Here's how much it actually costs to be a Real Housewife

The Real Housewives franchise has a reputation for being deliciously dramatic (or if you listen to Martha Stewart, maybe even a little "lowbrow") but that doesn't stop many elite ladies from vying for a spot. Those who are outspoken, good-looking, and connected to an old-money network probably have a decent shot — but once they get on, they still have to spend money to make money. What they don't tell you: Being a Housewife ain't cheap.

The truth is: Being a rich housewife is one thing, but being a Real Housewife is quite another. Maintaining a TV persona requires a level of investment that some might not be prepared to make. As Bethenny Frankel of The Real Housewives of New York once told Money in regard to her co-stars, "They can't afford the lives they're living. And if the music stops, they're going to get in some trouble."

So what does a Real Housewife have to pay for once she nabs her coveted cast member spot? We've got all the details.

The endless outfits of The Real Housewives

Sure, the drama of the Real Housewives is addicting enough, but one of the best parts of the show is also the cast's outfits. Not surprisingly, the stars seem to know this — have you ever seen a Housewife wear the same thing twice? In fact, Kyle Richards and Denise Richards of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills gave their co-star Lisa Rinna props on Watch What Happens Live for her new-and-improved-wardrobe in 2019. "Well, I hired a stylist this year," responded Rinna. "That's the truth. I mean, I'm gonna be honest. I hired a stylist." Wait... what?

If you assumed that Bravo picks up the check for the Housewives' clothes, think again. Alex McCord of The Real Housewives of New York once revealed that "in reality TV, you have to get all your own clothes." She explained that the pressure to dress well is high, since viewers still compare Real Housewives to scripted shows that have "a full-on army of a costume department." To save money, she said, some stars will either "work with designers to borrow and return items" because "nobody, unless you're married to Bill Gates, can afford that many changes of clothing." 

That would make it seem like Tom Girardi, RHOBH's Erika Girardi's husband, must be doing pretty well then, since she told In Touch Weekly that she spends "$40,000 a month on clothes, shoes, and accessories." However, she also once bluntly stated, "I pay my own bills." Get it, girl.  

The glam squads of The Real Housewives are 'not cheap'

No Real Housewife is complete without her "glam squad" aka the hair and makeup pros who create their TV-worthy looks. And as Erika Girardi of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills told Wendy Williams, "They're not cheap."

Teresa Giudice of The Real Housewives of New Jersey told Glamour that she spends an estimated $12,000 per year on hair care alone (although she does her own makeup). It makes sense when you think about it: Glamsquad, an app that offers even non-celebrities an easy way to book in-home beauty services, charges $50 for blowouts, $85 for updos, and $75 for makeup, for example. Multiply that by every single day a Housewife needs to be on camera during an entire season, and you're definitely looking at ... well, we're not math majors, but it's a lot. 

Even though the bills can be astronomical, it still seems like it's a "must" for TV. As Erika Girardi told The Cut: "Listen, this is a lifestyle. I don't recommend it to anyone, it's just what I do and it's a lot. It's a lot of upkeep. It's a lot of time. It's a lot of money. I highlight, process, Brazilian, install ... I sit down for a whole day once every eight weeks and take all my extensions out and redo them. It's a lot. You wanna look good? Sh*t costs money and takes time. It just does."

The Real Housewives are no strangers to cosmetic procedures

Being on reality TV (and high definition at that) means your facial flaws will be magnified for the world to see. So it's no wonder many of the Real Housewives have plastic surgery and other procedures done — even while they're filming. 

One cast member who's been the most open about her anti-aging procedures has been Shannon Beador of The Real Housewives of Orange County. On Season 14, she did not just one, but three procedures at once while filming the show, according to Bravo. Her bloated and bruised face looked pretty unsightly on the show's episode, but judging from how she looks now, it seems to have been worth it. Also, Beador explained, it's hard not to turn to anti-aging procedures after you see yourself on TV. The star told Allure, "When you start to age in front of the camera, you think, What do I need to do here?" 

Beador's doctor was also pretty transparent about the price tag. According to Dr. Brian Reagan (who also happens to be her co-star Kelly Dodd's ex-boyfriend) Beador's scalpel-less facelift, which was really a combination of three procedures, cost in the range of $12,000 to $15,000.

The Real Housewives typically live in drool-worthy mansions

The Real Housewives franchise showcases homes extensively, which reflects on each cast member's image. So it's no surprise that many of the women have turned their home-buying adventures into storylines for the cameras. 

The most extravagant was Heather Dubrow's home, which she was building during her last season on The Real Housewives of Orange County. The Newport Beach mansion cost an eye-popping $21 million. While she was on the show, the audience got to see her pick out everything for her dream home, all the way down to ridiculous details like a hexagonal icemaker. She even spun the reveal of her new house into a series of videos on her YouTube channel.

By comparison, her former co-star Tamra Judge's home cost $2 million ... which is still nothing to sneeze at! According to Bravo, the swanky pad, located in a gated community called Coto de Caza, is "fully furnished with gorgeous artwork on the walls, luxurious rugs and décor galore." 

Stephanie Hollman of The Real Housewives of Dallas shelled out $5 million for her home at an auction and then spent another $2 million just to upgrade it, per The Dallas Morning News. (It was "unlivable" upon purchase, according to Hollman.) The upgrade included $125,000 just to "wallpaper the dining room." Fans got a glimpse of the home in Hollman's tour for Bravo — but true fans could see the house up close and personal through the company Tour Homes, which was selling walk-throughs of the Hollman house for $60 a ticket.

Those fancy houses require expensive staffs to maintain

When you're a reality star, your life is in the spotlight — and it takes a team of people to make it all look effortless. Between the long hours of shooting and multiple promotional appearances, who will manage your schedule, clean your home, or take care of your kids? That's why many Real Housewives have household staff. For instance, Dorit Kemsley of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills told E! News, "Currently, my staff includes Peggy, who's baby nurse, Neila, Jagger's main nanny, and then I've got a few nannies for Jagger and Phoenix — to fill in — three full-time housekeepers, and Tiffany, who's my husband's assistant."

One reasonably priced live-in nanny in New York City is said to cost $37,076 per year, but some charge well over $100,000. Personal assistants reportedly can make up to $150,000, while an executive housekeeper can make up to $100,000 (via Business Insider).

In many cases, having a household staff looks like it's worth the money, but other times, not so much. RHOBH's Carlton Gebbia, for example, was sued by one of her ex-housekeepers, who claimed Gebbia not only accused her of stealing, but swung a bat at her. Yet on the flip side, Natalie Puche did so well at her gig as assistant to Heather Dubrow of RHOBH that she eventually became Dubrow's executive director and podcast co-host.

What's a Real Housewife without a fancy ride?

Cars are another huge way for Housewives to flaunt their lifestyle, and they don't pinch any pennies. For example, Vicki Gunvalson of The Real Housewives of Orange County treated herself to a Maserati (the most affordable model starts at about $75,000). On The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Kyle Richards' husband Mauricio Umansky once surprised Richards on the show with a new Maserati as well, and Lisa Vanderpump once showed off her Porsche Carrera 911 with custom pink wheels (lowest 2020 model starts at $97,400) for Bravo cameras. 

The Maserati owners, however, weren't too thrilled with their purchases. Umansky complained on Twitter that Maserati was a disappointment, saying: "Can you believe that Maserati does not warranty @KyleRichards18 battery because she has not put 4000 miles on the car. It's too new!!!" He later commented on the same thread, "It's ridiculous. Also their customer service stinks. Wish I bought a #lamborghini." Gunvalson also later returned her Maserati and got a Mercedes, commenting about the Maserati that she was "happy to be done with it." Ah, first world problems.

Personal chefs whip up gourmet grub — and more — for the Real Housewives

From time to time, we see Real Housewives invite personal chefs into their homes to cater parties or simply fix dinner on a special night. Adrian De Berardinis, aka "The Bear-Naked Chef," showed up to cook for The Real Housewives of New York during Season 11. RHONY's Carole Radziwill even started dating one of their personal chefs during Season 7: Adam Kenworthy was a chef at a party thrown by RHONY co-star LuAnn de Lesseps. He started flirting with Radziwill, and the rest was history — despite their 21-year age difference. (At the time they broke up, Carole was 53 and Kenworthy was 32).

Aside from romance, however, personal chef appearances help to showcase the extravagance of the Housewives' lifestyle. The average cost of a personal chef to cook five meals for a family of four can be up to $620 depending on where you live and the cost of groceries.

The Real Housewives pay top dollar to stay fit

Just like having a great wardrobe and a youthful-looking face, many of the Real Housewives try to stay in shape for the cameras. At 53, Dorinda Medley of The Real Housewives of New York decided to get fit, saying she felt like she'd reached a point of no return. The star told Page Six: "You hit a certain age and your body changes and you can't do anything about it and the only thing you can really do is exercise. I literally made an investment with a trainer, I put the money up front and just made it a huge part of my life." 

While Medley is exercising five days a week at Equinox in the New York's Upper East Side, other Housewives have trainers come to their homes. For example, Shannon Beador of The Real Housewives of Orange County hired a private trainer when she set out to lose 40 pounds, much to the dismay of her co-star Tamra Judge, who owns her own gym, Cut Fitness. "It's very frustrating and a smack in my face to see [Shannon] bring in another trainer after I've offered so many times," Judge wrote in her blog

Wherever the trainer comes from, having one to come to your house every day can be costly. A high-end personal fitness trainer averages $120/hour.

Even the kids of the Real Housewives enjoy a lavish life

The Real Housewives typically go all out for their kids' birthday parties on the show, but The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills seem to take the cake (no pun intended). From Dorit Kemsley's Super Mario party for her two sons, to Kyle Richards' Coachella-themed party for her youngest daughter, the moms spare no detail. 

Yet nothing has quite compared to Taylor Armstrong's "Magical Mad Hatter"-themed birthday party for her then-4-year-old daughter, Kennedy. As Armstrong detailed on her blog: "The grounds are divided into multiple tiers, and each one offers something more unique than the last. The children were entertained by an unbelievable magician and a team of amazing fairies who dressed them in tea party attire and lead them in magical games." Even though Kennedy seemed unhappy in some scenes on the show, Armstrong explained on her blog that "This was one of the first exposures Kennedy had to the camera crews, and she was shy when they were around her." 

So what was the price tag on all that, you ask? A cool $60,000. "I don't think people tune into Real Housewives of Beverly Hills to watch Pin the Tail on the Donkey," Armstrong reportedly quipped.

Real Housewives spare no expense on their weddings

Considering the extravagant lifestyles across the board of the Real Housewives franchise, if you're going to actually get married in front of the cameras, you'd better bring it. LeeAnne Locken of The Real Housewives of Dallas definitely didn't disappoint when she reportedly spent $4.5 million on her wedding. Exactly how a wedding can cost $4.5 million is kind of a mystery, but in Locken's case, it probably had something to do with the 12-foot wedding cake, 17 chandeliers, $25,000 wedding dress, neon cowboys, and disco ninjas.

Eva Marcille's wedding on The Real Housewives of Atlanta was (relatively) less expensive, although she admitted it was tough to keep the cost down. "I was naive enough to think that I can plan a wedding for $80,000-$100,000," she told Essence. "I spent well over $350,000." The wedding, which cost her over $1000 a person, included $20,000 worth of orchids and roses alone (12,000 of them, to be exact). The bride also had three designer dress changes and wore Gucci sneakers underneath her gowns. "To know me is to know I'm still practical," Marcille told the Daily Mail.

Even Denise Richards on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills had a hard time not spending a ton of cash on her wedding. She planned her last-minute ceremony to Aaron Phypers in just two weeks, but still spent over $20,000 for the venue. (Can we get a show of hands of people whose entire weddings cost that much?)

Taking a getaway from a life of luxury costs the Real Housewives a lot of coin, too

No Real Housewives season would be complete without an extravagant trip, and with over 10 years of shows in the can, the franchise has yet to disappoint. But exotic locales like Greece and Turks and Caicos come with a steep price tag. For example, when the cast of The Real Housewives of New York went to St. Barts, they stayed in the Oasis de Salines luxury villas which cost in the tens of thousands per week, depending on the room and the season. 

Luckily, vacations are one thing that the show helps with financially. When asked who foots the bill for the cast vacations, executive producer Andy Cohen told People, "It's a combination," implying both cast and production contribute to the cost. RHONY's Alex McCord also confirmed that Bravo does help pay for vacations once the franchise is established. "Typically if a trip is happening by the show, and it's not Season 1, it is put together by the producers," she told RumorFix.

Real Housewives can have whatever they want, no matter the cost

One of the best parts about being rich is, of course, being able to indulge all your weird, even absurd, whims. However, Dana Wilkey of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills still shocked her co-stars when she showed up to a party wearing a pair of sunglasses worth more than some people's cars. At a price tag of $25,000, she told Kyle Richards on one episode (via Glamour), "They're like four carats of diamonds, and then they're gold python, and they're made of gold." Richards responded with what we were all thinking: "I'd hate to lose those."

Shannon Beador of The Real Housewives of Orange County is also known for her interest in feng shui, which is the ancient Chinese art of harmonizing your own energy with your environment. The star told Bravo that she's been working with feng shui consultant Elaine Wright to arrange her living spaces for 15 years, adding, "I believe in good energy. And, you know, when you put the intention out there for good things to come to you — I mean, I am blessed, I've never happier in my life than I am right now. I do have amazing, good energy around me because everything around me is good."

According to Home Advisor, a "high end" feng shui consultant can cost up to $1500 per consultation. Those are some pricey good vibes!