I saw this post on The Stir the other day about how the Extreme Makeover Home Edition show which builds brand new homes for families in need could actually be doing more harm than good and the first thought that came to my mind was AMEN! I’m not trying to say that families who have needs shouldn’t be given help and hope to move up to a better situation. I whole-heartedly believe in volunteering and giving to charity and in general looking after your friends, family and neighbors. But what I do have a problem with is giving families a “gift” that creates more financial burden than they can handle.
A few years ago, I along with several of my co-workers volunteered to help a local family that had been chosen to receive such an “Extreme Makeover.” I was so pumped up to help. I got my signature blue shirt on, my hard hat and then along with my friends waited to receive an assignment, and waited and waited. There really wasn’t much for the non-construction volunteers to do, so while we sat around my friends and I discussed this very topic - Does giving a family in need of home modifications a brand new multi-million dollar McMansion really help them?
First let me divulge that the show pays for nothing. Big props to all the community members and businesses in Orange County that stepped up to raise money, donate their time and expertise, and building materials to give this family a home that would better serve their family. But being the Discount Diva, I have to question any “gift” that is going to cost the family money. As I watched this huge house start to take shape from the bare studs, my friends and I started to wonder aloud - “How will this family pay to keep up such a large house?, and “Does any family really NEED a house that huge?” Well after reading this article, I knew my frugal radar had been right, more than a few of these families have had to put these “Extreme Houses” up for sale or go into foreclosure because they can’t afford the utilities, taxes and maintenance on a house of this scale. Remember, their financial situations weren’t changed, just their housing. Some banks stepped up to pay off existing mortgages for some of the “Extreme Makeover” recipients true, but many of them already had staggering medical bills to deal with, lots of mouths to feed and could barely keep up with their existing bills. So now they are given an amazing house worthy of the oohs and aahs generation by televised broadcasting, but then they are left on their own to pay for it.
I’m not delusional, I know nobody would tune in for a show about a family being given a financial makeover, even if they were given a sizable chunk of change to pay off a mortgage, medical bills or other debt. Let’s face it, there is no big reveal to be had from a bank account with figures in the black instead of the red. But being the frugal person I am, I think we would have done these families more justice with just such a makeover. We should help families by helping them to figure a way to pull themselves up out of difficult times, not drop them into a lovely new version of financial difficulty. These shows aren’t doing society any favors either in my humble opinion.
We sit at home and cry, moved by the grateful families who are given such amazing “gifts” as a dream home, but the bottom line is that you can change your geographic location, but you can’t outrun your financial problems. Sometimes the “gifts” or even just the idea of them, like living to play the lottery, give Americans a dream that can quickly turn into a nightmare if you don’t currently know how to manage your finances. Bottom line for me is this: Beware the quick fix because in the end it’ll usually end up costing you money. So, not that any major TV producers are going to be reading this, but I have some ideas for new shows. How about a Financial Intervention or Money Makeover show? I know it may not be as glamorous, but it’s what this society really needs right now. We don’t need any more shows that pull needy families out of one financial pit just to drop them into a larger one. How about instead we all simply get busy giving people shovels to help themselves out.
What do you think about these shows?