Knowing that you’re debt-free is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
That’s exactly what Chelsea Haley of Marietta, Georgia, felt when she cleared a total of $48,683.41 in debt! This sum includes her student loans with interest, attorney fees and the amount she owed in credit cards.
She achieved this feat five years after adopting her former student, Jerome, 17, and his younger brother, Jace, 6.
Pulling it off was far from easy. Chelsea had to make lots of sacrifices and work extra jobs, such as tutoring a couple of days a week and delivering groceries. She was also paid extra to stay late at the school and work as the building manager.
Chelsea also sold her home and recently moved back in with her parents.
As happy as she is, the 29-year-old teacher says it all still feels surreal.
“It doesn’t feel real yet,” Chelsea told Good Morning America. “It’s so amazing. I even logged into my student loans and it said, ‘Cleared. Zero balance.'”
Much of her debt came from the attorney fees she paid while seeking custody of her two sons.
In 2015, Chelsea was teaching in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, on a two-year commitment to Teach for America, an organization that enlists recent college graduates to work in low-income schools.
That’s when she had Jerome as a student in her fourth-grade class. At the time, the kid wasn’t performing well academically and was always getting suspended in school.
Seeing that Jerome needed help, Chelsea stepped up and supported him in ways she could. The young educator cheered him on during his football games and brought him school supplies.
Jerome eventually asked Chelsea if he could live with her, and the latter agreed. In 2016, she got full custody of the kid and later took in his younger brother, Jace.
Despite wiping out her savings with attorney fees and the cost of raising her sons, Chelsea absolutely has no regrets.
“Being their mom is the greatest blessing of my life,” she said. “I get to wake up in the morning and love two little guys.”
Being debt-free also helped her focus on the more important things in life.
“It allows me to focus on the boys’ future,” she said. “Saving money for them, and not spending it on my past.”
Chelsea’s journey has been far from easy. There was even a time when she only had $0.34 to her name before a paycheck came. She also missed many events and get-togethers because she couldn’t afford the gas to get there.
Luckily, Chelsea had many people around her who stepped up and helped her through tough times.
The doting mom also credits her faith for this accomplishment.
“My debt-free journey is a testament to God and the people He handpicked to surround me with. Obedience. This life I live is not because I am someone special. It’s not about me at all. I couldn’t have done this without all my people around me. This life I live is His. He made a way, when there was no way. All Glory to God,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
Now, Chelsea is looking into saving up for a new house. She’s also preparing for Jerome’s college expenses after he graduates from high school. Thankfully, both of her boys are doing well in school.
Chelsea’s advice for people who want to clear their debts is to examine their finances and see where they’re spending money.
“Finances can be kind of scary and it’s easier to be say, ‘It’s out of sight, out [of] mind,'” she said.
Chelsea also recommended paying off high-interest bills first, checking your budget to see where you can save, and looking for more income sources if your time allows.
While it might seem like a daunting process, she guarantees that it will all be worth it in the end.
“Knowing you’ll have a lot more freedom once it’s paid off,” she said.
Indeed, equipping yourself with financial wisdom pays off – literally! Don’t forget to share this story with your friends and family.