Jayla Henry, a 26-year-old content creator, had saved up bit by bit to eventually pay off her husband's student debt.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on January 5, 2022. It has since been updated.
Tony was surprised when his wife, Jayla Henry, a 26-year-old content creator, held out a gift. He slowly unwrapped the gift and found a pair of shoes. The words "debt" and "free" were written on either shoe. He looked confused and asked, "debt-free?" She held out her phone and made him listen to a recording. It was a conversation about her paying off his student loans at the bank. He was stunned and fighting back tears as emotions washed over him. She then told him, "Yeah. I want you walking around debt-free," referring to the shoes. The video she took was liked by many on TikTok, garnering more than 436,000 views and 71,600 likes.
The stay-at-home mom posted the video and captioned it, "Working hard to set our family up for a great future. Merry Christmas." Student loan debt is crippling to so many young people in the United States and stopping young families from being able to make future plans. For Tony, this was more than anything he could have asked for. In the video, she plays a recorded conversation between her and a Sallie Mae representative about closing the loan. "Congratulations to him, he's one lucky guy," the Sallie Mae rep can be heard saying, confirming Jayla had successfully paid off the rest of Tony's student loan debt.
"I'm a big crier, so there were instant tears in my eyes," Jayla told BuzzFeed News about her gesture. "It also was so special to me that he cried too since he doesn't do it often. He knew how much of a sacrifice I had to make in order to pay them." She added that he couldn't stop thanking her and gave her one big hug. The couple had met at a tailgate in college. The pandemic proved to be a huge blow to their plans as Tony unexpectedly lost his job. Jayla continued working on her social media presence and brand partnerships so she could save up money while also running everything at their home.
She had also set a plan to pay off his debts and kept money aside each month. For her it was a new experience, especially having been the stay-at-home mom with no income. "I wanted to be home with my baby. Not once was I led to feel bad about it — only appreciated for all I did at home and with our son! That alone made me want to pay it back," she said about her husband.
"I've never really been one to splurge on anything, let alone loans, but I knew to accomplish something like this I really needed to look at the bigger picture of my spending," she said, adding that they were always frugal and accounting every penny that came in and went out. Tony got a job again in July which helped ease matters at home and helped her set more money aside to clear his debts. Jayla and Tony's love story started when Jayla casually walked up to Tony, threw an arm around his shoulders, and said, "I just want to let you know, you're going to be my husband." With that kind of confidence, you never miss. Four years on, they are as solid as ever and married. With no student debt to weigh him down, Tony is planning on using his architecture degree to design their first home.