Taking charge of your finances when you’re barely making ends meet can be challenging. Cutting your spending helps, but it can be hard to do, and getting started is often the hardest part.
TV shows are often dramatized, and what you see there has to be taken with a grain or more of salt. Still, watching TV shows built around the concept of frugal living can give you some ideas on where to start and entertain you at the same time.
Check out some shows that can give you unique insights into creating a more manageable budget.
1. So Freakin’ Cheap
We might be starting out on the more extreme side of the spectrum, but So Freakin Cheap is worth a watch if you need a lesson on frugality. It is a TLC show that first aired in 2021 and immediately accumulated quite a fan base.
This reality TV series follows the stories of four unassociated families who are ready to do everything imaginable to save a few pennies. Some measures they take to cut down their expenses – like dumpster diving – might be a bit too much for some. However, these families can still teach you some more realistic frugality tips – how to plan a budget-friendly wedding, DIY things around your home, and more.
📺 Where to watch: So far, only the first season of So Freakin Cheap has been released, and the network is waiting for the greenlight for season two. You can watch the entire first season on Amazon.
2. Going From Broke
If you’re a millennial struggling to get out of student debt, make ends meet, and gain some financial independence, Going from Broke is the reality TV show for you.
The hosts are Tonya Rapley, a financial expert, and Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg, Inc., an educational support services company. They work with young adults, educating them on personal finances and offering tips and tricks that can help them get out of debt and start increasing their savings.
3. Big Bad Budget Battle
Food Network’s Big Bad Budget Battle isn’t a traditional budgeting reality TV show, but it can be more than helpful when you’re struggling to put food on the table.
Hosted by Ree Drummond, the show came out in 2022 with just one season released so far. You’ll follow along as home cooks compete to create complex, delicious meals on a strict budget. Food is a major item in most household budgets, and eating cheaper is a big step toward living cheaper.
The competitors need to be thrifty, learn how to use only the ingredients they have in their pantries, and make smart shopping choices if they want to win.
While it’s more of an entertaining cooking show, Big Bad Budget Battle has some nuggets of advice that could help you save on groceries and cooking.
4. Living Smaller
Living Smaller is a unique addition to this list. It’s less about budgeting than about maximizing the use of the space you have available in your home.
The show gives closer insight into the lives of those who have adopted the “tiny home” movement.
You’ll see how others have creatively improved their tiny homes, built budget-friendly yet exceptionally functional spaces, created renting opportunities, and more.
While the show doesn’t go into detail on “budgeting”, it does offer a glimpse into how you can enjoy your small space better or save money by downsizing your space.
📺 Where to watch: There’s currently just one season with 26 episodes, and you can catch up on the show on A&E.
Downsized is an oldie but a goodie. It’s a 2010 reality show with only two seasons, and despite it being somewhat outdated, it shows timeless financial struggles and how to overcome them.
The show follows a large blended family as they try to navigate their financial troubles after losing their contracting business and having two of their homes foreclosed.
The 9-member family had to completely change their lifestyle and spending habits, resorting to dumpster diving, couponing, food stamping, and more just to stay afloat.
📺 Where to watch: Considering it’s been over a decade since the show’s release, you won’t find it on any of your favorite TV channels. However, you can watch the show on Amazon.
6. Til Debt Do Us Part
Going even further back in time, to 2005, we get perhaps one of the best-known finance reality TV shows: Til Debt Do Us Part.
Hosted by Gail Vaz-Oxlade, an expert financial planner, you’ll get to meet couples and families with serious financial issues that are causing serious relationship issues.
Understanding that finances are often one of the main reasons for divorce, Gail is as gentle as she is ruthless with the families seeking her assistance. She offers terrific relationship and financial advice as she works diligently to transform each family’s spending habits.
She goes so far as to put families on a strict budget, taking away their credit cards and giving them only a weekly allowance to push them to realize the financial mistakes they’re making.
📺 Where to watch: While it’s an older show, much of the advice is relevant today. You can catch up on Til Debt Do Us Part on Amazon.
7. Get Smart With Money
Admittedly, Get Smart With Money probably doesn’t belong on this list as it’s not a TV show but rather a short documentary-style movie. However, it’s filled with nuggets of advice you won’t find in many popular reality TV shows that have been running for seasons.
In Get Smart With Money, individuals facing financial difficulties are introduced to economic advisers who try to help them gain some stability over the course of a year.
You’ll follow along with the story of a bartender who’s barely scraping by, a family with a strong desire for early retirement, and more.
Each story is unique yet resonates with the audience, and you’ll want to remember each piece of financial advice offered in the movie.
📺 Where to watch: You can watch Get Smart With Money on Netflix.
8. Life or Debt
Life or Debt is a show from 2016 that takes an exciting approach to personal finances. It’s hosted by Victor Antonio, a motivational speaker who assists families in dire financial strains, teaching them how to approach their personal finances like they would a business.
In a nutshell, Victor stages a 4-day financial takeover where he goes over all the do’s and don’ts of personal finances, offering every family critical advice that should turn their life around. Once his “intervention” is over, he leaves the families to themselves for 90 days, returning later to find out whether the families followed his advice and how it impacted them.
9. Money, Explained
Money, Explained is a documentary mini-series released as a spin-off of the popular docu-series Explained.
It’s five episodes long, and each episode goes into detail about a specific financial topic. The first episode discusses common financial scams and why many people fall for them. The second one explains credit cards, how they work, and why you should be careful with them, while the next one talks about the student debt crisis and whether it can be overcome.
The penultimate episode is all about gambling, while the finale talks about what’s necessary for a comfortable retirement in the US.
📺 Where to watch: It’s an insightful mini-series that you can enjoy on Netflix.
10. The Minimalist: Less Is Now
Another Netflix title you should check out is The Minimalist: Less Is Now. Somewhat similar to the famous Tidying Up With Marie Kondo show, it presents all the perks of minimalism and how you can enjoy your life with less.
Not necessarily a financial show, it can be exceptionally helpful if you tend to overshop and buy items you never really use or need, thus wasting a big chunk of your income.
The show will offer great tips on decluttering your home and changing your spending mindset.
If you feel inspired by The Minimalist: Less Is Now but don’t know how to approach decluttering, the best place to start is in your closet. Go through your closet, get rid of the clothes that are worn and torn, sell used clothes in good condition for profit, and limit your shopping budget to avoid getting back into your old habits.
📺 Where to watch: You can watch this show on Netflix.
Prince$$ is a reality TV show from 2010 that garnered quite an audience at the time of its release. It’s dramatic, at times ridiculous, and possibly life-changing for compulsive shoppers who need to get a hold of their finances.
Hosted by an expert financial planner Gail Vaz-Oxlade, the show is essentially an intervention for spoiled spenders who need some serious financial discipline.
Throughout the show, Gail takes away the “princesses’” credit cards, takes control of their finances, and teaches them to become financially responsible and independent.
12. Eat Well for Less
Eat Well for Less is a popular British reality TV show that started in 2015. Initially hosted by Gregg Wallace, greengrocer Chris Bavin, and dietician Lucy Jones, and now by Chris Bavin and Jordan Banjo, the show addresses the problem of rising food prices and how families on a budget can overcome it.
The team goes around the UK, meeting struggling families and assessing their eating and cooking habits. They first allow the families to do their regular grocery shopping routines and prepare their meals, then offer advice on bringing their weekly grocery costs down.
In the process, they dispel some common food-related myths, teach others how to cut down on food waste, and offer suggestions on eating healthier foods on a budget.
13. Extreme Cheapskates
We can’t talk about the best TV series on frugal living without at least mentioning Extreme Cheapskates! The show is old: it was released in 2012 and only ran for three seasons. It’s still a highly recognizable “budgeting” show that can inspire you to think outside the box when it comes to your finances.
Extreme Cheapskates is just what the title suggests: a show about individuals who will go to all lengths just to save a few bucks. You’ll find episodes about those who heat up their food in a jacuzzi, those who never shower at home, those who dumpster dive, plan unbelievably cheap parties, and more.
📺 Where to watch: While the show focuses on the ridiculous and extreme aspects of frugal living, there’s always something to learn from those stories. If you’re interested, you can watch all three seasons of Extreme Cheapskates on Amazon.
Living on a budget and getting ahold of your personal finances isn’t easy. While the best thing you could do is probably seek advice from a professional financial planner, that may not be accessible to everyone. The next best thing is learning from others’ examples and mistakes.
The aforementioned TV shows on frugal living can give you unique insights, inspire you, and help you take your next step toward gaining financial stability. Check them out, have a laugh, and learn important financial lessons!