Touching on the bucket list was one of the highlights of my discussion with Jan – I find these kinds of lists really fun and exciting. What’s better than dreaming about all of the things you want to accomplish, see and do before it’s too late?
But they can also be helpful in a financial sense – think of your bucket list as a collection of your goals. We can’t afford to do everything, so an organized list can help you prioritize your spending. And putting pen to paper to write down exactly what you want to accomplish can be a helpful reminder to stay on track in your savings goals. Keeping that list handy might even help you bypass, say, that fabulous new sweater, because leaving that money in the bank puts you one step closer to a flight to India.
Here, how to go about creating your list:
Be (slightly) realistic. I’m all for dreaming big, but if your bucket list is constructed of things that are within your reach – say, a trip to Japan rather than a trip on the space shuttle – you’re more likely to stay focused and check things off. Once you’ve written everything down, you can organize it in order of priority and feasibility, knocking out some of the smaller line items as you go and saving up for the bigger. And some items – like seeing your favorite performer in concert, or running a marathon, can be easy to tackle, at least financially speaking (I can tell you from experience that running a marathon is no easy feat, though the resulting feeling of accomplishment is more than worth it).
Pick things that will add value to your life. Running a marathon can change you in ways you can’t describe or anticipate. So, too, can a trip to Ghana, or at least so says Jan. While there, she says she realized that happiness isn’t really correlated with money. “It is, up to the point that you’re healthy and you have stability and a home, but beyond that, I question how much money adds to happiness.” I question it too, and in fact, wrote a whole book on the subject, based on a study that proved Jan’s way of thinking right. But the point here is to choose to-do items that will change your way of thinking, open up your mind, and teach you a lesson you’re not likely to forget.
List a variety. If you make a list of big, lofty, expensive goals, you’re likely to get frustrated when you struggle to reach them. But if you pick and choose a mix of things that are free, things that are affordable, and things that will require some advance savings, you can work on knocking out the little items while you save up for the big. And as you knock out those inexpensive items on your list, you’ll feel more motivation to keep moving toward the things that require a financial commitment.
Set dates. It helps, because without a timeline, you may never get there. Put a price on that trip to India, then figure out how long it will take you to save up the cash.