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HGTV's Chip and Joanna Gaines Reveal 'We Were Broke!' Before Fixer Upper

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HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines open up about their Fixer Upper empire and why they’ll always choose family over fame. Subscribe now for an exclusive interview at home with the duo, only in PEOPLE!

Before Chip and Joanna Gaines hit it big on Fixer Upper, the couple scraped by as small business owners.

“I remember when we first got married the only money we had was what was in Chip’s pocket,” Joanna says in this week’s issue of PEOPLE. “He always had a wad of cash, but we were broke. If I needed to go grocery shopping it’s whatever was in his pocket. That’s how we paid the bills.”

  • For much more from Chip and Joanna — including their family and life in Waco — pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

The couple is now at the helm of a home improvement empire that includes a hit HGTV show, quarterly magazine and their new book The Magnolia Story comes out Oct. 18. (Click here to purchase)

Plus they’ve also got a retail mega store: Magnolia Market at the Silos, a real estate company and they’ve launched a paint, rug, wallpaper and furniture line.

RELATED: Here’s Your First Look at Chip and Joanna Gaines’ New Magazine, The Magnolia Journal

Larsen & Talbert
Larsen & Talbert

Plus they’ve also got a retail mega store: Magnolia Market at the Silos, a real estate company and they’ve launched a paint, rug, wallpaper and furniture line.

But when Chip first started flipping houses as a college kid, the business wasn’t so lucrative and when he married Joanna in 2003, her parents weren’t sold on his unconventional lifestyle.

Watch People Cover Story: Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gainesavailable now on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on Apple TV, Roku Players, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, iOS and Android devices. 

Larsen & Talbert
Larsen & Talbert

“Her dad spent the first two years of our marriage asking me if I was going to get a job,” Chip says with a laugh. “I was like, ‘I have a job and I like it.'”

RELATED: HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines Get Real About Fixer Upper Fame: ‘There Are Some Downsides to This’

All of their businesses may be booming now, but the Gainses are still surprised at how successful they’ve become.

“All of this sort of fell into our laps,” says Chip. “We were just living our life out here in little bitty Waco. We had dreams and aspirations like most folks, but this has really been something else.”