Welcome back to another edition of our Debt Free Living Series. This week we had the pleasure of talking to Michelle from Making Sense of Cents about her debt free story.
Michelle started just like many of us with a mountain of student loans to pay off. She didn’t let that stop her from paying off her debt fast and then side hustling her way to being able to travel full-time.
I know everyone will be able to take something away from this, so let’s get started!
Tell us a little bit about yourself
Hey! My name is Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, and I own Making Sense of Cents. On my blog, I help readers learn how to earn more, save more, and live more.
I’m originally from Missouri, but have been traveling full-time for several years now, first by RV and now by sailboat (you can learn more about how we’re living on a sailboat here).
For fun, I enjoy traveling, sailing, hiking, rock climbing, biking, and pretty much anything outdoors. I also love running my blogging business!
How did you end up in debt and how much debt was it?
I had around $40,000 in student loan debt, and it is actually one of the main reasons for why I started Making Sense of Cents in the first place.
I was living paycheck to paycheck and was drowning in my monthly bills. I was also not great at managing money which made everything worse.
Even though I had been working full-time since the age of 14 and started living on my own at 17/18, I had no grasp on managing money and hadn’t put much towards my student loan debt the entire time that I was in college.
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What was the turning point for you where you decided to start paying off your debt?
When I received my first student loan bill is when it hit me.
I realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford my mortgage (I bought my first house at the age of 20 – houses in the area were cheaper than rent so it made sense!), all of my monthly bills, and the $750-$1,000 monthly student loan payment.
I finally figured out how to make extra money so that I could shovel it all towards my student loan debt.
How long did it take you to get rid of your debt?
I paid off around $40,000 in student loan debt in just 7 months! It was a lot of hard work, but I am SO GLAD that I did it.
What was your motivation to pay off all that debt?
I received motivation in so many areas. I knew I didn’t want my student loan debt hanging over my head for over a decade, so that was a big motivation.
I also saw so many people in the personal finance blogging community paying off their debt, so I drew lots of motivation by seeing that others were seeing debt payoff success as well.
Those two things changed my life in a crazy way, and now I recommend that others do the same as well – PAY OFF YOUR DEBT!
Did you run into any “bumps in the road” when you were trying to pay off your debt? If so, how did you overcome them?
Lack of sleep was probably the biggest bump. Managing my full-time job and all of my side hustles was definitely draining, but it was motivating and refreshing to see my student loan debt drop each month.
I knew that it wasn’t going to be forever – it was just a little bit of pain now for lots of gain later!
The best thing I did to manage this was that I found ways to manage my time and use my time most effectively.
For example, I used lunch breaks at work to side hustle, I would do mystery shops for extra money on the way home from work (so that I wasn’t driving any extra), and so on.
Did budgeting play a factor in you being able to pay off your debt?
Budgeting did play a factor, but the biggest thing that helped me was learning how to earn money from home. I was working over 100 hours a week in order to pay off my student loan debt.
I side hustled like crazy on top of my day job – mystery shopping, social media management, staff writing, blogging, selling items on eBay, and more.
If you could give 2 pieces of advice to someone trying to pay off debt fast, what would they be?
1) Find ways to make extra money. Almost everyone has extra time – use your time to make extra money!
2) Evaluate your budget. So many people have extras in their budget that they do not need. If you have debt that you’re wanting to get rid of, then you may have to make some sacrifices in order to see success.
You may have to get rid of your cell phone, stop eating out, get rid of cable, negotiate your bills (such as insurance – so many people overpay!), and more.
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Now that you’ve paid off your debt, what financial goals do you have next?
My main goal is simply continuing to save money. We have enough to retire whenever we would like to, but we still save around 90% of our monthly income.
Some think we are crazy and I get a lot of comments about this – but I am happy with my life and don’t buy things that I don’t need.
Alright, this question is less about debt payoff and more about full-filling dreams. You’ve been traveling full-time for the last few years, first in an RV and now on a sailboat! For those of us (myself included) who dream of traveling full-time, what advice do you have for us to make that dream possible?
It really just depends on the person. Some decide to save money before they go, and others will work as they travel full-time. So, you’ll first definitely want to figure out how you’ll fund your lifestyle, then you’ll want to think about your method of travel – will you RV, sail, take a plane, hike, bike, or something else?
There are so many options out there, and the options and opportunities are endless. Traveling full-time is absolutely amazing and I recommend most people try it at least once!
Thank you Michelle! Your story is so inspiring, going from drowning in $40,000 of debt to being debt free and building a 7-figure online business so you can travel full-time is amazing!
It really goes to show that just because you’re buried under debt right now doesn’t mean it will always be that way. I think you put it perfectly earlier, deal with a little bit of pain now for huge gains later!
Your story shows that with hard work, dedication, and the desire to change your life, it’s possible to not only pay off your debt but to transform your life completely.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and we look forward to following your sailing adventures!
If you want to check out more of these Debt Free Living Stories, you can find the entire series here. We add more interviews every couple weeks!
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