A MUM who usually has a budget of £1050 a week and lives in a castle is forced to cut back and live on a more meagre budget on Channel 5’s Rich House Poor House this week.
Sarah Hay and her family live in 11th century Bickleigh Castle, the oldest inhabited castle in the country, where they run their wedding and events business and are part of the top 10% earning families in the UK.
On the other end of the spectrum, Amy and Andy Hellings live in a two bed house in Exeter with their two daughters, Olivia and Everlyn, and fall within the poorest 10% bracket.
On Channel 5’s Rich House Poor House, the two families swap lives and budgets for a week to see how the other half lives.
For Sarah, who usually has a massive budget of £1,050 a week to spend on food shopping, hair appointments and trips to the theatre for her and her family, is forced to downgrade her weekly spend to just £148.85 a week.
Sarah, who lives with her husband Robbie, daughter Serena and cousin John in the castle, says of the Helling’s budget: “That’s not a lot, my god. Serena you’ll certainly learn how to live on that. I spend £20 – £30 on the fish monger alone.”
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Her cousin John, who has taken her husband’s place for the show while he’s away on business, remarks: “We’ll have to cut down on the scallops.”
The family spend their first evening switching up their usual three-course-meals for beans on toast and scrambled egg, but John insists the meal is “delicious,” even if the portion size is much smaller than they’re used to.
For Sarah, the realities of living off such a small budget each week hit home, she says: “We’ve got £148 for three of us to live off, which is for food, entertainment – that’s quite tough. For two small children and two grown ups that’s a tight budget, it must be very tough to live on that the whole time.”
But it’s not until the pair visit the supermarket that Sarah really realises the effects of a smaller budget.
Despite preparing a menu for the week in advance, Sarah can’t help but pick up some of the extra luxuries she’s used to – professing, “I can’t live without smoked salmon,” and insisting on some duck that wasn’t on their shopping list because, “Serena loves duck.”
The pair switch up their usual expensive wine, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, for a £2.99 version and manage to complete their weekly shop for £60 – but it means sharing a steak between three people one evening.
For Amy Hellings, who works as a carer in a residential home for elderly people, the thought of spending Sarah’s usual budget of £1,050 in a week seems impossible.
She says: “I don’t know if I can spend that much money in a week – although I’d give it a good go.”
Her husband Andy, who retired from the Armed Services when their first daughter was born and now manages a charity shop, jokes: “This will take half a day to count!”
Speaking of their usual budget of less than £150 a week, Andy says: “If things pop up and it becomes a tough month, as long as the children have eaten we are happy not to – or eat something like a bowl of cereal for tea.”
The Hellings are treated to a three-course-meal cooked by staff at Bickleigh Castle, which has enough bedrooms to house 40 guests, and admit that it’s nice to be able to sit down to a meal around the table.
Over the week, the Hellings family gets a taste of the Hay’s life at Bickleigh Castle, where the girls can try out tennis, star gazing and gardening in the castle grounds as well as a trip to go sailing.
But when Amy visits an expensive shop to try on dresses, she can’t bring herself to part with £335 for a dress, but she does opt to get her hair done at Sarah’s local salon for £40.
Later, couple later chose to spend their extra money to give the two girls horse riding lessons and Andy admits that it’s hard to have to say no when their daughters ask to do something.
He says: “It’s c*** when you’re kids say can we do this and you say no we can’t afford it, and that’s all you seem to say – always feels c*** when you can’t give your kids the things that they really want to do.”
Sarah and her daughter Serena also take a trip to the shops – but their usual big budget is swapped for just £10 in the charity shop.
Nevertheless, despite the meagre budget, Sarah says that a shopping trip with her daughter is a real treat as Serena would usually get annoyed with her for being on her phone.
She says: “It’s a real rarity, I have to be pulled out of the office and then I’m usually on my phone so she gets really agitated with me. I would definitely like to spend more time with her… this is just heaven to go out.”
It’s an idea that’s not lost on Serena either – who confesses that she rarely sees her mother and it’s nice to be living in a smaller house where they actually spend time with each other.
After an evening in watching the TV together, something that would never happen back at the castle where there is work to be done, Sarah says: “We’ve changed the mould – Serena has always locked herself in her bedroom, we never see her, so this is really really great.”
After visiting the care home where Amy works, Sarah concludes that the couple must be like, “ships in the night,” as they work so hard to make ends meet for their children.
After a luxury meal in a restaurant with three Michelin stars, Andy and Amy vow to make a little more time for themselves as a couple in the future.
For the Hays family, a trip to the roller disco – Andy and Amy’s weekend activity with their children – prompts Serena to confess to her mum that she doesn’t think she spends enough time with her.
For Sarah, it’s a “wake up call” and she says: “When we get back we can have a real think about reorganising our life.”
The mother confesses the time spent in the Hellings’ home has been a “life changing experience,” and that running her seven-day-a-week business has taken a toll on their time together as a family.
Speaking of their life, Andy and Amy admit that while it was nice to try something different, they wouldn’t want to change their lives.
Andy says: “Everything about our life I love – it is hard at times but that’s what makes it when you do things that you want to do, it makes it more rewarding.”
Recently on the programme, a shopaholic who spends thousands on shoes and £80 a week getting her make-up done gets a reality check when she’s forced to clean toilets ‘in her Jimmy Choos‘, while viewers were in tears when a dad gives his son new football boots.
Rich House, Poor House airs Thursdays on Channel 5 at 9pm.