Financial Case Study: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, Millionaire Blogger

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner is the founder of Making Sense of Cents, a personal finance website that helps readers learn how to save more, earn money, and live more. She currently earns over $100,000 a month from her blogging business, and shows no signs of slowing down. She travels full-time with her husband and two dogs via sailboat.

Before you surmise that Michelle was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, it’s worth noting that she started with $40,000 in debt and hustled her way to becoming a millionaire blogger. Find out how in this fascinating Financial Case Study!

Financial Case Studies

This post was originally published in 2019. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

How long have you been living/working on the road, and where have you traveled to?

I have been location independent since 2013, and have been traveling full-time since 2015 (we sold our house in early 2015). We have traveled via Jeep (including camping inside our Jeep and tent camping), RVed full-time, and now we’re on a sailboat. Since we have two dogs, we love being able to bring our dogs with us everywhere, and traveling via sailboat and RV makes it much easier and more comfortable.

We mainly prefer outdoor activities, so we visit a lot of national parks, and on our boat we have spent several months sailing the Bahamas and a lot of time sailing Florida. We have plans of sailing more extensively (such as to Europe and the Pacific), but while we have senior dogs we will not be doing any extensive sails in order to keep them comfortable.

Please describe what you do for income.

In 2011, I started Making Sense of Cents with the goal of talking about my personal finance situation (and hopefully improving it by journaling it) after reading a Cosmopolitan magazine article that featured a personal finance website. I became extremely interested in that website and my interest in blogging just grew from there. This is funny because before I started my blog, I had no idea about what blogs were, or that they could even make money.

I did not create my personal finance website with the goal of earning an income online. My blog was all just for fun until I realized how much I loved blogging, and I am now a full-time blogger! I went full-time in October of 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.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner at Glacier NP

On my blog Making Sense of Cents, I talk a lot about different ways to make extra money (I was able to pay off $40,000 in student loan debt by side hustling like crazy), the best ways to save money, achieving your dream life, traveling, and more.

I make money on my blog and through my two blogging courses. I blogged for about five years before I released any of my own products, though.

I earn money blogging through:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Sponsored partnerships
  • Display advertising
  • Courses

You can read all about how I make money blogging here.

How many hours per week do you work on average?

I work anywhere from 10 hours per week to over 60. It really just depends on what my goals are for the week and month, and what needs to be done.

I used to consistently work at least 50+ hours a week, but have since realized that I needed a better work-life balance. I LOVE blogging, but I also have an unhealthy addiction to working on my business, haha.

Now, thankfully, most of my blogging business is passive, so that makes things much easier and better for me.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardener, making money blogging at Making Sense of Cents, overlooking the desert

How much money do you make?

I earn around $100,000 per month blogging, and have earned over $1,500,000 blogging annually for the past few years.

Affiliate marketing – I earn the most through affiliate marketing, and that is also my most favorite way of making money blogging. This tends to be around $50,000 a month, but I have had months where this section was over $150,000.

Sponsored partnerships – This tends to be around $20,000 a month.

Display advertising – This is quite low, as I don’t have a lot of display ads as I don’t want to impact user experience. It is usually around $3,000 per month.

Courses – This is usually at least $30,000 per month.

My expenses are quite low, at around 5% to 10% of my monthly income. So, I am able to save a lot of income each month.

Do you make enough money to support your lifestyle?

Yes, I definitely earn enough to support my lifestyle. I also save a really good amount each month and put it towards investments and retirement savings. We have enough saved to retire whenever we would like.

See also: Financial Planning for Lifestyle Travelers

What do you like most about your career and lifestyle?

There are so many things that I love about my career and lifestyle. I love blogging, writing, having a flexible schedule, being my own boss, social media (Instagram is my favorite), being able to be location independent, and more. I seriously could not ask for a better career and lifestyle. It is the best possible thing for me and I could not be happier.

Blogging millionaire Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, enjoying work-life balance in the outdoors with a green cactus

What are some of the challenges you have with this career and lifestyle?

The biggest challenge is a good work-life balance. Since I love what I do so much, it can be hard to take a break when I need one. I find it hard to disconnect for even more than just a few hours, and disconnecting for a few days has been near impossible. The best way for me to disconnect is to simply go into an area without internet, haha!

Nora’s Note: GOSH can I ever relate! Though I once survived a month without internet whilst in the jungles of Peru, when I’m in “civilization” I’m always connected, and almost always working! My three months of sailing the Caribbean was the only other time when I wasn’t regularly connected.

What is your vision for the future of your lifestyle on the road?

I’m pretty much doing what I want to be doing, so I don’t think things will change too much in the future. I’m sure one day we will buy a house again, but that most likely won’t be anytime soon since we are having a lot of fun doing what we are currently doing.

Any advice for the aspiring traveler about living and working on the road and managing finances?

I have heard from so many people that they wish they could travel and work. If you’re thinking about doing it, I recommend seriously looking into it. I have heard so many excuses for why a person can’t do it, and usually it’s mindset that is holding them back. If it’s finding a job, there are SO MANY possible job ideas out there in today’s job environment.

So, I recommend making a plan if this is something that you are interested in, and making it happen!

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4 thoughts on “Financial Case Study: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, Millionaire Blogger”

  1. I enjoy the Making Sense of Cents blog, and dang, your number are impressive. There are so many ways, and one connecting thread I observe so much, is the ones that seem to be at the higher end of earning all started not with the goal of making money, but with something they liked and went from there. Thanks for sharing so many inner working details and best as you keep going forward!

  2. Hi, Nora your case study series is truly amazing. It really inspires me to take the benefit of the internet and achieve financial freedom.

    • Hi Richard,
      I’m so glad you enjoy this series! Now that I have such a large number of case studies, I’m starting to get older contributors to update their numbers and situation – which is a whole new kind of interesting! Stay tuned. 🙂

  3. I really like the case study and how you’ve presented it. I am not a financial guy, but I understand now what steps to take for a better future.

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