Couple save £1,800 a month on rent by travelling US in converted school bus

A couple who’ve saved thousands by travelling the USA in a converted school bus and relying on dumpsters for food have shared what their lives look like.

In 2018, festival waste managers Leah, 30, and Oak, 33, Greerslanian from Bradenton and Sacramento, USA, decided that they wanted to commit to travelling full-time.

The pair bought an old school bus for $3,200 (£2,500) and worked together to convert it into the perfect mobile home, spending about $17,000 (£13,400) on the renovation.

Leah, who was previously a waxologist, and Oak, who worked on a farm, try to use as many second-hand items as they can – but living full-time in a bus conversion can add up.

‘We have done the whole conversion ourselves and it’s an ever evolving art project and labour of love,’ Leah explained.

‘We did a ton of thrifting and second hand searching and buying so as to not have to spend an exuberant amount on new stuff.

‘The cost of living this way depends on if you’re stationary or travelling. Overall for us, it is much more affordable and enjoyable to live this way.’

At the moment, the pair is staying stationary on a friend’s property in Florida where costs are low, but spend more during two cross-country tours they took last year.

Leah said: ‘Sacramento rent, being outside of San Francisco, is always getting higher.

‘It’s nearly $2000 (£1,800) now for a mediocre apartment. The same goes for the gulf coast areas of Florida we are in now.

Our bus gets around 10 miles per gallon with a tank the size of about thirty gallons. We would have to fill up every day and give it about $100+ each time.

‘When we left Florida in 2021 the price was around $2.99 and by the time we made it to California it was up to $4.83 per gallon. Now it is $5.19 per gallon here in Florida.’

The couple’s expenses, aside from petrol, boil down to just two things – phone bills and auto insurance, which Leah says they pay yearly in lump sums, with the phones costing $720 (£645) a year, and the insurance $600 (£537) a year.

For food, Leah and Oak dumpster dive – collecting ‘expired’ foods thrown out by supermarkets.

‘It’s hard to say what the best haul we’ve had is,’ said Leah.

‘One time we pulled up to a store and saw the employee dumping lots of full cardboard boxes into the dumpster and when he was finished he just turned around, closed the door and never looked back.

‘We immediately went to check it out and there were cases full of still super cold bacon, cold cuts, milk, feta, cheese and eggs.

‘We just barely had enough storage for it all but made it work and ate a pound or two of bacon a day for about two weeks.

‘Being in a tiny home there is limited space, but we always make room for the good food.’

Sometimes the pair are spotted as they ‘dive’ – and they get mixed reactions to their unique method of shopping.

‘Most of the time, they ask you to leave but sometimes they are really nice and just say don’t make a mess please,’ said Leah.

‘The main benefit of dumpster diving is free food, of course.

‘We both love to eat and cook so a surplus of food makes for a great time in the kitchen – we are always trying new recipes.

‘The biggest benefit to the earth is the reduction of food being thrown into the landfill, and in turn creating methane.’

Leah and Oak both grew up in middle-class households, and say that, originally, their friends and families didn’t understand why they live the way they do – but are now supportive after seeing the positive effects the duo’s lifestyle has on them.

‘They thought we were crazy but now they think it’s brilliant and definitely see the bright side of things and are happy for us,’ said Leah.

‘I love being able to explore all the opportunities the world has to offer. Also, I love to forage, foray, and learn about the flora and fauna in new areas. I love all the plants and animals we get to learn about.’

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