Do you need a bucket list?

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.

Jean Chatzky

About Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky, the financial editor for NBC’s TODAY show, is an award-winning personal finance journalist, AARP’s personal finance ambassador, and a contributing editor for Fortune magazine. Jean is a best-selling author; her eighth and most recent book is Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security. She believes knowing how to manage our money is one of the most important life skills for people at every age and has made it her mission to help simplify money matters, increasing financial literacy both now and for the future. In April 2013 Jean launched Jean Chatzky's Money School , a series of college-style, interactive online personal finance courses that give men and women across the country the opportunity to learn from and interact directly with her. Jean lives with her family in Westchester County, New York.
This entry was posted in Budgeting & organization, Financial info and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Do you need a bucket list?

  1. shelley says:

    This was pretty neat to listen to and to reinforce the fact about our own happiness hits home….

Beyond Today Blog

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Your questions and comments really matter to us! We're glad you want to join the conversation and connect with other readers. All we ask is that you keep some simple guidelines in mind:

  • Stay on-topic. Only comments that are related to the subject of the blog entry will be posted.
  • Be respectful. It's okay if you disagree with a post or comment, but please, no personal attacks or offensive language.
  • Maintain your privacy and confidentiality.Please do not provide any of your specific account details or other personal information! If you have immediate service needs, please contact your bank representative or Customer Service.
  • Wells Fargo team members: In the interest of full disclosure, if you are a current employee of or are associated with Wells Fargo, please make note of your affiliation.