Whether it’s Gordon Ramsey rampaging through a family restaurant to save it from certain closure, or 25 single women vying for the interest of one enviable bachelor, reality TV is all about high stakes. You wouldn’t have delectable, guilty-pleasure tier drama without the possibility of on-screen loss.
That loss surprisingly involves more than a potentially broken heart — or even embarrassment on national TV — in the case of “The Bachelor.” As you watch Season 21’s finale on March 13, keep in mind that there’s plenty of juicy drama happening off-camera, too. There’s a pretty good chance that the bachelorettes are going into massive debt to vie for Nick Viall’s hand in marriage. Whether that’s super romantic or heartbreakingly sad is up to you.
Here’s a look at what some of these contestants spend and how much they stand to make from being on this hit reality romance show.
Upfront Costs: The Dresses
There’s no entry fee to be an official bachelorette, nor is there a hard-and-fast rulebook for how much contestants spend in preparation. We can certainly identify the top three costs for appearing on “The Bachelor,” however: wardrobe, wardrobe and wardrobe.
ABC only provides two dresses for each season of the show — one for each finalist on the season finale. That means our eligible bachelorettes have to personally foot the bill for 13 episodes of TV-ready fashion.
Some ladies borrow clothes or snag sponsorships — like Ashley Spivey, who scored 14 designer dresses from a sponsor in 2011 — but others foot the bill themselves. Jillian Harris dropped $8,000 on new duds, while Olivia Caridi is rumored to have spent more than $40,000 on her wardrobe in an effort to impress “Bachelor” Ben Higgins, an investment that didn’t end up paying off. That cost doesn’t include the hundreds of dollars that contestants typically spend on new hairstyles, spray tans, gym memberships, makeup and other cosmetic touchups before the show.
Others have kept things more low-key — and their investments to a minimum — with great results. Sarah Herron kept her total budget at $5,000, while Vienna Girardi kept it casual with a whole lot of cut-off jean shorts instead of pricey designer labels. She ended up winning the ring in Season 14 from pilot-turned-“Bachelor” Jake Pavelka.
Hidden Costs: The Debt
If you were making a list of the things you’d need to be a bachelorette, clothes would likely be right at the top, but some major costs are a little less transparent. They arise when you consider that you’ll have to put your entire life on hold for an unpaid season — that’s six to 10 weeks’ worth — of filming.
Harris remortgaged her home to cope with the costs. And while some “Bachelor” contestants are lucky enough to return to their day jobs after filming, others have lost their jobs if they didn’t have a flexible time off schedule. Possessionista writer Dana Weiss told Mic in 2016 that she personally knows of bachelorettes who cashed out their 401k’s to offset the costs of the show, while others have gone into substantial credit card debt.
Potential Profits From Being on ‘The Bachelor’
On top of the initial investments and opportunity costs, competing bachelorettes face another big kicker: Candidates report that they don’t receive any monetary compensation at all for appearing on the show. At best, some bachelorettes say they’ve been gifted a few swag bags containing sponsored items — likely not enough swag to repay that “Bachelor”-incurred debt. It’s a tough pill to swallow considering that being the Bachelor is a job that usually makes about $100,000 per season.
Some contestants have gone on to star in the spin-off, “The Bachelorette,” where they can make upwards of $100,000 as well. Emily Maynard was reportedly paid $250,000 for her season as the leading lady.
More commonly, many bachelorettes smartly leverage their 10 minutes of fame into success as social influencers or lifestyle brand entrepreneurs on Instagram after “The Bachelor” wraps and the dust settles.
Many factors help determine rates for celebrity Instagram posts, according to a leading LA-based social influencer management company, but personalities have the potential to earn:
- $100 to $250 per post for 100,000 followers
- $750 to $1,500 per post for 250,000 followers
- $2,000 to $3,000 per post for 500,000 followers
- $5,000 to $15,000 per post for 1 million followers
Emily Maynard’s online lifestyle presence keeps her net worth at a cool $5 million, according to CelebrityNet Worth, although she was wealthy before her time on the show. Ali Fedotowsky worked at Facebook before appearing on “The Bachelor” in 2010. She then went on to star as “The Bachelorette” and later found work as an NBC and E! lifestyle correspondent, maintaining a healthy net worth of $600,000. Other alumni accept plentiful offers to appear on post-“Bachelor” reality TV shows, like Vaill, Trista Sutter, Sean Lowe and several others who opted to foxtrot on “Dancing With the Stars.” Still, others close book deals — like Season 16 winner Courtney Robinson, who wrote “I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends” — or make the bulk of their income on social media endorsement deals alone.
Considering how much it costs to be on “The Bachelor,” aspiring bachelorettes have to ask themselves a key question: How much would you pay for a shot at love? And if that fails, how much would you pay for a shot at Instagram fame?