A DEBT-RIDDEN couple were left in tears after the family they swapped with on Rich House Poor House decided to pay off most of their five-figure debt.
Sarah and Ross Timmins had spiralled into arrears which left them living a hand to mouth existence as they struggled to make ends meet.
But in a touching twist, the Whitings – the rich family they swapped lives with – decided to wipe most of the Timmins’ £11,500 worth of debt as the show came to an end, in an emotional finale.
As the two couples returned home, rich family Colin and Lizzy Whiting, from Newquay, revealed the big gesture they were going to make for the Timmins, whom they’d never met.
Colin said: “Once we had come to an understanding we decided that we wanted to help this family to move away from that situation, from the debt dragging them down."
As Ross and Sarah returned home, Sarah began to read a letter the Whitings had left.
She read: “Dear Ross and Sarah, we have learned how tough things are for you financially.
“We would like to help you clear your credit card debt.”
She descended into sobs as Ross took the letter from her, realising the extent of the other family’s offer.
He said: "It’s a dream. Dreams do come true. It feels like freedom again.”
Sarah described the move as “life-changing”.
Ross, so moved by the Whitings offer, said: “For a family to have stepped in our shoes and offer the gesture, and never even met us, I didn’t think it existed.”
As the show ended it was revealed the Whitings had paid off three quarters of the Timmins’ debt and had started a joint savings plan for a deposit.
Sarah, 29, and husband Ross, 28, had a tight weekly budget of £121, but were given £1,239 when they switched with two vets – the Whitings and their kids.
During the show the Timmins, who were enjoying the trappings of a wealthier life, spoke candidly about having a week where they didn’t have to worry about debt.
Ross revealed they were in £11,500 of debt, spread over six cards.
He said: “The actual figure itself hasn’t gone down, we’re just paying off the interest.
“It puts pressure relationship-wise.
“The things we’ve built up over the last 10 years could disappear overnight.”
Lizzy, following a chat with Sarah’s mum, was filled in on the extent of the debt the Timmins were in.
And Colin acknowledged the family were “trapped in a debt spiral”.
Ross’ sister revealed to Colin that “everything is budgeted”, and “it weighs on family life".
But she said her brother Ross would work a 90 hour plus week, then come home and do homework with Max.
Their situation moved Colin to tears, as he praised the “strong hard-working man” Ross was.
During the show Colin even paid for a new treehouse out of his own pocket, after realising how much Max would enjoy the toy when he returned home.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous Online, mum-of-two Sarah, from Redruth, Cornwall said: "We had a day out at the Eden Project.
"We ate out, normally we would just take a picnic, I don’t think we’ve ever done that with the children because of the price.
"It was in the burger bar, just burger and chips, it wasn’t anything fancy, but we were glad that we could do that, it made a difference."
Sarah, who is mum to Max, five, and Polly, two, added: "We also went ice skating.
"That’s something we would never do because it’s so expensive and we just can’t do it on the budget.
"It was the first time my kids had gone skating, Ross had never been before either.
"We bought some toys after, which we normally only do for the kids on Christmas and birthdays.
"They were able to just go and pick what they wanted and it was really nice to say, ‘This is a little treat from us, here you go’, and there were no worries in it."
At the time, hairdresser Sarah and marine engineer Ross owed around £11,000 in credit card debts – and were constantly worrying about money.
The high interest rates meant they were forking out £500-a-month in repayments, and could have effectively doubled their weekly budget without these costs.
“Money is always tight – it’s day to day," Sarah said. "You just watch every penny that comes in, it’s hard trying to keep on top of all of it.
"It was a bit of a shock that their disposable income every week was more than we get in a month.
"There’s no worries about anything so to have that sort of high budget was one of a kind – well it certainly was for us anyway.
"We realised that the end of the week we still had some left over."
During the swap, the family stayed in a sprawling farm house set on nine acres of land – where the Whiting family keep sheep, chickens, cats and guinea pigs – in St Columb Major, Cornwall.
Former Navy engineer Ross worked as a farmer until last year, and describes it as his 'passion'.
Sarah said: "We were in our element in the house – it had a beautiful front and large outside space for the kids to play around in, our little dream.
"They had normal cars, a van and a normal day-to-day car – not flashy, they’re very normal down to earth people.
"They have a Harry Potter room in the house, that was a big thing for me, but there were no gadgets or anything because they’re not into them. There was an AGA that I loved.
"(A bigger budget) makes life a lot easier because you haven’t got the worry of anything.
"We literally got to the middle of the week and thought we hadn’t even worried once and our head space hadn’t been mixed up with, 'When's the next bill coming out?' or if we have enough to do the food shopping."
Polly and Max share a room at home, and even bunked up in the five-bed farmhouse.
Sarah said: "They picked a room that they wanted to sleep in – they’ve only ever known having a shared room and they were nervous so they stayed together.
"We didn’t expect it and thought they would have opted to have their own sleeping space but they didn’t."
Sarah, who hadn't had a night away from home since her three-day Torquay honeymoon in 2014, said she struggled to return to normality after the "holiday week".
She revealed: "It was hard – I struggled the most and when we were packing up and leaving that morning it wasn’t that I didn’t want to go home.
"Because knowing we were back to square one again and going back to more bills, budgeting and shopping, that was quite difficult."
Ross works a lot of overtime to support his family, meaning days off together are few and far between.
Sarah added of the swap: "We spent a lot of time as the four of us, doing things we haven’t been able to do – Ross tries to work as much overtime as he can."
Since returning home, they've been putting aside more time for the kids, with Sarah saying: "That means more to them than fancy clothes or fancy food."
We previously spoke to a rich kid, 22, who swapped her Range Rover, £10k designer shoe and bag collection and ‘five-figure’ monthly spend to stay with family-of-five – and was shocked at their £50 weekly food budget.
Rich House Poor House is on tonight at 9pm, on Channel 5.
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