It may sound RIDICULOUS but I’ve always had a hard time getting along with other people named Melissa, until now.
What has been a lifelong namesake-sickness, was alleviated instantly when I was introduced to Melissa Blevins. (I will, however, refer to her as Blevins for the rest of this article and myself as Hollis to avoid confusion.)
Blevins is a married mom of three kids. She enjoys fishing, traveling, watching Florida football, and helping women fulfill their calling and carve financial independence. Her blog, Perfection Hangover, offers the “sober truth about money, blogging, and business.” So, yes, she’s also clever as Hell—AND not afraid to be honest about the deepest, darkest parts of facing personal finance hurdles.
In all honesty, I could’ve talked to Blevins for hours about life and the fascinating life experiences that led her to where she is today—aside from our names, we have lots in common. I learned a ton about myself from this conversation. Luckily, we’re also both efficient with our time and were able to cover a lot of ground in our hour-long conversation, such as:
- Why women need an extra push when it comes to working for themselves
- How humble beginnings and early autonomy are the best motivation for being financially savvy
- What to do if you find yourself involved in multi-level-marketing of a pyramid scheme—and what to pursue instead
Her story is a refreshing reminder to take inventory of your life experiences and what you’ve learned as a means of helping others, which is exactly what she does at Perfection Hangover. Without further ado, let’s get to the interview!
Melissa Blevins on why women can (and should) push beyond perfection to something better
MELISSA HOLLIS: So let’s start with everyone’s favorite question—tell me about yourself, who is Melissa Blevins?
MELISSA BLEVINS: I like to call myself like a serial entrepreneur. I'm a starter but in the past I've never been a finisher so my perfectionism has totally crippled me. I like to fish with my family. I really enjoy traveling and we watch a lot of Florida Gators football.
I found my calling in helping women find their calling. I enjoy helping women uncover their passions and decide what it is that they want to do with their lives. That's where I am in my stage of this life.
HOLLIS: What makes you want to help women specifically?
BLEVINS: Like I said, I’ve had so many dreams and goals and wanted to do different things throughout my own life and I've tried things and failed at things, and I feel like, as women, we have so many different things on our plate, we have so many different responsibilities that a lot of times we neglect what we really want out of life.
We're constantly balancing What do I have to do for the kids? What do I have to do for my family, for my husband, for my house for the budget, finances? and everything else and, if we're lucky, we might get to have a little something for ourselves left over. It can only last for so long before you just get completely burnt out and you just kind of want to walk away from it all. I've experienced that myself, so that's what draws me to women, because I can relate to them.
I identify with that woman who wants to create her own business. Maybe she wants to stay at home with the kids or have more flexibility. I just so identify with that. As much as I love men. I don't think they quite get us. I don't think they quite understand all of the balls that we're juggling every day.
HOLLIS: I couldn’t agree more! My husband and I have been on similar career paths and, even without kids yet, I feel more pressure to take the lead in running our house in addition to running teams at work. It’s cliche often feels like a double life—like I’d need two days in one.
What’s a day in the life like for you?
BLEVINS: I try to stick to a pretty routine schedule. Wake up, coffee/get kids on bus. Read, pray, workout, and work on the business writing articles, creating graphics, recording and editing YouTube videos. Then, kids come home and help with homework and finish the day with the family.
HOLLIS: That sounds like a ton of time for creativity! I know you have a background in banking... I bet you didn't really get that freedom when you were working full time at a bank?
BLEVINS: Oh, no, never. And I always felt such guilt. Like if one of the kids had a 103 degree fever—it sounds terrible—but I felt so guilty calling in sick to work because even when my kids were sick, saying I have to stay at home with them because, well, for one, the managers have to get things done. They huff and puff and even though they didn't mean to take it out on you, you kind of get that push back for it.
I definitely don't miss that at all.
HOLLIS: What does it mean to you to be able to work from home?
BLEVINS: Being able to work from home is important to me because I prefer flexibility as a mom. I need to have freedom and cannot be tied down to a desk. I like to be in complete control of my life and my work, and working from home allows me all of those things.
HOLLIS: Where do you get your inspiration?
BLEVINS: I use a lot of my own personal experience in banking or in everyday life, and then I draw from other people's experiences as well. I worked in the banking industry for almost 10 years and I work as a real estate agent.
I also had two failed multi-level-marketing attempts that were completely disastrous that I draw a ton of inspiration from as well. Basically, it’s just things that I've experienced, whether its financial, or things that banking clients experienced, I find a lot of people have the same types of issues. So, just helping alleviate those pain points and the issues that people have, and maybe providing solutions.
HOLLIS: Where did you get the idea for perfection hangover?
BLEVINS: I’m a recovering perfectionist. You know that feeling when you’re exhausted from trying to live up to yours and everyone else’s expectations and you feel defeated and hungover?
And with social media which always shows the best side of people (well, most of the time), I wanted a place where I could speak to women and let them know that it’s okay to not be perfect.
I’ve also been told I’m brutally honest. So I created Perfection Hangover to offer the “sober truth about money, blogging, and business.”
How humble beginnings and early autonomy are the best motivation for becoming financially savvy
HOLLIS: Besides banking, where do you think you learned to think financially?
BLEVINS: It's funny, I actually grew up really poor in a little trailer park in Oklahoma. We had no money, lived paycheck to paycheck—sometimes day to day. My stepdad was always getting laid off at work or going on “workman's comp.”
We just didn't have money. There were four kids in the house and my mom was working retail making almost nothing. One year was particularly hard and I remember my first experience learning how to budget. I was in like the third or fourth grade and our family was actually adopted by the Rotary Club who chose families every year that were struggling and they hand-picked kids from those families to ride a bus to Walmart, and they gave us each a $50 bill to buy gifts for our family for Christmas.
So I learned in the third or fourth grade, how to create my very first Christmas budget and how to divide out for five people in a family and I had to figure out how to how to spend that $10.
I guess, that’s also what motivated me to do better than my parents did, not that they were bad parents—they did the best they could with their limited education and experience—but that really shaped me financially for where I am today.
HOLLIS: It sounds like you really learned those money skills out of survival. Can you tell me about the times when those survival skills were things that you had to learn? And how did those translate into your life now that you're thriving?
BLEVINS: When I was in high school, my parents told me they were moving to a different town two weeks before my Senior year was to start. My mom allowed me to stay with my much older boyfriend. I worked 30+ hours a week, learned how to create a meal plan, grocery shop, and pay bills at the age of 17. It sounds crazy, but I did what I had to in order to get through my senior year.
As soon as I graduated, I went to college and broke up with him. He was much older, like five years—basically a predator—and it probably should have never happened.
That being said, I obviously learned a lot about how to follow a written budget, how to create a plan and how to implement it.
But even though I know the skills, that doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m still on a journey to paying off debt, and work on increasing income every day so that I can achieve those goals.
HOLLIS: You were clearly more mature than someone who was 17. When you went off to college, how did having all of that real life experience of budgeting at 17 show up when you truly had independence?
BLEVINS: Well, um, I actually was not very responsible when I went off to college because I was forced to grow up at such a young age. So, I really struggled.
I drank, I partied. I was completely out of control. I worked and I paid bills and everything, but—and I wasn't even going to discuss this, but we're going there—my freshman year, I got a DUI.
I went to court and they gave me to five days in jail, fines, community service, you name it—I got it all. The only good thing I got was that it was expunged off my record. Thank God for that.
So, I went through that experience, I lost my license for six months. So, I lost my job and in that process, [the man who became] my first husband swooped in and took care of me. He was my brother's best friend growing up so I knew him my entire life and I ended up being married to him for eight years. It was not not a good situation, but again, I did what I thought I had to survive. We had issues and ended up getting a divorce and I finally figured out who I am and what I want out of life and everything and so, again, I’m thankful for that and for my first daughter who came from that marriage.
And we're friends now we co-parent and get along wonderfully.
HOLLIS: Thank you for sharing that, I definitely had my crazy times in college too and have a friend who had a DUI, and so I remember how much her life changed.
Along with things that we have in common, and something that you mentioned earlier, we both have experience with multi-level-marketing and pyramid schemes. And I just want to get a sense from you, you know, what do you think sucks people into pyramid schemes, specifically women?
What to do if you get caught in a multi-level-marketing or a pyramid scheme
BLEVINS: I've had a couple of different interviews with major women’s publications, and we've discussed this very thing. Multi-level marketing and companies are preying on women who desire to stay at home and work from home on their own terms. I think multi-level marketing companies see women are an easy target because many are mothers who have envisioned staying at home with the kids. The freedom from the 9-5 and the fantasy lifestyle of working on a laptop from home, traveling to exotic places, and driving fancy cars paid for by the company are huge motivators.
MLM’s have gotten really sneaky with how they approach people with their “opportunity,” too. They search out the hashtags like #stayathomemom, #workathomemom, even #postpartum.
Beach Body, in particular, was one that I was involved in and the experience is the topic of one of my most popular videos on my YouTube channel:
They really search for those hashtags of women who are in a vulnerable position, who are really maybe overwhelmed or feeling alone or seeking community, and that's what really sucks people in they think that they're buying into this big dream, but really, we know that 99% of people actually lose money in multi level marketing instead of actually making money.
And even with that, I still get people reaching out to me on Instagram saying, “Oh, you seem like you'd be a great addition to my team” and I just send them the link and I say “Do you even know who I am?” They don't respond. They don't ever say anything back. It's really fun.
Hashtag NOT INTERESTED.
HOLLIS: Exactly! Maybe they should start following that hashtag.
So, what are some alternatives to multi-level marketing for women who are looking for a side hustle that you recommend?
BLEVINS: There are so many alternatives to MLM. I've personally turned to blogging and YouTube as my side hustle, but I also sell real estate, as I mentioned before, and that was like my first step into working for myself. Because as a blogger, YouTuber, or even a real estate agent, you're an independent contractor.
I just think it's important for people to find their strengths and their passions, and then just decide from there what it is that they want to do. I know it's really hard.
Sometimes people don't really know what they like or want to do because they've devoted their lives to someone else—taking care of the kids taking care of their spouse taking care of everything else.
But for example, somebody with a passion for sports might want to start a business taking photos of varsity football games and then selling the images online for a flat fee. They could create a website that has ads, and affiliates to different canvases or places to print photos. So they have different income opportunities:
- Ad revenue
- Affiliate marketing revenue
- Their product that they're selling. In this case, photos.
And, with photography, they don't have to create over and over. They just take the photos, edit them, upload them with a passcode on their website, and then they can sell those photos for say, $25 a piece.
From there, once you figure out what it is that you love to do, you need to try to figure out a way to set yourself apart from everybody else.
HOLLIS: That's so brilliant and specific. It took one football game, so, maybe a couple hours, and it’s something they enjoy. That's the beautiful thing I'm noticing out there among the dime-a-dozen (or thousand) multi-level-marketers on Instagram, you'll also see people popping up with things that they're truly passionate about and people who are creating.
BLEVINS: Yep and finding a way to generate ROI on who they really are.
Finding financial independence by betting on herself
HOLLIS: When did you decide to leave your full-time career? Why was it the right time for you?
BLEVINS: I was a banker working for Wells Fargo, earning $36,000 a year. I think I experienced complete burnout. I was fed up spending all of my time working for a company that only cared about meeting its sales goals.
That’s when I became licensed to sell real estate and started my commission-only gig.
HOLLIS: What were some of the emotions you went through?
BLEVINS: I was nervous, but as nervous as I was, my husband was terrified. We were really on a strict budget, and we had two small kids at the time. I was also very excited to finally be in control of my own schedule.
HOLLIS: What does financial independence mean to you?
BLEVINS: Financial independence is being able to live on a fixed income for the rest of your life without having to work. I’m not even close to reaching FI, but I’d like to think that we’re on the path towards a better financial future!
HOLLIS: What are some of your goals financially?
BLEVINS: We’re still on a journey towards paying off all of our debt, so right now that’s our primary goal. We currently have 13% going towards retirement, which is awesome because a year ago, we only had 5% going in. We’d love to increase that, but we’re hyper-focused on paying off the remainder of our debt and should be debt free by the end of 2020.
It’s interesting because I was calculating the increase in income if my husband were to get a promotion, and I realized that it’s very possible for me to increase my own income by that amount if I buckle down.
So that’s now my goal for 2020.
HOLLIS: You're coming up on the second year anniversary of Perfection Hangover. What has been your favorite piece of content you put out there regardless of performance?
BLEVINS: I really enjoyed writing my review of Christian Healthcare ministries.
A couple of years ago, we stopped using traditional health insurance, which, you know, for my husband, the guy who likes everything to be structured and organized, was terrifying for him. We switched to Christian healthcare ministries, which is a health sharing ministry that's faith-based. After that, my son actually broke his wrist playing football, and he had to have two surgeries, and we had $60,000 worth of medical bills, but we submitted all of the bills and we only ended up having to pay $1,300 out of pocket.
So, writing that review was fulfilling for me and exciting for me because I just, I just love the company. I love the ministry.
HOLLIS: That's incredible. With everything going on in healthcare and how much debt people are in from medical bills, it’s wonderful something like that exists and is making it possible for families to afford the care they need.
To wrap things up, what would be the message you really want to share with Think Save Retire’s readers?
BLEVINS: A lot of Think Save Retire’s readers are financially independent, secure, they've got it all figured out. But the ones that don't, or maybe the women who have held back from figuring out their passion and starting their side hustle, I want to urge them to dig deep into their own hearts and find what they're truly passionate about or that they feel called to do and just listen to their own their own voice and their own heart.
If you ever need encouragement or help with brainstorming, you can find me on social media @perfectionhangover and on the blog at PerfectionHangover.com. I respond to every single comment that's made on a blog post or on my YouTube videos. I have all sorts of freebies on my site. And I also offer a personalized coaching session on my website as well.