How I Got Out of Debt – Round 1, with Michelle Schroeder

michelle schroeder


Many of you know that I love hearing success stories of people who have made their way out of debt, especially when theyve paid off all of their student loans. It’s so motivating to hear how they did it and I want to bring more of that to the blog.

So, I am officially starting a new series that focuses on interviewing those people who have successfully gotten out of debt! I want to show you that there are many ways to pay off your debt, and keep you motivated to do so. 

Here to start us off is Michelle Schroeder from Making Sense of Cents. Michelle is a personal finance and lifestyle blogger who has been at it since 2011. She writes about everything from saving more to spending less, and even talks about minimalism. You may have also seen her in the “Best Financial Advice” roundup post featuring many well-known bloggers.

Michelle has kindly offered to share her story about how she paid off her student loans in just 7 months! Enjoy!


Tell us about the moment when you realized you needed to pay off your debt. What inspired you to start changing?

I realized I needed to get out of debt after I finished with my Finance MBA program. I knew I was just months away from receiving my first monthly student loan bill, and I knew it was going to be expensive. I didn’t want to feel like I was drowning in student loan debt forever, so I created an action plan to pay off my student loans as fast as I possibly could.


I definitely hear you one that one, Michelle. How much debt did you pay off? 

I had around $38,000 in student loans after I finished with my Finance MBA. That student loan debt included my two undergraduate degrees and my graduate degree. It was all student loans.


Even though you went into debt, it seems like you still played it smart by only having $38,000 in debt after getting 3 college degrees. Were you trying to keep expenses low while in college so you didnt have as much debt, or did it just happen that way?

Luckily, it just happened that way. While I did have a decent amount of student loan debt, I did earn many scholarships that made my expensive private university a little more affordable.


How long did it take to pay off your student loans?

It took me seven months to pay off my student loan debt. I talked about this in the post How I Paid Off $38,000 In Student Loan Debt In 7 Months.


Did you have a specific plan?

My main plan was to increase my income as much as I could. I made a good income at my day job, but I mainly focused on increasing my side income. I then used as much of this side income that I could to put it towards my student loans.


How did you decide on this method to get out of debt?

Well, I was already side hustling for a little bit before I came up with my student loan repayment plan. I decided just to keep increasing this as it was a very possible way for me to pay off my student loans quickly.


sense of cents financial adviceWhat kind of things were you doing in order to make this extra income?

In the beginning, I was doing a lot of mystery shopping and selling items around my home. It was an easy way to make money in the beginning before I took on other side jobs.


Did you stumble along the way?

In the beginning, it was very tough to put so much money towards my student loans. It was hard to get the hang of it, but after I made my first extra payment, it was a great feeling. It was almost addicting seeing my student loan debt drop after each payment.


Did you know what you were getting yourself into when you originally took out the loans?

I somewhat realized what I was getting into when I took out my student loans. I just thought it was normal though and everyone took out student loans, so I just continued taking them out without thinking much about it.

While you were getting your loans paid off, what was the craziest thing you did to save money?

The craziest thing would definitely be that I worked extremely hard towards extra income. There were many months where I was working 40 to 50 hours a week on top of my already 45-50 hour a week full-time job. It was hard working so much, but it definitely paid off as it helped me pay off my student loan debt quickly.


That is a lot of work! Did you sleep during those 90-100 work weeks? Were your family and friends on board with this?

I didn’t really get much sleep. It was common for me to get around 5 hours a day, and that happened for years. I still managed to squeeze in a decent amount of time with friends and family, so they were fine 🙂


Were you saving money at all while you were paying off debt? 

We weren’t really saving any other money except for paying off debt. We already have a fully funded emergency fund, but we stopped with retirement saving for the 7 months while I was paying off my student loans quickly.


Did you reward yourself at mini-milestones? What about when you were debt-free, did you buy anything?

No, I did not really reward myself with mini-milestones. I loved just watching the number drop by so much, so I enjoyed that enough. When I was debt free, I rewarded myself with plans to leave my day job for self-employment. Without the debt, I felt much more free!


What do you think was the key to succeeding at paying it all off?

Keeping my mind on the end goal is what helped me succeed at paying it all off. Just keeping your eye on the prize is important.


How does it feel to no longer owe money on student loans?

It feels absolutely amazing to no longer have student loans. It freed up around $1,000 a month with my budget and that is a great feeling to have.


What did you start spending money on again once you paid off your student loans?

We didn’t really cut our budget back too much (we’ve always had a relatively low budget), so our spending was still the same.


Will you ever put yourself into debt again?

No, I will never put myself back into debt again. I don’t plan on going back to college, thankfully!


What is the one piece of advice you would give to those who are still feeling like they are stuck in debt with no way out?

My top advice would be to use any extra time you have to work towards making extra money. Everyone has at least some extra time to devote towards working, so everyone should be using that time wisely if they have debt. Just a few hours each day or each week can go a long way. 



Check out more of Michelle’s blog at Making Sense of Cents. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Michelle!

Are you interested in sharing your story with the Bright Cents community? Let me know here.

Inspired and ready to create your own story?
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I am Chenell Tull and so far, I've had a pretty rough time with my student loan debt. Recently, I've figured out a more productive "get out of debt" plan and the goal is to pay off over $60k in just 36 months. If you want to learn more, subscribe to the mailing list and get FREE updates on my successes and failures on this journey out of debt.