YNAB’s Bucket List Policy & Why You Should Have One, Too

Written by Jesse Mecham  |  on


From Podcast #178: The Bucket List, the one in which, Jesse discusses the YNAB Bucket List policy and why you should have one too.


At YNAB, we run YNAB on YNAB. I’ll give you a second to read that again.

So I don’t use QuickBooks—heaven forbid. I used to when I thought you needed to but it turns out, you don’t. I use YNAB and we budget. Every month we sit down, and I say, “What does this money need to do before the business brings in more money?” And I do that once a month.

Obviously, it is super important that we have enough money to pay everyone’s salary and all of that, but I also do this because we have big goals. There are things we want to do that will never happen if we don’t declare them priorities and plan for them. For instance, the Bucket List.

One of the categories for our YNAB budget is called the Bucket List, and if you come and work for YNAB—and I would encourage you to—we demand that you fill out your Bucket List with at least 50 items.

You might be thinking, “Oh how fun!” And it is, but getting to 50 is hard—it’s hard! I had to start looking at other people’s Bucket Lists to “borrow” some items toward the end. And I know people were stealing from my Bucket List as well. Anyway,…

It’s a big spreadsheet, it’s public. I mean, it’s internally available to everyone. So it’s really a great way to get to know people, because when you read their Bucket List it’s kind of like, “Oh! Okay, you like that. This is pretty interesting. I’m going to have to talk to you about this at the next meet-up,” or whatever.

But the Bucket List is a budget category because it’s our goal as a company to be able to help our employees cross off a major Bucket List item every three years. Pretty major—we really want it to be something significant. Or just plain fun, depending. It’s important to spend money on things that are just fun. One person— I think it was Taylor—he had mentioned wanting to fill up someone’s house with balloons or something, I don’t know. But anyway, fun stuff.

With 30-some very different people, the Bucket List items are all over the board, and they range from things like, “I want to be able to see Europe” or, “I want to pay off my mortgage” or, “I want to hike some obscure mountain.”

For me, what is on the list is far less interesting, than the idea of living well—living the life you really want. If you want to do something, make a plan and make it happen. Use your money to do that. Don’t just fritter it away, letting it do just one thing or another as you ask yourself why you’re not getting ahead and why you can’t do this or that thing. Really make these fun, Bucket List-type activities part of your priorities. It will change your life.

I love having the policy at YNAB and I would encourage you to have your own kind of policy.

What’s your family Bucket List? What do you want to do with your kids? What do you want to do with your spouse or partner? Ask yourself that and set some goals. See if you can’t start throwing some money in that direction.

Yes, we want to keep the lights on and feed everybody, yes. But we also want to make sure we’re doing things that matter, things that make us feel alive, things that we can be proud of, things that we will never forget. And I think the budget, of all things, that restrictive, mean old budget, will allow you to do that.


Until next time, follow YNAB’s Four Rules and you will win financially. You’ve never budgeted like this. For more about how to stop living paycheck-to-paycheck, get out of debt and save more money, faster—subscribe to the You Need A Budget podcast today!

Your Next Step

Budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. So what do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress?