How (and Why) to Create a Family Bucket List

Who among us doesn’t love to get the latest tech product, newest item of clothing, hottest toy? The pursuit of the latest material possession is a trap that kids and adults alike fall into.

But studies show that if we are buying things, we might be putting our money in the wrong place. As time passes, our affection for possessions wanes (as any parent with a room full of neglected “hot” toys can attest) while our emotional connection to our experiential purchases grows. You may have noticed that your kids love to look at photos on your phone. It’s not your late model iPhone. It’s their memories that are the big draw.

Experiences establish memories that can be repeated over time, bringing unlimited joy. ROI? Through the roof.

There are lots of ways to start devoting your time and money towards experiences over material items, but one of my favorites is the family bucket list. For many people, the process of planning and anticipating an event or activity is almost as enjoyable as the activity itself. The family bucket list provides for this instinct in spades. Here’s how to do it.

Get the whole family involved

No matter the ages of your family members, if they can talk, they most likely have items they’re dying to do. For littles, it might be something simple they’ve done a million times, but that’s OK: it’s all about contributing and talking about these experiences.

Create a list together

Dream big. Dream small. Let the entire family brainstorm what’s on their list, no matter how far fetched the experience. For those that rise to the top, find ways to make them happen or use them as inspiration for other activities.

Make visible steps towards your goal

Many of your bucket list items will likely cost money, so this is a great chance to start teaching kids about saving for a goal. Check out more tips for teaching kids about money here. 

It’s also a great way to talk to them about setting goals and achieving them, especially if some of their bucket list items require skills they don’t yet have, like playing a certain sport, doing a challenging hike or spending time in a country where you don’t know the language.

Track the steps towards your goal visibly, either with a savings or skills chart, so that your family can make getting to the activity an integral part of the experience itself. (It’s the journey, not the destination, right?!)

Commemorate Your Experiences

Decide as a family how you’ll commemorate these experiences. Maybe you’ll fill your Christmas tree with ornaments that match up with each bucket list item, so that you’ll remember these times each year when you decorate. Maybe it’s a photo wall. Perhaps a commemorative Bucket List photo book that you can flip through anytime you want to relive the memories. Create a way to store and revisit these memories that become a part of your family fabric.

Consider Using Bucket List Experiences to Celebrate

If you typically buy gifts to celebrate, introduce the idea of bucket list items as part of your celebration. Perhaps for birthdays or other milestones, family members choose a bucket list item or get a budget to create a bucket list experience for the entire family.

A family bucket list is just one way that you can start focusing on experiences instead of material possessions. For lots more ideas, check out my new book, 52 Small Changes for the Family, available now.

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