50+ Simple, Free or Cheap Bucket List Ideas to Try

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It’s not often you can pinpoint the moment that a particular idiom enters the English language. But the term “bucket list” has a very particular origin story. A young graduate from NYU film school, Justin Zackham, created a list called “Justin’s List of Things to Do Before I Kick the Bucket.” The first item on Zackham’s list was to get a movie made by a major studio in Hollywood. In 2007, his film, “The Bucket List,” was released. 

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The film was a huge success but perhaps its most lasting contribution is its title. The term has been included in the dictionary.

The great thing about bucket lists is that they are deeply personal. You can easily scale bucket list items to fit in with your life. Here are some simple and accessible ideas to inspire you as you make a bucket list of your own. As you go through this list, record your choices and then check out our guide on how to make a bucket list.

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Simple Bucket List Ideas for Friends

Relationships come and go, but friendship is forever. Make sure your friendship is one to remember by planning fun and affordable activities like these.

1. Take a spontaneous road trip

Thanks to the proliferation of businesses like VRBO and Airbnb, a weekend getaway can be very affordable. Grab your best friend, pick a nearby town, and take a fun road trip to a place you’ve never been. You can hit up local shops, try new restaurants, and enjoy some restful quality time together. 

2. Go thrift shopping

Remember when you were a kid and you went on “Goonies”-style quests for hidden treasure? You can recapture the magic by hitting thrift stores, flea markets, and antique shops. Bring a pal who appreciates things with history and character and bond over weird and wonderful finds. 

3. Go to the fair

Fairs don’t stop being fun just because you grow up. Take a friend to the county fair and enjoy deep-fried fair food and riding death-defying rickety roller coasters.  

4. Have a mini-reunion

Feeling nostalgic for the good old days and don’t want to wait for an official reunion? Track down high school or college classmates on Facebook and put together a gathering of your own.

5. Recreate Camp 

If you initially bonded with a friend at sleepaway camp, check out summer camps geared toward adults. Take your friend and enjoy bonfires, swimming in lakes, and making cool crafts. 

6. Get matching tattoos

Remember those friendship necklace sets where each person got half of a heart charm? When you held the halves together, they made a whole heart. A tattoo based on this concept would be sweet and understated and hold a lot of meaning. 

7. Attend a concert

If you and your friend have a shared love of 1990s boy bands or 1980s heavy metal, be on the lookout for a show you’d both love to attend. Dig out your vintage shirts and enjoy a nostalgic trip down your musical memory lane. 

8. Make friendship bracelets for adults

Many local jewelers and chain craft stores host jewelry making classes. Attend with your friend and craft some gorgeous bracelets that are a little higher-end than the braided strings of your youth. You’ll get to share a fun experience together and get a tangible reward at the end. 

9. Have a slumber party

Now that you’re old enough to own your own home, invite your BFF over for a sleepover. Instead of ice cream sundaes, make boozy ice cream floats with hard root beer. 

10. Sign up for yoga

Sign up for a yoga class with a pal. It will help you stay fit and reduce your stress levels. You could extend your life expectancy, which means you have more time to tackle your bucket list.  

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Simple Bucket List Ideas for Couples

When you get married, you vow to stay together until death. If you’re making that kind of commitment, you might as well commit to completing your bucket list together, too!

11. Take a cooking class

When you lead busy lives with careers and kids, it’s easy to fall into a mealtime rut. Spice up your relationship and your meals at the same time. Take a cooking class with an emphasis on cuisine that’s out of your usual comfort zone. 

12. Go on a second Honeymoon… and a third… and a fourth

Romance dies when you don’t nurture it. Take some one-on-one time to reconnect by having a couples-only getaway every year or so.

13. Make couple friends

It’s rare to find another couple that both you and your spouse click with. This means you may end up going your separate ways when you socialize. Making friends with one or two other couples you both like gives you an opportunity to spend more time with your partner.

14. Binge-watch a show together 

Once you’ve got the kids tucked into bed, curl up on the couch together and cue up Netflix. Find something you both agree on and that you’ll enjoy discussing afterward. 

15. Recreate charming first dates

Remember the thrill of holding your crush’s hand at the roller rink as a teenager? Recapture that feeling by scheduling sweet and simple dates, like bowling or playing mini-golf or riding a Ferris wheel. 

16. Hang up the phone for a day

Smartphones have put the world at our fingertips. When you connect with someone across the globe about your obscure hobbies, you may be disconnected from the people in your life. Make plans to meet up with your partner and leave both phones at home. 

17. Dine at an upscale restaurant

If you’re a foodie, save up some money and dine in style at an iconic restaurant like Thomas Keller’s French Laundry. It will be a one-of-a-kind culinary experience for you and your partner.  

18. Take a dance class

Always wanted to learn how to dance but felt too nervous? Take your partner and enroll in a beginner’s ballroom class. It’s a great date-night activity and it can help you get in shape. 

19. Go skydiving together

Nothing brings people closer together than sheer terror. Jumping out of a plane together is an exhilarating activity that’s even cooler when it’s shared with your partner. 

20. Get a couples massage

Self-care is important, and regular massages can help relieve pain and stress. Take your partner in for a couples massage — it can relieve stress and strengthen your bond.

Simple Bucket List Ideas for Teenagers or Students

You’re never too young to start thinking about your bucket list. In fact, planning your bucket list can help you achieve goals your peer group hasn’t even thought of yet. Here are some great bucket list ideas for teens and students.

21. Read one book a week for a whole year

There are so many great books out there and so little time to read them. Make an effort to broaden your literary horizons. There are so many great authors your school curriculum doesn’t cover, so check them out on your own. 

22. Hunt for treasure

There are all kinds of hidden treasure in this world. One great place to find them is in thrift stores. Browse the artwork, plates and glassware. You could unearth limited-edition prints or score some depression or carnival glass. 

23. Befriend an elderly person

Many elderly people find themselves spending the last years of their lives without visitors. Volunteer at a local nursing home and read to the patients or take time to talk to them and learn their stories. This human connection will benefit you both.

24. Get a job

Getting a summer job is a great way to see what the workforce is like. Trying an internship in a field you’re potentially interested in can give you a leg up for the future.

25. Start a business

You can always start your own business if you’re too young to get a job. Learn how to make bath bombs or soap and put together an Etsy shop to sell them. 

26. Dress up

Costumes aren’t just for Halloween anymore. If you attend a fan convention or a Renaissance fair, you’ll see people in elaborate cosplay or period-appropriate costumes. Join their ranks and put together an unforgettable costume of your own. 

27. Do volunteer work

Volunteer work allows you to give back to the community and help people who are vulnerable. You can sort cans at a food bank or cook and serve food at a soup kitchen. Doing this will give you a lot more empathy for other people’s circumstances. 

28. Learn a foreign language

The best time to learn a foreign language is when you’re young and have better brain elasticity. Sign up for a language class at school or use an at-home learning program. Knowing a foreign language can help you later in life. 

29. Learn how to cook

Many people don’t learn how to cook until they’re in college and living on their own for the first time. Learning to cook when you’re young will make at least one aspect of your transition to adulthood easier. 

30. Channel your inner child

Your bucket list shouldn’t be entirely about planning your future. You should also be able to embrace the past. Spend time doing the things you’ve thought you were too old for, like playing flashlight tag or hide-and-seek. You’ll rediscover how much fun those activities still are. 

Simple Bucket List Ideas You Can Do at Home

A lot of people think bucket lists contain nothing but adventures. But bucket lists should also include easier, more accessible items. Here are some bucket list items you can achieve all from the comfort of your own home.

31. Organize a staycation

Vacations can often be so stressful that you don’t even have time to relax. Plan a staycation instead. You can stay in bed all day in your most comfortable pajamas and get caught up on all those shows in your DVR that you never have time to watch. Order takeout so you don’t have to cook. 

32. Repaint your house

Liven up your living area by freshening up your home with a new paint job. Paint the outside shutters a bright shade of blue to help them pop. Choose an accent wall in your living room and paint it a vivid crimson shade. Your home will feel re-energized and so will you. 

33. Grow an herb garden 

When you’re cooking, fresh herbs are a great thing to have on hand. Grow a small herb garden and you’ll always be able to use them whenever you need them. You can dedicate part of your garden to herbs or grow little potted herbs inside on your kitchen windowsill if you don’t have access to an outdoor area.

34. Build a firepit

Get more use out of your outdoor spaces by building or installing an outdoor fire pit. You can stay toasty in the autumn or winter months and roast s’mores in the summer. It’s versatile enough to improve your home year-round. 

Tip: Read our guide on the best fall bucket list ideas for more inspiration.

35. Learn about astronomy

If you live in a place with a great view of the stars, unpolluted by too much light, invest in a telescope. Check out distant planets when they’re visible or learn how to identify constellations. 

36. Become an elite-level amateur home baker

If you’ve mastered some basic baking skills and want to expand your horizons, draw some inspiration from shows like The Great British Bake Off. Try out some of their challenging technical bakes and impress your friends and family.

37. Explore artistic endeavors

Explore your art skills. Take time to pick up a paintbrush or get your potter’s wheel out of storage. Even if the finished product isn’t perfect, that’s all right. The important thing is to flex your creative muscles.

38. Befriend your neighbor

It’s easy to stay insular and isolated in your own home. Making friends with a neighbor is worth the effort. Drink coffee and kvetch about the authoritarian HOA and take care of each other’s pets when one of you goes out of town. It can be a mutually beneficial friendship.  

39. Write a book

Every year in November, people tackle NaNoWriMo, a movement that encourages people to write 50,000 words in just one month. You don’t have to wait for November, though. Clear your schedule of extra activities and start writing that novel or memoir you’re always talking about.

40. Teach yourself a musical instrument

Thanks to services like YouTube, you don’t have to take music lessons anymore. You can teach yourself quite easily thanks to free or moderately-priced guitar and piano lessons available online.

Simple Bucket List Ideas That Require Adventure

You might only think only of epic adventures when you think of bucket lists. That’s certainly one aspect, but here are some adventurous bucket list ideas. Most are super simple but a few others get a little more intricate. 

41. Go bungee-jumping

If there’s anything more life-affirming than flinging yourself off a tall object into the void below, we don’t know what it is.    

42. Be an urban explorer

Urban explorers like to find and explore manmade structures that appear to be rundown and abandoned. They’ll sometimes take pictures but it’s often about exploring a place that seems forgotten by time. 

43. Take a spontaneous road trip

Gas up the car and pick a county road that will take you past small towns you’ve never been through. You can stop and enjoy lunch at a hole-in-the-wall diner, pop into antique stores, or just enjoy the beauty your state has to offer.  

44. Go on a historic tour of your town

A lot of people have no idea about the history of their town. See if the local historical society or another entity organizes a historic walking tour through your city. Bonus points if ghost tours are available. 

45. Go to a theme park

Theme parks aren’t just for kids. Adults also enjoy visiting worlds themed around their favorite movie franchises.

46. Hike the Appalachian Trail

This 2,180-foot hiking trail starts in Georgia and ends in Maine. If you live near one of its multiple entry points, join the millions of people who hike at least part of the trail every year.

47. Walk on the Skywalk Glass Bridge at the Grand Canyon

This 4,000-foot horseshoe-shaped bridge is made with thick glass panels so you can look down at the void beneath your feet. It’s thrilling and more than a little terrifying. 

48. Go to a nude beach

Speaking of terrifying, most people are way too afraid to go to a nude beach. But not only is it an adventure, it’s a living lesson in body positivity.

49. Visit all the National Parks

Some people will rent an RV and drive around the country visiting all the national parks in one stretch. Simplify that by flying to a park once or twice a year. You’ll be able to appreciate it even more if you skip the part where you spend a 30-hour stretch in an old RV. 

50. Watch the first sunrise

Anyone atop Cadillac Mountain in Maine can see the sunrise before anyone else in the United States every year from October to early March. It’s a breathtaking and awe-inspiring sight. 

Kicking Off Your Bucket List

You may prepare for death by focusing on filling out advanced directives and checking other administrative items off your end-of-life checklist. Preparing documents for the end of your life is extremely beneficial for your next of kin, but it’s not the only thing that matters. Think about all the things you’ve wanted to do and never gotten around to doing and make a bucket list of your own.

You’ll soon realize that a bucket list isn’t really about doing things before you die; it’s about doing things that make life worth living.

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