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“I Treated My Sister to a Bucket-List Trip” and Other Big Wins with YNAB

Ever thought about using YNAB as a treasure map for your life goals?

When I first joined YNAB, I was hit with an unexpected challenge: creating a 50-item bucket list. Fifty?! At first, it felt like attempting to fold a fitted sheet.

Inspired by my team’s completed lists, I started daydreaming about what it would be like to go on a train trip in the Swiss Alps, hang out with the nomadic Bajau tribe of free-divers, stay at the Giraffe Manor in Nairobi… and smaller wins, like whisking my mom away on a sunny Scottsdale adventure.

There were obvious things that didn’t make my bucket list, like cave diving Krubera… but the sifting process was valuable.

Line by line, something magical happened. My bucket list morphed from a daunting assignment into a financial wish farm. A treasure map of fulfilling experiences, with X marking the spots that mattered to me. Then, each bucket list item that I wanted to tackle within the next 3 years got its own category in my spending plan. (It’s what a YNABer does—you'll see.) 

Because really… What’s the point of making money if you don’t know where you want it to take you?

Creating a bucket list category in YNAB lets you to breathe life into your goals and set targets to fund them.

Allow me to introduce you to a couple of YNABers who used the Four Rules to tackle their bucket lists without breaking the bank.

What does loving your money look like to you? 

Cue Yvonne, a YNAB team member with a sister story that will make you want to jump on the next flight to paradise. Yvonne’s dream? Treating her sister to a luxurious vacation. 

Her sis, juggling two young kids and a full-time job, hadn’t had a worry-free vacation since 2015. So, for her sister's 40th birthday, Yvonne pulled off the ultimate surprise after years of intentional YNABing: an all-inclusive resort trip to Cancun.

We had an amazing time lounging at the pool and beach with absolutely no cares, and dressed up every night for a fancy dinner. Our resort, Valentin Imperial, felt like paradise on earth. We were treated like royalty and made so many memories. Happy birthday, big sis!

Despite living five hours apart, Yvonne and her sister have kept their tradition of "Sister Fun Weekends" alive. But they hadn’t taken a trip since before the pandemic. "We even have a song we sing about the trips," Yvonne laughs. "Celebrating her birthday this way was extra meaningful."

Make a new category every time you dream a new dream

Meet Rachel F., a historical interpreter from Williamsburg, VA, who transformed her financial life. Rachel's journey is a testament to how the YNAB Method helps you chart a clear path to achieve your vision—and then keep dreaming when life inevitably changes.

Wherever you want to go, YNAB's four simple habits can get you there.

"I achieved all my wishes of future me that I wrote down when I started YNAB!" Rachel beamed. Her journey includes paying off her car loan early, enjoying guilt-free travel, moving to a bigger apartment, and even adopting a cat.

Rachel's transformation didn't come without tradeoffs. She limited her monthly fun money allowance to prioritize debt pay-down and save for future experiences. Her minimalist lifestyle aligned perfectly with this strategy, ensuring she wasn't spending on unnecessary material goods, but on experiences and building a buffer.

One of Rachel's favorite parts of using YNAB is watching her priorities evolve. "I now have a category for dates and presents for my partner and a cat wellness category," she explains. For a long time, over-funding her car loan payment was a huge priority to get out of debt. "I am so happy that's now a hidden category. Yay for being debt-free!"

Treat your money as a possibility, not a problem

Pulling off unforgettable trips and achieving dreams like Yvonne and Rachel’s aren’t strokes of luck—they are the fruits of careful planning, extensive dreaming, and plotting the course with YNAB.

Yvonne saved her bonus money and started planning her sister's trip last November to catch a Black Friday deal at their resort. "I really wanted to do all-inclusive because I didn’t want her to feel obligated to pay for anything. With everything paid for in advance, we could really enjoy ourselves without stressing about costs."

The Method empowered both YNABers to allocate their resources with laser-like precision. Every dollar had a job, and that job was to make room for fun in life. By setting specific goals and tracking their progress, they transformed dreams into reality.

How to make your bucket-list dreams come true

Whether you dream of treating a loved one to a special vacation, conquering a fear, or achieving a lifelong goal, YNAB is your trusty passenger along for the ride. (Don’t worry, we aren’t the typical back seat drivers…)

A van in Big Sur

By following YNAB's Four Habits—Give Every Dollar a Job, Embrace Your True Expenses, Roll with the Punches, and Age Your Money—you can align your spending with your values, ensuring your financial decisions support your wildest dreams.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Define Your Bucket List: Write down your dreams and goals. Be specific and include both big and small items. Think of it as the roadmap for your life. Challenge yourself to write down 50! Yes, you can.
  2. Hatch a Plan: Break down each item into actionable steps. If your dream is a luxury vacation, look into ballpark costs and set a timeline for your experience.
  3. Allocate Funds with Targets: Use YNAB to create categories for each bucket-list item. Then, set Targets to assign money to these categories regularly, even if it’s just a small amount. It’s like planting seeds for your future adventures.
  4. Track Progress: Regularly review your spending plan and adjust as needed. Celebrate milestones along the way. Sent $5 from ‘Coffee Run’ to ‘Staycation’? Do a little happy dance.
  5. Enjoy the Journey: Remember, the process of planning and saving is part of the experience. It’s ok if your priorities change—just change your plan to reflect them in YNAB.
I'm on my 4th month of YNAB and it's changed my life. No guilt when spending because I've set aside the money to actually spend it! I feel so in control. I used to be afraid to check my bank balance. Now I check it for fun! -@peapod2072

Yvonne and Rachel's stories show how mindful money management can lead to extraordinary experiences. And hey, maybe my bucket list inspired you to Google ‘Bajau’ people and go down the rabbit hole of “Sea Gypsies” and free diving videos, and that’s great too. 

With YNAB, you're not just managing your finances; you're crafting the life you want to live. So, what's on your bucket list… and have you created new categories yet? 

Are you ready to have what you need and get what you want? Sign up for YNAB today. It’s free for a month!

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“I Treated My Sister to a Bucket-List Trip” and Other Big Wins with YNAB