Create a Reverse Bucket List to Improve Your Money Management

Having financial goals is a wonderful thing. And having lofty ones is even better, because it pushes you to see exactly what you can do — maybe even more than you'd ever thought possible with your money.

But, some days, having goals is just plain frustrating. When you're always looking at where you haven't gotten to yet or what you haven't yet achieved, it's easy to feel like you'll never get there, or like you aren't good enough. You might begin to wonder what the point of these goals is, anyway.

That's where the reverse bucket list comes in.

Make a Reverse Bucket List

When it comes to your finances, a reverse bucket list is simply a list of things you've already accomplished financially, or a list of goals you've already met.

My husband and I tried this recently. On our list, we put things like buying a house, getting away to Cancun last year, not taking on more debt despite several major expenses this year, and paying off my student loan.

Some of these things — like buying a house — were things that we had made into goals. They were things we wanted to do, things we saved to do, and things we accomplished over time. Others weren't explicit goals, like not taking on more debt. But we added them because they felt like financial accomplishments to us.

Take some time to make your list. Some items — like, for us, paying off the student loans — might be things that you accomplished years ago, so they may not be in the forefront of your mind. Give yourself a day or two to think over your list, coming back to add things when you remember them.

The Reverse Bucket List and Positivity

The first thing that we felt, when we looked over our final list, was an overwhelming sense of positivity. We have been discouraged lately. This year seems to have been one surprise attack after another when it comes to our money, and it's frustrating to work harder than ever only to see the balances go down.

When we looked at our list, though, we started to feel better about ourselves and the way we're living. We are still people who can make good financial decisions, as evidenced by the number of things we've accomplished in that realm. In fact, it's those decisions that put us where we are now — without any new debt — even though life hasn't cooperated recently.

Looking at our list has also made us feel more positive about continuing to pursue the financial goals we haven't met yet, even though we feel like our most recent progress has been negative. For each item on the list, we can remember the moment where it happened, where we felt proud and happy, and that motivates us to keep putting one foot ahead of the other.

Making this list definitely raised our motivation levels and helped us look at our situation realistically. Setbacks happen. They aren't necessarily a commentary on us or our intelligence or our financial prowess. And now, we feel like moving forward again.

Understanding Your Finances Through the Reverse Bucket List

Looking at our reverse bucket list also helped us find some patterns in our spending and saving that will help us as we move forward.

For instance, the closer I get to a goal, the more likely I am to pursue it wholeheartedly. When we were just about able to pay off my student loans, I stopped buying everything that wasn't extra. I could see victory, I could taste it, and I wanted it!

On the other hand, when I'm not anywhere near meeting any goals, I tend to spend a lot more haphazardly. If I feel like I will never get there, or I feel like we are just going to encounter another setback anyway, I figure I might as well buy what I want while I have the money in my hands.

Moving forward, we are planning to structure our goals differently, making them tiered rather than all-or-nothing. That way, I can always feel like I'm just about to achieve something, so I won't be as tempted to spend in any given moment.

Find What Motivates You

When we thought about our list, we also noticed that we are highly motivated by travel. When we saved for travel, we were able to save quickly, simply because we both really love to get on a plane and see somewhere new.

Now, when you have a mortgage and other student loans like we do, you can't just make all of your goals about traveling. But we realized that staggering our goals so that travel goals are included in every two or three things we save for would help us.

For instance, when we pay off my husband's student loans, we are planning a trip to New Zealand. We know that we can take that trip as soon as these other goals are met. Even if it takes us several years, we will feel more motivated knowing that the travel goal is coming up, even if the gratification isn't immediate.

A financial reverse bucket list won't solve all of your problems, but it certainly might make you feel better about your money situation and help you figure out how to structure your goals so they best suit you.

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