Expert Interview with Michelle Schroeder on Smart Saving

Michelle Schroeder knows a thing or two about working hard. She worked full-time while studying for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees and paid off $38,000 in student loans within a few years of graduating.

But despite her strong work ethic and propensity for saving money, she still knows how to have fun.

"I think that you can both save money and have a great life, and this is something that I always try to keep in mind," the blogger behind Making Sense of Cents says. "So many people think that if you save money, you are not enjoying yourself, and that is just not true."

We recently checked in with Michelle to learn how she accomplished her money goals and to get her take on how young professionals can start getting a handle on their finances. Here's what she had to say:

Can you tell us the story behind Making Sense of Cents...when and why did you start your site?

I started Making Sense of Cents back in August of 2011. I didn't really know anything about blogging back then until I started reading a financial website and noticed that there were comments from financial bloggers. These bloggers had awesome goals, such as paying off their debt quickly, earning extra money, and so on, and I got hooked quickly. I decided to start my own website to track my financial progress and to also just vent my feelings to the public.

Who should be reading it?

On Making Sense of Cents, I write about many different things. I discuss earning extra money to improve your life, traveling on a budget, my wedding plans and more.

I think anyone who wants to change their life around for the better should be reading my website.

How did you become so passionate about personal finance? What is your money-management pedigree (i.e.: Were your parents savers or spenders? Did you learn from their successes or mistakes)?

I became passionate about personal finance because I knew that I didn't want money to tie me down in life. I saw how the economic downturn was affecting everyone else around me, and I didn't want that to happen to me. So, I worked on eliminating my loans, diversifying my income streams and more.

My parents were complete opposites from each other. When my dad was alive, he was an obsessive saver. He had a great life and traveled to many countries, but he also worked toward saving as much money as he could.

My mom was and still isn't the greatest when it comes to money. Because of the two of them, I learned from my dad's successes and my mom's mistakes.

What about credit cards? Do you love 'em or hate 'em?

I love credit cards. If you can use credit cards correctly, then I believe you can use them to your advantage. I earn thousands of dollars each year in credit card rewards, and all I have to do is swipe my credit card just like I normally would.

What are some of the greatest lengths you've gone to save money?

I'm not sure if I've really done anything crazy to save money. However, I have worked like crazy to save money that I earned. For over six years I worked over 60 to 80 hours each week (and some weeks were well over 100), while also working toward different college degrees. I tried to save as much of this money as I could.

What advice can you offer other young professionals on managing their money and diversifying their portfolios (or even starting their portfolios...)?

My top tip would be to have a realistic plan. Whether you want to save for a round-the-world trip, eliminate your student loans, pay for a house with a large down payment, or something else, you need a good plan to get you there.

You were involved with raising your sister after your dad passed away several years ago...do you/did you talk about money management with her; if so, what do you talk about? What lessons that you learned the hard way do you hope to share with her?

I talk about money management every now and then with my sister. I will be honest and say that I haven't taught her everything, but I have been trying to teach her about proper money management as we go. I did convince her to start a website last year (www.FITnancials.com), and I think it has helped her learn a lot more about money and also to document her progress.

What are some of your favorite side hustles you've found over the years?

My most favorite side hustle has been writing online. It was such a favorite side hustle of mine that I turned it into my full-time business in October of 2013. I offer a few different online services, and they are all things that I love. My online jobs are all fun, and they also allow for me to have a flexible schedule and more time to enjoy other things in life.

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