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“If You Want to Reach Your Financial Goals, a Mixture of Both Frugality and Growing Your Income Is Extremely Beneficial”

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Welcome to the next installment of our personal finance blogger interview serieswhere experts in the field share their knowledge of this important topic!

Personal Finance Blog Interview:  Making Sense of Cents

Michelle created Making Sense of Cents to help folks save money and learn more about the ins and outs of personal finance.  You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Michelle From Making Sense of Cents Shares Her Tips on All Things Personal Finance!

Why did you start your blog?  What’s special about it?

Hello!  My name is Michelle and I run the personal finance blog Making Sense of Cents.  I have 3 finance-related college degrees and was a financial analyst before I left my job to blog full-time.

In the summer of 2011, I created Making Sense of Cents with the aim of teaching people how to save money, as well as journaling my personal finance journey.  I did so after reading a magazine that featured a personal finance website in one of their articles.  I became extremely interested in that website and my interest in blogging just grew from there.

What’s interesting and hilarious is that before reading that article, I had no idea about what blogs were, that they could even make money, or anything along those lines!

I did not create my blog with the intention of making money off of it.  It was just a hobby and an outlet, but I realized how much I loved blogging, so now I am a full-time blogger!

I went full-time in October 2013, and I haven’t looked back once.  Blogging has completely changed my life for the better and it’s something that I recommend everyone try if they are interested.  If it weren’t for my blog, I probably would have never paid off my student loans in just 7 months, and I definitely would not have reached financial independence before 29!

Because of My Blog, I Am Able to Travel Full-Time

My husband and I RV full-time with our 2 dogs, and we are in the planning stages of switching to moving aboard a sailboat and sailing about the world next.

But, my blog isn’t just for me.  I have helped countless people pay off their debt, make more money, save more money, and create their dream life.

On my blog I talk a lot about different ways to make extra money, the best ways to save money, achieving your dream life, traveling, and more.  I love running Making Sense of Cents and I am very happy that this is now my full-time career, my business, and pretty much my life.

What’s one thing people can do to better understand their own finances?

The top thing I always recommend a person do is add up their total debt.  Take your mortgage, student loans, credit cards, medical bills, car loan, etc., and add all of it together…down to the very last penny.  Don’t estimate or guess anything – pull up the actual loan or bill amounts and add up the exact amount.

By doing this, you will learn a lot about your finances.  Sadly, a lot of people are way off when asked about how much debt they have.  And underestimate it!  So, adding up your total debt can be a wake up call.  And you’ll know exactly what you are dealing with.

Do you prefer frugality or do you believe in focusing more on growing your income, in order to reach your financial goals?

I believe that both are equally important.  There’s only so much a person can really cut back, but the amount you can grow your income is limitless.  However, earning more money won’t solve all of your financial problems, either.

If you only focus on earning more, you may never realize that you have a financial problem.  This could hold you back, especially if you don’t take the time to learn more about how your financial decisions impact you.  And poor decisions can lead to lifestyle inflation, money being wasted, trying to keep up with the Joneses, and more.

Becoming Financially Independent Has Allowed Me to Live an Amazing Life

By also focusing on saving money, you will be taking a great step towards understanding your financial situation and what needs to be changed.  This can help you to stop wasting money!

If you want to reach your financial goals as soon as possible, a mixture of both frugality and growing your income is extremely beneficial.

What’s your best advice when it comes to planning for retirement?

My best piece of advice would be to start putting money away for retirement TODAY.  The best time to invest was yesterday, the next best time is today.  So many people are afraid of investing for retirement, but you just need to start.

The sooner you start saving, the more it becomes a habit and the easier it becomes.  By investing money now, you will learn good investing habits that will help you well into the future.

I also want to point out that time is on your side.  The powerful impact of compound interest can change your life.

There’s Real Power In the Magic of Compound Interest!

Compound interest is when your interest is earning interest.  This can turn the amount of money you have saved into a much larger amount years later.  This is important to note because $100 today will NOT be worth $100 in the future if you just let it sit under a mattress or in a checking account.

For example:  If you put $1,000 into a retirement account that has an annual 8% return, 40 years later that would turn into $21,724.  If you started with that same $1,000 and put an extra $1,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would then turn into $301,505.  If you started with $10,000 and put an extra $10,000 in it for the next 40 years at an annual 8% return, that would then turn into $3,015,055.

That’s why investing now is so very important.

Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful for personal finance?

A personal finance tool that I absolutely love is Personal Capital.  With Personal Capital, you can manage your financial life much more easily.  You can see your full financial picture, see your net worth, analyze your retirement portfolio, see if you are on track financially, and more.

If you ever want to retire, then you will definitely want to use Personal Capital!

What do you now know about personal finance which you wish you knew when you started out?

When I was younger, I spent a ton of money on clothes, a new car (I stupidly bought a brand new car at just 18 years old), too much at restaurants, and more.

I was working full-time and I just thought I had plenty of money to spend, and that my student loan debt had plenty of time to be paid off.  Because of those beliefs I wasn’t mindful of my spending, AT ALL.

These Days My Husband and I Live In Our RV Full-Time, Because I Can Work From Nearly Anywhere

I wish I would have realized that I should have spent my money more wisely, and saved more of it.  Luckily, I didn’t rack up any credit card debt, but I was living paycheck to paycheck and struggled to pay rent many months.

Do you participate in the miles & points hobby?  And if so, how do you think it relates to personal finance?

Yes, I love miles and points!  I think as long as the person can manage using a credit card wisely, that it can be a great way to “earn” an affordable vacation.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

Ha, I am extremely open on my blog.  I even publish income reports that show how I earn $100,000+ a month online.  So there’s not really anything major that would surprise my readers.

Any parting words?

Thanks so much for the interview!  If you have any questions about earning more money, blogging, frugality, paying off student loans quickly, RVing, or anything else, please let me know.  I answer 100% of my readers’ emails and questions as I love helping everyone out.

Michelle – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on personal finance and telling us more about your blog!

If you’d like to be considered for our interview series, please send me a note!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)