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A few years ago when I first joined Pinterest, I immersed myself into mountains of pins from outfit inspiration to DIY projects. The more I dove into the many diverse categories, I started pinning more articles and posts about personal finance and as a result learned how to better manage my money and become more frugal.
Finance pins that frequently appeared on my Pinterest feed always seemed to come from a website called “Making Sense of Cents.” Intrigued, I followed this money-savvy Pinterest account and started looking forward to the newest blog post.
We all have that one digital influencer or blogger that we follow and rave about, because it’s almost like reading the diary of a stranger. Needless to say, Michelle Schroeder, the creator of Making Sense of Cents, won me over with her amazing personal finance advice.
The posts that sucked me into Michelle’s blog were her income reports – at the time, I’d witnessed her monthly income skyrocket from $10,000 to $50,000, then $75,000 to now over $100,000 – a month. It was so exciting to read each new blog post, and I felt as proud of her as I would like my own sister. The most exciting moment that inspired me was when she announced that she finally quit her finance job as a valuation analyst to blog full-time.
The popularity of award-winning Making Sense of Cents continues to snowball, with Michelle’s income increasing each month. Over time, she’s not only surpassed the income of her previous salary-based job but is now creating an enormous amount of passive income. With her newfound freedom, not only did she quit her job but also traded her home for an RV. She is now traveling on the road with her husband and two dogs, living a life full of adventure.
Coming from a 9-5 job to a six-figure/month income, she has been the most influential figure for me to create The Baller on a Budget (yup, this blog that you’re reading right now wouldn’t have existed without her!). That said, having the opportunity to interview Michelle for my blog has been one of my most favorite moments of 2016. Continue reading below to learn more about Michelle’s journey from trading her previous job for blogging on the road and traveling America.
One of the most intimidating things about working for yourself as a blogger can be the expenses associated with starting up and maintaining it. On average, what do your monthly business expenses look like vs. your income?
Blogging is actually a very affordable business to start. I don’t think I spent more than $100 on my blog the whole first year. Blog hosting is quite affordable and can be found for less than $100 a year quite easily for a new blogger. My expenses are less than 5% of my monthly income, which is really good for a business.
In this day and age, it seems impossible to promote yourself without social media. Do you utilize social media as a form of advertising?
Oh yes, social media is definitely a need when it comes to running a blogging business! It’s a great way to promote and advertise your website for free, as social media is where everyone is at anyways. I like to use Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram to bring readers to my blog, but there are several other options as well. Pinterest alone brings in over 100,000 visitors a month to my blog and Facebook brings in around 100,000 visitors a month as well.
Many bloggers generate income from ad placement, but you seem to profit from affiliate marketing more. What exactly is affiliate marketing, and why is it so effective for blogging?
Affiliate marketing is when you earn income by placing an affiliate link on your website, social media account, influencer platform, etc. and have people purchase a product or sign up for the company through your link. If you get someone to sign up through your affiliate link, you are then rewarded by the company for promoting their product. I love affiliate income and affiliate marketing over ad placements because it can feel quite passive. You can create just one blog post or social media post, and potentially earn money from it years down the line, as long as you maintain it and keep generating traffic to it. With affiliate marketing, I can enjoy life more and know that I am still able to earn a great living promoting products that I use and enjoy.
I do have an affiliate marketing course as well, since I LOVE affiliate marketing so much.
My course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, is for you if:
- You want to earn a living from your blog (or even just some side income!)
- You want to earn income while you sleep.
- You want to write a blog post and earn money from it for years down the line, with minimal work needed.
- You tried affiliate marketing but haven’t had any luck.
- You want to have a better work-life balance.
In Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, there are 6 modules, over 30 lessons, several worksheets, bonuses, an extremely helpful and exclusive Facebook group, and more. I go through everything that you need to know about affiliate marketing, and more!
Plus, with my Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course results such as the below have been seen:
- One blogger went from $87 a month in affiliate income before taking the course, to over $1,700 a month after!
- One blogger received their first affiliate sale just two days after taking the course (and they were a brand new blogger too!).
- Another blogger doubled their monthly affiliate income from $2,500 to $5,000.
You’ve recently mentioned that you’ve hit over $150,000 in sales for your course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. There are a few other courses out there that offer similar education as well. What was the hardest part about marketing your course to make it unique?
Surprisingly, there really aren’t too many courses that are similar to mine. Sure, there are courses that may teach you something related to affiliate marketing, but I have yet to find one that specifically teaches to bloggers who want passive income. Due to that, it was easy to market because there is a big need for this in the blogging world. I had a very easy launch and marketing process – I didn’t do any webinars, guest posts, or anything like that. Instead, everything was from word of mouth and reviews from students who have taken the course. Due to that, I think it’s amazing that the course has done so well because I haven’t done anything too big in order to promote it. That goes to show the true value in word of mouth and creating a quality product that people want.
Prior to the success of your blog, what was life like financially? Was money a common culprit of issues at home?
I was young when I started Making Sense of Cents, so before then life was a lot like any other young person – I wasn’t very good with money and I thought I was invincible. I spent all of my money on clothing, housing expenses, a new car, and other things that I was probably spending too much money on. However, I never fell into credit card debt, which I’m still very happy about. But, I did fall into a decent amount of student loan debt from my 3 college degrees. I never really actively tried to save money, I never found ways to make extra money, or anything along those lines. Instead, I thought what I was doing was “normal” so I never really tried any harder. That was until the day that I found personal finance blogs and realized that there were some amazing people out there doing cool things!
One impressive financial feat you’ve accomplished was purchasing a home at the age of 20. What advice can you give to young adults in regards to managing their expenses so they can make large purchases like a home?
Yes, me and my husband bought our first home at the ages of 20. It wasn’t easy, but we lived in that home for 6 years and loved every little bit of it. If a young adult wants to buy their own home while they’re young, my top tip would be to set a realistic budget when it comes to the cost of the actual house and to think about ALL of the costs that go into owning a house. Too many people only think about the purchase of the house and the dollar figure that is related to that. However, you also need to think about the down payment that you’ll need, closing costs, maintenance and/or repair costs, property taxes, utility bills, and more.
Most people think that making nearly 6-figures every month would lead you to buying a mansion with Lamborghinis covering your driveway. How come you and your husband decided to abandon the American consumerist dream and pursue an RV lifestyle instead?
RV life is fun, so that’s why we do it 🙂 We prefer to travel and I don’t see the point of excessive material things that I don’t actually need. Like I said above, it’s not cheap to RV, especially not the way that we do it, so we are still living well. We just know where to spend our money and where we do not need to.
Traveling full-time is a lot of fun and we plan on doing this for a long, long time. We love being able to see new places, go on new adventures, meet fun people, and more.
I know you’ve upgraded from your previous RV to a brand new 2016 Winnebago 31C, from which I understand isn’t the most affordable RV (it even expands for more room!). How much did you invest in this RV?
We actually just upgraded again to a 2016 Allegro Bus (I know that makes me sound crazy) – this is our last one, though. We now know what we want and this is it. The Allegro Bus has an MSRP of around $400,000 and we paid for it in cash. Our newest RV is a diesel, which makes it more enjoyable to drive since we like to do a lot of mountain driving and hanging out in higher elevations. Also, we tow a Jeep Wrangler overland vehicle which became over the weight limit for the Winnebago that we had after we turned it into an overland vehicle, so we had to upgrade to the newest one in order to be safe and to obey the law.
Buying an RV is definitely not a small purchase. We’ve been told that it often takes a few RVs in order to find the best one, and sadly that was true for us. We spent some money doing that, but we are happier than ever in our current RV.
Since you’ve eliminated the huge expense of owning a home through selling it and are making significantly more income than before, could you share any particular savings or investment goals that you might have?
Well, I haven’t eliminated the expense of owning a home – I still own a home and it’s my RV 🙂 RVs aren’t cheap, that’s a common myth. RVs often cost anywhere from $100,000 to $2,000,000+ brand new, RV campgrounds are often over $1,000 a month, and then there’s the expensive cost of fuel, maintenance, repairs, and more.
For the most part, though, we are just saving a majority of our income so that we can one day have the option to fully retire if we want to. We also have big travel goals for the future past RV life, which includes sailing full-time and backpacking around the world. For now, though, we are enjoying RV life with our two dogs and exploring North America – it’s a great area to see full of different and amazing landscapes.
Although you’re exploring the outdoors every day, there’s still a lot of consistent work, patience, and dedication that’s required to have a successful blog. How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance and prevent work from consuming you?
Oh yes, for sure! This is so important. One of the things that I am a huge fan of is working ahead. By working ahead, I can maintain a healthy work/life balance and this helps to prevent work from consuming me. I like to work ahead when it comes to my blog posts and I’m currently a little over 2 months ahead when it comes to my evergreen blog posts (blog posts that don’t depend on the time of the year). This makes traveling and working full-time more enjoyable because I can take a day off from work since I am so far ahead when it comes to my writing. It also lessens any stress because I am not scrambling to finish a blog post – I used to publish blog posts as I wrote them because I never realized that working ahead would be so nice! Lastly, by working ahead, I don’t have to freak out when a last-minute project comes up. Instead, I can work on things and be much more relaxed.
Money isn’t everything, but let’s face it: money is financial security, and it helps people pursue their dreams without financial limitations. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through having the means to afford your lifestyle?
I’ve learned to not take anything for granted. Even though I earn a great living, I’m still very realistic about everything and save as much money as I can. You never know what may happen in the future, and I know that anything can change in just a moment. Due to that, we are saving as much as we can so that we can retire whenever we want. We could retire tomorrow if we wanted, but by saving as much as we can we are setting ourselves up for future success.
The one thing that stopped me from blogging for years up until last year was my fear of failure. What can you recommend to others who are interested but hesitant to start their own blog?
The fear of failure is something that stops many people from learning how to start a blog. However, you won’t know how it’ll go until you try it, so you may as well just start one! Luckily, blogging is quite affordable and you can start a blog usually for less than $100. If you decide that it’s not for you, then you won’t have lost too much. And, if you decide that you love it, then you’ll be glad that you tried! 🙂
Michelle continues traveling America in her RV with her husband and two dogs. When she’s not exploring the outdoors, she can be found typing away at her laptop, blogging and doing what she loves.
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