We select one blogger per month as ReadyForZero’s Blogger of the Month. Because our Better Know a Blogger series was enjoyed by a lot of readers, we decided to continue introducing you to some of our favorite bloggers and personal finance experts.
For the month of February our Blogger of the Month is Michelle from MakingSenseOfCents, a site where she writes about budgets, travel, fashion, and student loans. Below is our interview with Michelle:
Your blog has a big (and growing) audience of readers. What has it been like to see your audience grow so much?
It’s been crazy watching my blog grow. I of course still remember the days when I was on Blogger and had less than 100 followers, but it seems like so long ago. I’m finally on WordPress and have been loving it (and I even made a post telling people to switch to WordPress immediately!).
I’m very excited to see how far my blog will go, and just thinking about where it’ll be next year and the years after that makes me happy.
How does the interaction with readers shape the way you write? Have you learned anything from a reader that changed how you view personal finance?
I try and reply to every single e-mail and every single comment. This helps me understand everyone’s point of view, and it also influences the decisions that I make. Whenever I am about to buy something, I almost always think about what my readers would do. I felt bad writing my “I’ll Never be a Frugal Blogger” post, mainly because I was afraid of how others would judge me. I have learned that I use my readers to keep me in check every now and then!
My writing style has changed and I’ve learned that readers enjoy reading personal posts, because they are usually easier to relate to than your standard “How to Save Money by ___” personal finance post. Adding a personal touch always helps!
One of the things you write about is having over $30,000 in student loan debt. That is certainly something many of our users can relate to. How do you approach the challenge of paying off your student loans, and what tips would you recommend to our readers?
My goal is to have my student loans completely gone by next month. I’m still on track for that, but it hasn’t been the easiest thing ever! I am always for increasing your income as much as you can. There are only so many expenses you can cut, so the only other way is to increase your income. I have worked on this a ton and currently make over $6,000 per month in extra income alone.
Also, with any extra income you make, snowflake your debt! Throw every little amount, even $5 towards your debt. You most likely won’t miss that amount, but your student loans and other debt will love it.
Did your financial picture influence your choice of major and/or your decision to attend graduate school?
Hmmm. This one is a tough one. I was almost always going to go into business, and I knew that just having a business undergraduate degree wouldn’t cut it. Getting my Finance MBA was always the plan.
You’ve also written about how you are not a “frugal blogger.” Instead, you focus on maximizing your income to reach your financial goals. Can you explain your philosophy and describe how you are able to make over $5,000 per month from your blog?
I believe that there are only so many expenses you can cut before you are most likely not having fun in life. Life is meant to have fun, and I believe people can spend money without the added guilt that some people feel. I like the things that I spend money on: cars, vacations, clothes, cable TV, etc. and I would prefer to increase my income instead of cut expenses.
I don’t make $5,000 just from my blog. I do many things such as renting out an extra bedroom in our house to my sister, freelance write, some virtual assistant work and so on. I detailed everything on my post Ways to Earn Extra Income.
You purchased a house when you were 20 years old. What tips would you give to our readers who are working to pay down their own mortgage debt? Based on your experience, would you recommend buying a house that young or would you suggest waiting?
I say you should analyze the rate that you have to determine if you should focus on saving, paying down debt, etc. If you have a 2.5% mortgage rate, I don’t always see the need to pay down your mortgage debt super fast as this is such a low rate. If you are working to pay down your debt, there are numerous things you can do. The main thing would be to make extra payments towards your principal. Also, round up when you make your payment! It all adds up.
I think it all depends on many factors for whether you should buy young or not. Buying young worked out for me: the housing market was doing bad which meant there were tons of houses for us to look at and buy. It was a good starter house and now we’re ready to buy our forever (or at least a long-term) house next year. Also, many of my friends also bought young (it was pretty much a chain reaction after we bought!), so it seemed like the normal thing to do!
What are the challenges of being in a relationship while you have debt? What advice would you give to others who are in that position? Was it hard to tell your fiance about your debt?
I don’t think there are any challenges, at least not for us. We live as though we are married and have been together and lived together for almost 7 years (everything is joint and always has been) and while some don’t agree with that, we see no problem with it and it has always worked for us. We added the debt together, so there were no surprises. It does help that we have a pretty high income and are still able to save over 50% of our after-tax monthly income.
That’s great! Congrats on reaching so many of your financial goals, and thank you again for taking the time to talk with us.
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If you liked this post, you might enjoy our previous Blogger of the Month profile here.