Peanut Butter Grits
Thursday, January 04, 2018
By Mellisa Pendleton

What a crazy December. Time got away from me, and's the New Year. We had an amazing Christmas and I hope your family did as well. This year has not started off like I had planned. I have three kids sick and we're headed to Urgent Care with one of them who I believe has the flu. Ahhhhh, love this family. Anyhow, we are GO TIME with our plans for financial freedom this year. I (we lol) have a plan and damn it...I'm sticking to it. Total debt repayment for December was $1,011.08. This includes minimums, but with it being at Christmas time...I'm still proud. Like I said on the last blog post, I'm cash flowing a HUGE trip for May while still putting the extra $316 every month towards our debt snowball that I did the math for. That is the bare minimum we'll get to put towards debt if I did nothing extra at all. Just being diligent about the budget. Now, I'm not one to sit by and just do the minimum for anything in my life, so I'm working my butt off selling stuff, cutting back even more on our monthly budget, and figuring out additional ways to speed up the process. Any income being brought in by my business will be divided as so... 10% savings, 90% debt after taxes. I was actually going to cut back on working this year, but life throws us curve balls and we have BIG dreams for this family. 

I have a love affair with Instagram. I have found some incredibly inspirational people on their debt free journey. You can find alot of people by just looking up the hashtag #debtfreecommunity, but one of my most favorite peeps to follow are.... Debt Kicking Mom She feeds her family of 6 so amazingly cheap that I'm just blown away. Frugal Kittens is another one, and one of my most favs Debt Free in Sunny California. You know the old saying to surround yourself with like minded people? Well, I try and do that with all aspects of my life. Even social media. I took a small break away from FB, but gosh, if it wasn't for my business, I'd leave it completely. It's a time sucking addiction. 

Anyhow, yes we are on it. Yes, we will prevail. Bring it on. A look at our December...


Happy New Year!

xoxo Mellisa 

Tuesday, December 05, 2017
By Mellisa Pendleton

This is a post I wrote about but never finished it for last month. Hello business season was upon me lol. 

This month was a PERFECT example of why your family needs an emergency fund. My husband's military orders were delayed. Don't ask me to explain in detail, because quite frankly, it confuses me as well. The gist of it was he hasn't been paid since the end of September. YES. YOU READ THAT RIGHT. For a family that lives giving every single dollar it's place, this was a time where our emergency fund came full circle in it's need. I was able to pull the funds for our bills from that fund and pay them accordingly. What if we wouldn't have had that money in there? We would have had to resort to pay them by other means. This has also been the busiest month for me in my business all year. It always is. I can't imagine having had that extra stress of not knowing how in the world the bills were going to get paid. 

This is why you have to have an emergency fund. It's just for these very circumstances. 57 million Americans have no savings. Savings for us gives this woman some peace of mind. It's funny, when we lack that fund, I feel defeated, scared, and just not secure. I've kept up with every penny that we have had to pull from savings, and when he gets paid next week...every penny goes right back in. 

All those circumstances haven't stopped me from gazelle intensity on our debt snowball. I've kept up with selling things as a side hustle on Kidizen & Poshmark and total for October in sales(what went to debt) is $174.68. Not bad for a side hustle lol. 

There has been some changes in my husband's position in the military and the status of his deployment, but I'll wait for that for another blog post.

So, what do you do if you have no savings at all? 

1. Sell, sell, sell. You HAVE to have things laying around the house that you don't use. Start selling them and putting those funds in an account that is hard to access. You know, where you can't just use a debit card to easily withdraw or spend it. I have to physically walk into our bank to retrieve money from our savings account. 

2. EVERYONE should have a budget. Hands down. If you don't have one...start today, now. It's not as hard as you think it may be. Once completed, what can you minimize on that budget so that those funds can go towards an emergency fund. 

3. Have a massive yard sale. Have you touched that item  in the last 60 days? If not, it's gone. 

We don't have to live like this forever. There is a whole community of people striving to be debt free just like you. 

xoxo Mellisa 

Monday, December 04, 2017
By Mellisa Pendleton

I got ALOT of messages yesterday over the previous blog post. You guys, there are more families than you realize going through the EXACT same financial dilemma. Too much going out and not enough coming in. I thought I'd dive in to what we are doing to help curb the desire to spend. I am actually a natural good deal finder. I like to have money in the bank because it makes me feel secure. Always have. But, like I said yesterday...Christmas time turns me into a spender. Hands down. I am currently done with purchases for the upcoming holidays. With only a few prints left to buy, I decided I'd find a frame here at the house that I longer use and put the prints in that. There is no reason someone else can't enjoy a frame I no longer am using. 

Here are a few things I'm doing currently to help for the upcoming Fast: 

1) Every single time I get an email from a company that sells something...I'm unsubscribing. No offense to those beautiful small businesses I love to follow and purchase from, but this momma has a plan. With those emails being out of sight, the need to make an impulse purchase will be gone. 

2) We're having a family meeting to explain our plans for the next 6 months. Yes, I understand the kids will forget, some not understand, and some who are used to getting most things their heart desires, but time for change kids. 

3) I joined a group called "And then we saved." This group is lead by the amazing author of the current book I'm reading by Anna Newell Jones. 

4) I've gotten my husband on board. It's important that we're all on the same page so when something comes up, we can handle it together. 

5) I'm currently thinking about an upcoming February birthday with a certain soon to be 7 year old and how to handle all of that. I'm honestly thinking of selling some stuff to consignment and then using the credit for a new to him birthday gift. Anyway I can stick to the plan. 

6) I've always meal planned, but it's game time now. Half of our family is vegetarian, 1 true vegan, and then some meat eaters so this should be interesting lol. 

7) Potluck dinners with friends. No more Mexican food night or vegan pizza night, or any other dang food themed night lol. 

We've always done a budget. ALWAYS. I know what's coming in and what's going out. Like down to the penny, but I end up always using that "extra" money that is supposed to tackle our debt to food, so I'm going to be really strict with that area. Cheaper meals, better organization, packing meals when I know it will be a trigger day for me. I think I'm also going to host a once a month meeting at my house to give support, answer any questions that I can, or even help someone with their own budget. It will fill that void of "giving" for me. I will give time and not materialistic items lol. 

I also want to touch on something. Back a year ago, we were in the negative every month without my income. We never missed a payment, never went without, etc. because my business took care of the negative balance. I realize that is not the truth for everyone. I realize that some families, even with two incomes, are still in the negative every single month. You are not forgotten, you are not alone. Yes, you can still get out of the mess you're in. It's time to dig deep and really look at what you're spending your money on. There is ALWAYS something you can take off that budget. Cable? Meal plan better with cheaper foods? < This does not have to be forever. Go down to one car? Sell anything you can get your hands on at home? Find a second job? Babysit? Are these things we want to do? Of course not, but what if it meant getting out of a whole we've created? 

Some families are bogged down with medical bills(we've been there). Some families have had a spouse loose their job. Life is going to happen. I want to be prepared when it does. 

There IS hope. I promise. 

xoxo Mellisa 

Sunday, December 03, 2017
By Mellisa Pendleton

I know a lot of people don't like New Years Resolution but I really thrive off making a plan, list, and goals for the upcoming year. I'm a certified list maker and not afraid to share it. Every single Christmas I do the same damn thing. I have a set amount of money planned out for gifts and I go way off the train tracks. WAY OFF. For the last few years, we've done the whole something they want, need, read, and wear, but this year took ahold of me and although I'm sticking to those three...I've gone pretty expensive. I have no idea why I have no self control this time of year. My mom says it's because I like to give and I honestly really do. It's my most favorite thing to pick something really special out for someone and have them open it with pure joy. I tallied up our debt and I cried. Cried that I let the last two months take a big giant hold on me. My friend even giggled at me that I had a delivery while she was here and you know what it was? A debt free book. I mean, I bought a book on being debt free while I'm drowning it debt. Ironic, I know. We're not extravagant people guys. We drive older cars, live in a 1980's house that desperately needs work done on it, and I pack my kids' lunches. So, I'm having a date night with my husband tonight(only coffee ;) and we're coming up with a plan. I've wrote down everything. I've done the math. I've come up with what I hope will be a turn that I can't get side tracked on. 

I'm so tired of having debt. Like, makes me sick to my stomach. It keeps me (us) from doing what we really want to do. I have dreams. Things I want to have the choice to do. We, as a family, can't do those things unless I make some changes. And yes, I say me, because in all reality, I handle our finances. I had someone recommend that my husband take over the finances, but gosh, he is so busy and I have more of an opportunity to handle those things for our family. Quite frankly, I like handling them. BUT, he is going to be more involved. It has to be that way. 

Ever heard of a "spending fast?" Yeah, I had heard of it before but thought I couldn't do it. But, we're gonna try. I've read of people doing it for a whole year, but I think we're going to shoot for 6 months. What exactly is a spending fast? Exactly what it sounds like: you don't spend a dime on anything that isn't a necessity. This will be different for every family, but here's what I've come up with for ours: 

No take out: that means absolutely no eating out. No $5 pizza, no quick chicken nuggets, no late night chocolate grocery run. 

No more Amazon purchases with the exception of dog food, cheaper grocery items, or toiletries. I have a big love affair with Amazon. 

No more lets go celebrate this or that with a Target run! I mean, my 5 year olds favorite place is Target...that should tell you something. 

No more late night Walgreens run. My oldest daughter and I are notorious for this. Think chocolate, chips, we get hungry lol. 

No gifts for birthday parties unless we make them homemade or re-gift something from here. 

No coffee trips, clothes, trinkets, makeup, movies at the theater, home decor...nada. 

Here's the thing: we don't need any of those things. We think we do at the time, but in all honesty, we can do free things that will be just as much joy. SIX months. I know we can do it. Now, what are we keeping? My husband goes to the gym 4 days(sometimes 5 days a week), I will not take that away from him. He does so much for this family and it brings him stress relief and joy to go to Crossfit. I'm going to look over all my business expenses(website maintaining, subscriptions, etc.) to see if I can shave anything of them. I currently spend $114 towards bare minimum to keep my business running. I'm still thinking about my YMCA membership. We only pay $32 a month for it, but when is the last time I went? Lets just say it's been awhile. We don't have cable but I still pay $83.98 for a home phone and internet...I'll search a cheaper route to go, but it has to be reliable because I run my 90% of my business off online. We have Netflix and it costs us $10.99/month. My kids may have a heart attack if I get rid of that. So, I have my work cut out for me, but I'm ready. 

I've done the math, and just off my husband's income alone, we can put $318 extra a month towards debt. I don't count my business income what so ever. I want to put every penny of that towards our debt and it varies every month. So, what is on our monthly budget right now? Here's the lineup: 

Mortgage: $819.95

Water/Trash: $75.00

Electric: $220.00(this doesn't change. It is set up to be the same amount every month)

Verizon: $233.23(the includes the amount we still own on our new phones so this is the first one to get paid down)

Groceries: $500.00

S's car payment: $170.35

Car insurance: $188.43(this covers all 3 vehicles)

Gasoline: $300

Internet/Home phone: $83.98

Netflix: $10.99

Ella's preschool: $161.00

Ella's preschool program: $10.00

Dog Care: $51.64(two 30lb. bags of dog food)

Bank Loan: $316.00

Septic Tank Loan: $65.91

Business Expenses: $114.00

Credit Card Minimum: $389.00

What do I have problems keeping in budget every month? Groceries. My kids eat ALL DAY LONG. It's exhausting. They are growing and I can't keep up. 

Do you see anything above that could be reduced? Don't be shy...leave a blog post comment. 

Things next year that are not on the budget and I refuse to let go. There is only one: my surprise trip for Kailyn's graduation. I have planned this thing for a year, paid a deposit, and I am taking her. She has no idea about it so shhhhhhh. I won't divulge where we are going, but it isn't cheap. That is the first item to be paid on our debt snowball. That gets paid in full first. Then we tackle the remainder...inch by inch. Our totals as of today? Gulp...$41,381.85. That does not count the trip or our mortgage. Yep, that is bank loan, credit cards(2), septic loan, & car. 

I used this amazing little website to plug in all our totals, interest rates, and minimums and then came up with how much bare minimum additional money we could put towards our debt each month and it will be 36 months until debt freedom. Three years. But, I know me, and I will find any penny extra to throw at it. No spend starts on January 1st and I'm already finding things I can sell from here. I re-started my Ebay account and making a big ol' pile to sell. I'm also going to be bartering a lot more this year. I already barter hair cuts, color, etc. but I know there is someone out there with a side job who wants my services as well. I am going to be much more active in my FB group I created a year ago as well. 

So, why am I putting this all out there for everyone to see? Simple. Accountability. That and I know other families are going through the exact same thing. You are not alone. I'm right here with you in the trenches. WE CAN DO THIS. I KNOW IT. 

Here's to the upcoming New Year. 

xoxo Mellisa 

Thursday, November 16, 2017
By Mellisa Pendleton

My tank is empty. After this busy season with my business, my husband constantly being out of town for work, and 4 kids...i am empty. Yes, even typing that makes me feel terrible. There are people in this world with real problems. People who are constantly fighting the battle of just keeping the basic needs near them (ie: food, shelter, and clothes). I wish there was a magic wand that would let you become humble at the wave of it's magical dust. I was talking to a mom the other day and I was mentioning when I get like this, it's best for me to serve someone in some way or another. I have to be physically humbled in order for my eyes to not only be opened, but to look at all I have with new eyes. 

I was also thinking if people really saw how much us moms(heck, dads too) do on a daily basis, they would understand. They would see how much of ourselves we give to others. How when my feet hit the floor, my mind doesn't stop until I go to bed, and sometimes not even then. And then I thought, "what would that do for you to show those inner most thoughts?" I guess people share for validation, for acceptance, or like me, they share because it makes them feel not alone. And in turn, I hope to makes others feel like they are not alone. 

Writing for me is a beautiful outlet. Kind of like a journal for others to read. It's healing for me. What if someone you thought so highly of sat down next to you and poured out all their faults, their deepest desires, their fears, their struggles, their real life. Not the life you see on that tiny screen late at night while you scroll past, but the real them. There are some beautiful women I follow on social media that I turn to (digitally speaking) to see how their day panned out. I know that when I go to find them on that search bar, I am bound to find something that lifts my spirits. 

This life can be so very hard. SO VERY DAMN HARD. But, seeing someone else's (esp other moms in my opinion) struggles can be of comfort. 

Comfort for those who truly think they are the only ones.

Comfort for those who believe they may never be good enough. 

Comfort for those who think this life isn't what they thought it would be. 

Comfort for those who live in the shadows in fear that no one would like them if they saw the real.

Comfort for those mommas whose tank is empty. 

Comfort for those trying to find themselves again after babies. 

Here's the truth: I struggle with the above every single day. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And I know just saying those things out loud don't make them go away, but the simple fact of knowing someone else is in the depths with you...makes the situation not so bleak. 

Photography has been a creative outlet for me, as well as writing. It's in my blood. That being said, I'm still finding myself again. Maybe you don't ever really stop doing that? Maybe? We evolved, rotate, and turn. There will be seasons that seem so much harder than the one before, but damn, there has to be a light somewhere. I got this journal the other day to help shift my focus a little. We (as in me lol) get so wrapped up in all the bad that is happening, that I get blinded. Shifting that focus on what is good around me, has definitely helped, but it's still a work in progress. 

I was putting Ella to bed tonight and I getting so annoyed that the 5th time she asked me to come back, I snarled, huffed and puffed, and then closed the door back. I thought, great, you are her most favorite person in the entire world and you act like this?" Humbled. It's like watching someone else and internally judging them even when you don't mean to. Except...I was judging me. I do that you? I know I talked to a mom a few weeks ago and she asked me "Do you yell at your kids?" I giggled and told her "of course I do...we're human." You could see the relief pour out from her veins. 

Take a moment and think back to a terrible mom moment you have had. I have too many to count. Now, imagine all your social media followers were watching? How would you feel? Find a momma today, tomorrow, this week, who you may think needs a little reassurance that she is doing ok. That she children love her. Watch the ripples occur. 

xoxo Mellisa 

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