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The Millers: How to Live Debt Free in a School Bus

By April 27 2016All stories

Get jobs. Have a first kid. Get a mortgage for your big house. Have more kids…and realize you’ll be working hard your whole life to pay your debts. Denver and Vanessa Millers from New Mexico decided to make a dramatic change in their lives in restoring a school bus to travel with their kids. They loved it so much they finally moved in full time in their rolling home! Meet the Millers.

Can your introduce your family and tell us your story?

We are the Millers (Denver, Vanessa, London, Phoenix, and Everest) we live in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.  

Vanessa and I married almost 5 years ago and 2 months into our marriage we found out we were pregnant with our first boy London. Within the first year of our marriage we found out we were going to have a baby, bought a house, remodeled it and both started new jobs. It was a crazy way to start our life together, but we felt like we were headed in a great direction. We created our dream house, but also accumulated a bunch of debt. 4 years and 3 wonderful boys later we still found ourselves with a mountain of debt that was continuing to grow.

We didn’t have a plan to solve the debt problem until we started reading a blog called Mr.Money Mustache, we were inspired and decided to treat our debt like the emergency that it actually is.  We got ourselves on a serious budget and had been doing well with it, but we found it was going to take a very long time to fix the problem. I am a firm believer that there is always a creative solution to problems, but it usually requires one to be a little bold/crazy to reach the goal.


What type of school bus is it? 

One day Vanessa stumbled upon a school bus conversion on Pinterest. I immediately fell in love with the idea and convinced Vanessa that it would be cool to convert a bus for short trips and camping. So I did a bunch of research on school buses and where to buy them and soon we found a bus in Colorado and bought it. Buying a school bus was initially another bad financial decision, but Vanessa and I figured out a way to make it the best financial decisions we have made in years or perhaps the best financial decision we have made since we married. We decided to convert the bus and to live on it for at least two years. This decision will allow us to take the equity from the sale of our house and pay off all of our debt. By living on the bus we will be able to save a great deal of money and travel.


Can you tell us about the restoration process?

Once we made the decision to live on the bus it became clear that I would need the interior to be taller in order to accommodate my height (I’m 6ft tall). So we spoke with Vanessa’s dad who happens to be a welder and he helped us raise the bus roof 20”. With the roof raise the bus feels much more comfortable and roomy. 

The demo process on the bus was both fun and challenging. We decided to completely strip the interior of the bus, which meant grinding thousands of rivets. Once the bus was gutted we really began to see the potential and began to lay out our floor plan with tape.

With our floor plan taped out we began framing the walls, running the wires, and installing windows. There are so many different bus layouts, ours is very specific to our needs for living in it full time. We wanted to maximize our space without it feeling like we in a small space. We are very happy with the way it turned out.  We were able to get a lot of the materials we needed from Amazon and Ebay. Things like brand new tires, our 100-gallon water tanks and RV windows that had a few dings but were a lot less expensive. Since we are on a budget we are always looking for a great deal.  

Our goal was to have the bus complete for the trip we had planed to California in February, we didn’t quite have it complete, but it was 90% done and livable. We still have some work to do before we move into it full time and hope to have it all done by mid April. We are very excited to move in the bus and get our new journey started. While we are living on the bus and traveling we are planning to homeschool our boys, we plan to use traveling as part of our schooling. We will be able to use nature, culture and history to teach our kids


Are you on the road full time? Do you guys work remotely?

Vanessa and I both love traveling and the bus provides a comfortable and affordable travel experience for us. The only thing that would have prevented us from traveling for extended periods of time was my job, but in February I was offered a job as a project manager for a software company called Pixegon. This new job allows me to work remotely, which means we will be able to travel a lot more that we initially anticipated.  We will primarily be parked at a friends house and helping them with their conversion this summer.


Where do you usually park? I bet RV owners are a little surprised when you come in the RV park to spend the night! 

So far we have stayed at two RV parks and have gotten lots of surprised looks. At an RV park in California we were mistaken for the Disneyland shuttle. Its definitely a good feeling when we are parked in an RV park next to $250,000 RVs and appearing to have the same or better experience for $230,000 less.

Are the kids excited about the project? 

The Boys love the bus, and love sleeping in their bunks. They can’t wait to be parked on their friends’ property.

Are you planning any road trip this summer?

We just got back from a trip to California and the grand canyon, as of now we have a trip to White Sand National monument, 2 more trips to California and we are up for what ever else comes our way.

Our goals are to have meaningful experiences, exciting adventures, to live debt free, and have less so we can give more and share love.

Follow Denver, Vanessa, London, Phoenix, and Everest here:

Instagram: @miller_adventures