Friday, 2 August 2013

Frugal Bucket Lists and the Budget Bucket List

Bucket List on a Budget 

This is another of the exciting blogger contests hosted by the guys at, which means you can read all the other entries (or take part yourself) by looking for the hash tag #BudgetBucketList on Twitter and Facebook or by checking out the competition rules here.

People laugh at me and my lists - I have them for everything from the steps I follow in my pursuit of a frugal life to renovating and decorating the fixy-up house, going places, doing things and, basically, spending in any way, shape or form. Overall cost is the major contributing factor in how things get prioritised for me, but my lists are rigorously maintained and always adhered to in an effort to pack as much into life as possible.

When I saw the chance to blog about the subject of budget bucket lists, I thought it was great - even if it was a last minute write-up for me. I always have my lists to hand.

Ignoring things like buying a cottage in the country, growing my own fruit & veg and keeping chickens and ducks in an orchard through which a stream runs, and aside from things like owning racehorses, meeting superstars and having one's own personal trainer, housekeeper and chauffeur driven car, my list is quite random, I'd say.

The summit of Ben Nevis
Under normal circumstances, my long-standing list would have included wanting to climb a mountain, but living in Scotland made this a fairly frugal choice. At the end of May 2013, I joined a group of friends at a hostel in Fort William and we all walked up Ben Nevis on an absolutely glorious day that allowed us every possible view. No amount of money could have booked such fantastic weather, so I count this as being one of my major goals achieved - and ticked it off my bucket list. So now I need to move onto the next of my less expensive goals...

Visit the Giant's Causeway and walk across the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

Giant's Causeway  North Coast Photographic / Foter / CC BY-NC

The trip to Ireland is relatively inexpensive from here, as I live only 25 miles or so from the ferry port of Cairnryan. I can simply cross to Ireland as a foot passenger on the ferry and then catch the tour bus from Belfast that will take me to my chosen destinations. The day ticket currently costs only £32 per person. In all, I am expecting this entire adventure to cost me under £100 but I haven't managed to arrange dates or times to suit my travel companion.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge: Samyra Serin / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The main hold-up is getting to Cairnryan for 7am, as I don't have a car and, as many of you know, don't live on a bus route - not that the buses run at those times, even from the nearest village. Around £50 of my costs will be on taxis to and from the ferry port but I think it's a small price to pay for what I would consider a once in a lifetime experience. Here's what's included in the day trip to the Giant's Causeway, with lovely photos of the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.

Photo credit: spodzone / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND
On the not-so-frugal bucket list is my desire to witness the awesome spectacle of the Northern Lights. So many friends have been to see Aurora Borealis, including trips to the Scandinavian countries at what was deemed appropriate or probable times of year, but to no avail. We are all in agreement that in order to witness such a magical, yet natural, phenomenon, it takes longer than a weekend or even a week long holiday - it means being there for long enough to witness the event.

September through winter to early March are the months with potential for spotting the aurora, but there is no way that I can just pack my bags and go exploring the north for 6 months - or is there? I started looking at the possibilities for real - how much would it cost?

Going self-catering can cost from about £300 to £550 per week and that's a huge amount of money if it takes until March to even glimpse the Aurora - over £15,000 if I average the costs and include normal day-to-day living expenses plus transport. I do watch for Aurora alerts but it's impossible to book accommodation and then get there at short notice. But then again, not even by taking the 6 month option can anyone guarantee you will catch sight of the Northern Lights.

For another few thousand pounds I would far prefer to buy a fixy-up property - something like this -  and then share it with everyone else who wanted to Aurora-watch. I'd have been on the first available ferry to the Shetlands had I been in the financial situation to do so when the above property was available! A small fortune needed to renovate but what a place to be if the Aurora Borealis put on a magnificent display! I'd then offer it for frugal, but phenomenal, winter breaks for those who couldn't normally afford such luxury. Back in the real world, £1,000 would afford me to take a friend / companion camping to the northern-most point of the Scottish mainland for at least a month, perhaps in October, with the outside chance of catching sight of the lights.

Those are my chosen bucket list items - nothing far-flung that involves Atlantic crossings or sandy dessert adventures. Walking the Machu Picchu trail sounds fascinating, climbing to Mt Everest base camp sounds awesome and exploring Egypt's great pyramids looks fabulous. A fun-time looks possible in Florida with a trip to Disney, a visit to one of Canada's great 'Stampedes' or even visiting all the natural wonders of the world, as depicted by sites like Seven Natural Wonders, but these don't feature on my bucket list and if they did, they would come much further down any list than witnessing Aurora Borealis.

A bit of travel insurance and life insurance wouldn't go amiss, perhaps a funeral plan so my kids don't have any worries when I eventually pop my clogs but these things are being attended to along the way. My bucket list is purely about experiencing the thrill of life before death catches up and I hope to be rattling my bucket for a long time, yet. There are certainly plenty of mountains to climb, islands to explore and spectacular skies at which to gaze right here in Scotland.

Apologies for the last minute-ness of my entry, but I got the chance of a few days away over this past week and grabbed the opportunity, so I only got back last night. I also apologise to Gnat Bottomed Towers, Silver Sewer and the Frugal Handmade Home for leaving them not much time to type up their posts. Good luck, guys! :)

Edited in:
I have noticed that many of the entrants into this competition have listed full bucket lists rather than just one budget item and one expensive item, so I feel it right to tag on the fact that my list has been long and included much of what others have written. However, it would appear that I have already achieved a great deal and that if I'd to die tomorrow, which I guess is the main point of a bucket list being completed, my biggest concern would be having my house in order by way of paperwork to avoid a messy estate. So much has happened during nearly 50 years of my life - I now feel a little guilty in not always recognising these things as having the potential to be other people's dreams. The far-flung travel and adrenalin-rush stuff aren't really me, but I now also realise that we each experience things differently and what some perceive as 'normal', or even 'mundane', by way of life experiences, others can only dream of and see them as thrilling possibilities.
Thank you to all for reminding me that even the smallest of achievements in our lives should never be taken for granted - they should be appreciated and recognised for their importance as life-defining moments.

Second Edited-In Addition:
The winners are listed here but I don't know how to find their competition blog posts as I don't know their Twitter usernames, sorry.


  1. Seeing the Northern Lights is something our bucket lists have in common (or would do if I had a bucket list!)

    Your edited note is fitting. I'm a relatively new reader, but in many ways you're living my dream! Having only read a small amount of what you've written over the years, it's clear to see you've already achieved a lot in life (and I'm sure you'll do a lot more).

    Good luck with the competition!

    1. Thank you, Sara, and I am sure that you and your family will make the trip to see the Northern Lights at some point. I was so disappointed to have missed the displays over much of Scotland and even northern England last year but we're tucked away in a south western corner of Scotland at the very opposite end of where we'd need to be to see them. I'm definitely planning on making the Irish trip this summer, budget permitting, but chasing the rainbow-colours swirling in the northern skies is something that needs careful budgeting so I can afford to be in the right place at the right time and just go when the alert suggests I go. In that respect, not having access to a car is a bit of a major drawback. LOL

    2. Definitely one day! Although hubby has a head start having seen the lights when he was young (he's from Skye). A lot of planning & pennies, mixed with a wee bit of luck, is required!

      Good luck with your N.Ireland plans - I suppose that's something you are in the right part of the country for! :)

    3. My other cunning plan is to visit friends who are currently looking for property in the north - I suggested Dunnet Head but that wasn't quite what they had in mind. LOL Thurso area is looking good, though! :)

  2. love your list, and hope you succeed in winning and also visiting those places on your list.

    Gill in Canada

    1. Gill, the list of places to visit always included the likes of Calgary and Medicine Hat Stampedes, Yellowstone Park, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls etc, etc, etc but nowadays, they have fallen off the list to be replaced with getting my passport renewed! LOL For the cost of that alone, I could visit the Giant's Causeway or have any number of UK-based frugal adventures, so that's the path I'm following, just as soon as I get my house in order - renovation and otherwise. :)


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