article here because your bit was the only one I found to be “normal” whatever that may be. Bartering which you appear to have mastered can be a great tool, my Uncle used to take me to Auctions he also was quite the Barterer. Anyway I just wanted to say I found your article, and the links to your work very interesting. Thank you! ~Benjamin Phillips

      Jordan May 27, 2014

      Hi Benjamin,

      Thanks for the comment, yeah, can’t say I would do the show again, unless they were willing to tell the truth about my lifestyle. We are still going, and continue to improve how things work.

      Best to you, hope your health improves!


    Trinelle Thomas Jun 22, 2014

    Hello Jordan,
    We were on Season 2 of Extreme Cheapskates (frugal firefighter) I must say…I wish I had of read your post before agreeing to do the show. We were made to believe we would show different ways of saving money, the next thing we knew there was a script and we were doing crazy things, that we would have never done. I couldn’t believe how many people believed it, I decided to create a website to tell our side as well. Thanks for making this site, a documentary with all cast members telling their side, might be interesting!

    Take Care

    Trinelle Thomas

      Jordan Jun 23, 2014

      Hi Trinelle,

      I would love to have another version of the show that gives us a chance to tell the REAL story, the REAL reason we went on the show in the first place. It’s all about viewers to the networks, so they really won’t care how we look. Hope you guys stay cheap!


    Alice Jul 07, 2014

    Jordan, you are great. Even with the shitty comments to make you look like a freak, it was obvious that you are just pure awesome. “Everyone just barters everyday anyway. It’s called money.” Yes, but money is not fair. We pay pro athletes way more than what we pay teachers. I’m not trying to belittle athletes… but you get the picture. Everyone owns 24 hours a day, but those hours don’t translate into money the same way for everyone. Now, with bartering, you get what you want or need, and the person in the other part of the deal does too. Money is not involved. I don’t see it as a way of being “cheap” or “frugal”, but as a way of being more conscious. Imagine people would do this more often:
    “Hey Mayor, I need some paint for my house. How about the municipality paying for it, and I will plant some beautiful flowers in different places?” This is pure awesomeness Actually, I’ve never (consciously) done it but I’m an actress/performance artist and aspiring writer. I could offer to help some people in exchange for tutoring for certain classes, or discounted rent, or stuff like that. I believe this can lead to stronger relationships in people. I’m amazed at how much you “save” (you didn’t get stuff for “free”, you worked for them!) by bartering. Thanks for your example! Good vibes for you and those around you.

      Jordan Sep 08, 2014

      Hey Alice,

      Thanks so much for your comment. You’re absolutely right, not everything is fair… so sometimes we have to bend the rules, via bartering! Really, only about 1 in 100 people think you’re insane, the rest are willing to work with you. When no money exchanges hands, you’ve solved the economic dilemma this country is in!

      Now, go make a change for the better!


    Les Toil Aug 08, 2014

    After seeing a couple episodes of Extreme Cheapskates it’s starts to look obvious these are all just little fictitious enactments of events. There’s obviously a script and a couple camera men and a boom and then family members and friends and bystanders are told to do their roll and pretend the camera crew doesn’t exist. And they clearly do a few takes of each segment since we have a camera crew behind a store counter and then a camera crew behind the customers on the OTHER side of the counter. And I just don’t understand why the producers don’t try and make the situations a tad more believable–like when one cheapskate found a demolished rancid bug-infested little rabbit on the side of the road with its middle gone and later turned it into a huge luscious rabbit stew and a phenomenal big ornate purse with enough pelt leftover to make a couple coin purses. How dumb do they think the audience is? It would be much nicer if they just said these are re-enactments with the real-life cheapskates.

      Jordan Sep 08, 2014

      Haha, good point! Audiences generally eat what the networks feed them. They LOVE the ‘fakeness’ of it. It’s called “the willing suspension of disbelief”, it’s an escape from their own lives to live vicariously through another life.

      Thanks for your comment!

    Michelle Sep 08, 2014

    Wow I remember this episode! ๐Ÿ™‚ It seems like most reality shows are actually extremely fake. I know someone who was recently on TrueLife and she said the producers made her friends and family look extremely bad in the show by forcing them to say things and taking it out of context. It’s horrible.

    Joseph Sep 09, 2014

    Hey Jordan.

    I was curious to google the show and get more info on how it is produced after watching a few episodes and getting the feeling like there was some acting happening. Your segment felt based more in truth than some of the others.

    I have produced and sold a couple reality shows and sadly, as you know, it is a very plotted out, formatted, heavily edited version of something based in reality, to maximize stakes, and keep audiences entertained.

    Here is an example for all those who have been commenting here. I filmed a pilot for a reality show based at a car wash shop. One of the shoot days, the owner jokingly mentioned they should get someone in a gorilla suit to hold a sign near the road to bring in customers. Of course this was never ever going to happen. But as a producer, I said well why don’t we just do it. So we went out and got a monkey suit. We then wrote out the entire story line and got the owner to do a bunch of things to fit into the storyline. i.e google costume shops nearby and explain what he was going to do (remember, I went and got the costume, he never was going to)

    We told him to then go around with the monkey suit asking his employees to put it on. The employees didn’t know what was going on so their reactions to him asking them were real. What they also didn’t know (nor the owner) was that about 15 minutes before this we had already filmed one of the employees in the monkey suit holding a sign at the side of the road.

    So when you watch any reality show now, think of this story, and apply what you’ve learned here to it. ๐Ÿ™‚

    casey Oct 03, 2014

    I saw Greg on the Today show and have to say he disgusted me with his selfish thinking. He says its alright that he wears clothes until they go out of style because the store is making interest on his money. What a narcissistsic attitude! When he returns the clothes the store has to mark them down because they are out of season and style etc. The store loses money. Its ok to be frugal and bargain however when you are basically stealing from businesses, that is not ok.

    Respecter Nov 10, 2014

    I don’t think this is a cheapskate, it is a talent.

    claudia Nov 16, 2014

    Hi..I need some advice.I am an amateur artist..I draw,paint,create ..i wonder how i could barter some of my creations?
    thanks for any advice!

    Vickie Jun 22, 2017

    Hey we were on the show too…so much more behind the scenes….my friends laughed pretty hard, like rolling on the floor at how it was so not real… Yeah we’re the roadkill episode! Would love to connect with the other participants ๐Ÿ™‚


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