Don’t Make a Bucket List. Do This Instead.

So, my birthday is coming up this month – exciting! I know! – and I’m officially entering my Late Twenties.

Sounds like the perfect time to come up with a Bucket List or a 30-Before-30 list and set some lofty and totally unattainable goals for myself, right?

Right?

Guys?

Luckily, I’m not serious – although if it hadn’t been for Maggie’s recent post at Northern Expenditure, it sounds like exactly the kind of thing I would have said.

Minus the obvious sarcasm, of course.

Maggie’s post, in a nutshell, is that bucket lists can quickly turn into a stressful, pressure-filled obligations, especially when they’re tied to a milestone birthday like the big 3-0. She saw several of her friends go to extreme lengths to finish their lists, and had one friend who, after completing her bucket list, had this goal.

Have no adventures and fully enjoy what she actually likes to do.

You know who that sounds a lot like?

Me.

My happy place is most often cuddling with The Dog on the couch with a great book. If you don’t include any of The Dog’s ongoing expenses, or the vet bills that have me saving an emergency fund for him, that is a free activity thanks to my newfound commitment to the library.

I don’t even know how that – my favourite thing – would factor into a bucket list.

“1000 afternoons of reading with dog”?

“Excellent doggy snuggles x100”?

I mean.

I would make fun of me too (from the comfort of my couch with my dog.)

But thanks to my focus on mindful budgeting and designing my days – and my spending – to include things that really matter to me, I’ve accidentally designed a life that doesn’t need much bucket-listing, because I’m already planning to do more of what makes me happy.

That’s why I love Maggie’s alternate proposed solution:

Make a fill-the-bucket list.

It’s a list of things you’ve already done – times when you took a chance or had an amazing experience – that added to your life, taught you something and made the “highlight reel” of what makes life great. And it’s a list that focuses on being grateful for the life you’ve led so far – not on striving to top it with sometimes-stressful commitments to the future.

Plus it aligns perfectly with another great post from Alyssa at Mixed Up Money, about not focusing so much on the typical things we “should have” done by a certain age. Which, if you’ve seen the latest research on millennials and our financial situations, is incredibly reassuring.

So in the spirit of both of those great posts, I’m starting my Fill The Bucket list instead, because I’d much rather be grateful than force myself into a series of misadventures just because I’ll be 30 in a few years.

Because also? These knees cannot take a marathon, you guys.

Scuba Diving on the Great Barrier Reef. 

great-barrief-reef-fishWhat?! I know! I did this in real life! And you know what, it felt a lot like any other time I’ve been snorkelling, minus the fact that the Great Barrier Reef is no stranger to bucket-listers, so they were prepared with scuba gear for total novices.

Also, there was a really big fish.

Seriously though, this was something I had always wanted to do, and I did it at the tender age of 21 while I was studying abroad in Australia (another addition to the list, along with spending my birthday in Australia – notable because my birthday is on their national holiday!)

Stay in a Super-Luxury Hotel

Yes, ok, I just wrote about how this wasn’t that great and what it taught me, but still. I have officially stayed in a $10,000-a-night hotel suite, and at least I’m no longer wondering what it would be like. Experience, had.

Run a Half Marathon in Under 2 Hours

This is one of those things that was a written goal of mine forever.

Because I hadn’t learned the secret to building good habits, I never managed to incorporate training into my day to day life, until I lucked out and stumbled upon what worked best for me: external accountability.

I signed up to run a half marathon with a friend of mine, and since we were both going to run the race, I knew I couldn’t bail. That’s when I actually stuck to my training, did my long runs, and finished the race. I quickly followed that up with another one, and joined a Running Room training clinic to hold myself accountable again. That, plus the extra push of wanting to run with my friends in the fast group in the clinic, helped me finish my second half-marathon strong at 1:56:00.

finish-half-marathon

Own a Dog

I’ve been talking about getting a dog since I was six years old.

To be fair, back then it was “Mommmmmm I want a dogggggggg,” not a rational discussion of the responsibilities involved in dog ownership, but still. Adding The Dog to my life has been a long time coming, and now that he’s here, I can’t imagine life without my freeloader roommate. Even if it does mean saving up a separate emergency fund just for vet bills and stuff like that.

It's a good thing he's so cute, really it is.

Write About Personal Finance

I’ve been talking about personal finance and money in hushed tones, among close friends, for sooooo long now – and reading about it in my spare time. Actually putting words on a page – even an internet page – about it has been so much fun for me, and feels like a huge win in terms of “things I want to do in life.”

Those are just some of the experiences I’m grateful to have already had – I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments! (Big or small, and as you know, dog photos are always welcome here or on Twitter.)