Your Guide to Frugal Reality TV


There’s no shortage of reality television on the airwaves — but which of your guilty pleasures can help you save money?

This comprehensive guide to frugal reality TV will identify which shows you should be watching, on what networks you can find them, and the days and times you can learn how to spend wiser from the comfort of your couch.

Extreme Couponing

This runaway hit follows regular people who take coupon clipping to a whole new level. Many of the subjects cut hundreds of coupons a week in order to stock up on everything from soaps and shampoos to cleaning products to canned goods, all well below retail value; savings are typically about 90% off. Their homes are packed to the brim with their best buys — sometimes hundreds of pieces of a particular item. The most altruistic subjects donate the surplus to needy organizations, while the others are simply stockpiling to prepare for the apocalypse. Two episodes air on TLC on Mondays from 10 to 11 p.m. (See also: Extreme Couponing? 5 Reasons Why I'll Pass.)

$40 a Day

Talk-show host and self-proclaimed cook (not chef) Rachael Ray travels the country — with only two twenties in her pocket — in search of the most delicious and affordable foods. From gnocchi in Napa Valley to handmade munchies in Maui, $40 a Day teaches travelers how to eat great even on a budget. Airs on the Food Network on Wednesdays at 4:30 a.m.

19 Kids and Counting

Over the years, the title of this show has changed to accommodate additions to the growing Duggar brood (when it premiered in 2008, there were only 17 kids). Frugal life lessons are abundant, from living a credit-free lifestyle to purchasing clothes from thrift shops to making the kids cut their own hair. Other ways they save include shopping for groceries at Aldi (a discount supermarket chain), growing vegetables, chopping firewood to heat their home, and making their own laundry detergent. Season eight is scheduled to start airing on Sept. 27 at 9 p.m.

Ten Dollar Dinners With Melissa d’Arabian

Food Network Star season five winner Melissa d’Arabian shows viewers how to make healthy meals for the whole family without breaking the bank. Her recipes include sophisticated upgrades to table staples like chicken and pork as well as dishes with international flair from Parisian and Moroccan menus. With the motto “Four people, ten bucks, infinite possibilities,” it’s hard to go wrong with d’Arabian’s money-saving tips and tricks. Airs on the Food Network on Sundays at 9 a.m.


Todd and Laura Bruce — and their seven children — star in this docu-series about making ends meet. With two homes in foreclosure, a failed contracting business, and a daily struggle to make rent, the heads of the household resort to dire measures — like dumpster diving — to ensure that their family has what it needs to survive this tumultuous time in their lives. Airs on WE tv on Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

Design on a Dime

In this series, designer Casey Noble shares her secrets for turning lackluster spaces into stylish sanctuaries all while dispelling the notion that redecorating has to cost a fortune. She stretches the decorating dollar by combining cost-saving solutions with clever DIY ideas to take entire rooms from drab to fab. Airs on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on HGTV.

Clean House

Hoarders get a chance to clear the clutter and make a few bucks by emptying the contents of their home onto the lawn for others to purchase during a yard sale. Whatever isn’t bought is taken away and donated to charity. Meanwhile, the show’s team (some episodes feature host Niecy Nash, while newer eps have Tempestt Bledsoe at the helm) redecorate the home with repurposed pieces and new purchases bought with the money made at the sale. Airs almost every day of the week at various times on Style Network; check your local listings.

Did I miss a frugal reality TV show? Let me know your favorites in the comments section below.

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Guest's picture

So glad I can now combine two of my favorite things: reality TV and learning how to save money! Thanks for the post!

Guest's picture

Love this guide, but since I do not have cable, it's not very useful. I'll most likely watch some of these shows in the future when they come to Hulu or Netflix. There are a couple of money saving shows on over-the-air channels that are also worth checking out. If you have the bunny ears check your local TV channels.

Guest's picture

I LOVE Clean House!! I love $40/day too, but didn't realize it was airing at such an early hour.

I will NOT watch Extreme Couponing. I prefer to actually follow store policies and not obtain coupons less-than-reputably to get deals on food. The people on that show should really be ashamed of themselves.