If you’d love to boost your income, create a budget, or find a way out of debt, today’s interview with financial expert Michelle Schroeder-Gardner could be just what you need. Michelle is a personal finance, travel, and lifestyle blogger who is passionate about helping others create a life they love by earning, saving, and living more. Since she started her wildly popular blog, Making Sense of Cents, Michelle has featured in The Huffington Post, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, US News, and many more publications besides. Here she shares the secret of her success. ~ Rachel
1. Tell us a little about yourself…
I have three college degrees, including a Finance MBA. I used to work as a financial analyst, but my personal finance blog, Making Sense of Cents, quickly grew on the side and I left my day job for my blog. I had a ton more fun working on my blog than I ever did as a financial analyst, so making the career switch made a lot of sense. Me and my husband sold our house last year and we now travel full-time in an RV with our two dogs. I never thought that this would be my career, but now I know that this is my passion. We are super happy with life and can’t believe how great it is!
Our RV and Jeep setup
2. What was the catalyst for starting your blog to make money and document your debt repayment journey?
I started my blog in August of 2011, after reading a magazine article about a personal finance website. I got hooked on that website and everything just exploded from there. I didn’t create my blog with the intention of earning a living – it was just a hobby. Then I realised how much I loved doing it, so now I am a full-time blogger! It’s funny how life can change so drastically.
3. Tell us about how you got debt-free: what did the process involve? What did you prioritise? What challenges did you face? What big lessons did you learn along the way?
After I graduated with my three college degrees, I had a lot of student loan debt. Even though I have worked since I was 14, and I worked full-time throughout high school and college, I didn’t really save any money for college. My dad passed away when I was just 18 and I have lived on my own since the. I didn’t receive any inheritance or insurance money (that’s a question I get asked a lot!) and I was dumb with money; I made a lot of financial mistakes.
However, my blog changed everything. It allowed me to throw myself into the personal finance blogging community, and learn about my financial situation, which helped me to improve it.
I realised that I wanted – and needed – to pay off my student loan debt early because I didn’t want it hanging over my head for decades. So, I typed up a blog post and made sure that my readers held me accountable to my goal.
I didn’t want to write a blog post that said “I failed” so I tried my hardest. In the end I was able to pay off my $40,000 student loan debt in just seven months. Mainly I did this by finding ways to make extra money. I did pretty much anything and everything on top of my full-time job as a financial analyst, including mystery shopping, taking surveys, blogging, staff writing, and more. I was working 100-hour weeks, but it’s amazing to know that my student loans are gone!
Working at a campground near Mount Evans, Colorado. It was a great working spot!
Now I make money through partnerships and advertising on my blog, affiliate marketing, blog coaching, website management, and more. Right now, affiliate marketing is the largest piece of the puzzle and I’m hoping that will keep increasing.
4. What inspired you to start sharing your ‘Online blog income reports’ to show how you earn over $30,000 a month blogging?
I love publishing income reports, and seeing other people publish theirs is what inspired me to do all of this. Knowing that it really is possible to make money online and follow your passion inspired and motivated me and now I like to show others that anyone can live the life they want, make more money, pay off debt, save more money, and so on.
Before I started blogging, I knew nothing about side hustling and making money online. I didn’t think side jobs were worth the effort and I thought the only way to significantly increase your income was through raises at your full-time job. If it weren’t for others publishing their monthly income reports, I don’t know if I would have ever tried side hustling. I want to show others that it is possible to make money legitimately from home and highlight the benefits because ultimately it can help people to change their life.
My blog income chart
In my monthly online income reports, I share a ton of information. They are usually over 3,000 words! I share exactly where my income comes from each month, how much I make, how my business is doing, and what my business goals are. I also share lots of tips with my readers, answer featured questions, and more besides.
5. How has the path to financial freedom led you to live a happier, more creative life doing what you love?
The path to financial freedom has DEFINITELY led me to live a better and more creative. I am now in control of money, and my life, whereas I wasn’t before. I am the happiest I’ve ever been!
Heading off on a float trip in Moab
6. What advice would give your younger self about managing money? What big lessons have you learned?
My top piece of advice would be to start a budget. Seriously, everyone needs to have one!
7. How much revenue does your business make? How much does it cost to run your business?
My income is through the roof this year. I earn over $70,000 a month blogging, and I forecast that I will be earning six figures a month before the year ends. It doesn’t cost much to run my business. I outsource certain things such as technical blog management, editing, and so on, which ends up costing around $1,500 to $2,500 per month. I do all of the writing, marketing, etc. myself, but I have everything running smoothly so it makes for a very low-cost business.
8. You now live in an RV and run your online business on the road. What are the best bits about having the world as your office, and what do you find difficult?
Full-time RVing is a TON of fun and I can highly recommend it. The best thing about life on the road is that we see new things every single day. We can also stay in and work whenever we need to. We have flexible schedules, which is an amazing thing.
In the past year, we’ve spent time in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, Illinois, South Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Tennessee, and more! The United States is such a great place to travel full-time and there are so many different things and landscapes to see.
The most difficult part is not knowing if you’ll have internet. While we pay for two different wifi services, and campgrounds usually have internet, it’s never 100 per cent reliable. This is especially true when you’re in the middle of nowhere. However we love traveling and don’t see this way of life ending any time soon.
9. Talk us through a typical day in your life…
My typical day varies since we RV full-time. Sometimes I wake up and work all day long and other days we go for a long 8-hour hike with our dogs or go Jeepin.
My family after climbing a mountain at 14,003 feet!
That’s the wonderful thing about working for yourself and being location independent: I can wake up and decide what I want to do!
10. What advice would you give anyone who wants to take control of their finances but isn’t sure where to start?
Whether you start a new passion on the side of your full-time job or if you drop everything to follow your dreams, do it! But, do it responsibly and realistically.
My top piece of advice would be to subscribe to a few personal finance blogs. There are tons of great personal finance blogs that can help you with your personal finance journey, plus the advice is all free! There are different personal finance blogs for different kinds of people, so it’s easy to find one that suits you. Taking control of your finances may seem scary, but if you put your mind to it, it really is possible.
Joshua Tree National Park
11. What does this year have in store for you in terms of growing your business, and your personal life?
It’s a crazy one. I’ve launched my first online course for bloggers, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. This course teaches bloggers and online influencers how to increase their affiliate income, build a loyal following, improve traffic, and more. I also have a great work-life balance, especially when compared to last year. I’ve finally, almost, mastered work-life balance and am really starting to learn how to better manage an online business and my life.
In terms of my personal life, that’s still up in the air. My husband and I are thinking about buying a sailboat and travelling on that, but in the meantime we’ll continue RVing.
For more information about Michelle visit her website or connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest.