How to Start a Bullet Journal Without Breaking the Bank
Obviously, I love my bullet journal. I have loved the original system since I first tried it two years ago. I idolize artists like Amanda Lee who turned bullet journaling into an artform. Though I do love splurging on supplies, I don’t always have the luxury… but I have to keep journaling! Bujo is fun, productive, and useful regardless of the money spent.
Any Notebook Will Do
To start your bujo, all you need is a notebook and a pen. There are many dot journals out there, and they all have their perks. Some boast super thick pages that never bleed, others provide index pages, and some ship with tabs and stickers in a bujo kit. You don’t need any of those bells and whistles to get started.
For your first journal, you can get a composition book for less than a dollar. If you don’t want traditionally lined pages, opt for the grid. It does the same thing as a dot journal in terms of flexibility and set up. If you’re willing to spend a little more money, I recommend Northbooks. A pack of two dot journals will run you $16 on Amazon. There is a problem with bleeding/ghosting, but it is the best balance of price and quality that I’ve found.
Is there a difference between the cheap versions and the $25 brands? Yes, there is. More expensive brands lay flatter, have thicker paper that won’t buckle or wrinkle when you use watercolor, and offer more bujo specific features. There are plenty of reasons to spend the money on a good notebook, but you don’t need one. Personally, I feel like it’s too much pressure. In a cheaper notebook, I don’t mind if my weekly spread is sloppy. I use mine more consistently because I don’t feel so precious about it.
Lettering on the Cheap
So many people of learning the beautiful artform of modern calligraphy to spruce up their journals. While Tombows and Karins offer juicy, soft tips, they won’t make you an expert overnight. If you want to use your journal to learn lettering, you only need a few cheap supplies to get started.
Start with a pencil and a ballpoint pen. You probably have both in a junk drawer in your kitchen. Fauxligraphy, block lettering, and all kinds of embellishments can be accomplished with inexpensive supplies. If Samuel Silva can make hyperrealistic portraits with ballpoints, then you can make a beautiful bujo spread.
If you just need that juicy, brushpen look, try Crayola Supertips. At a whopping $7 for a box of 50, they are super economical. Supertips are a great teaching tool for brush lettering because they are so resilient, can be blended, and require the same techniques as their more expensive cousins. I’ve dropped a good amount of money on Tombow Brush Pens, and they can be worth the expense… but I’ve ruined a fair few of them. I’m much happier to ruin some supertips perfecting a new skill or font style.
If you aren’t sure how to set up your bujo just yet, there are so many resources available to you. Google “free planner template” and you’ll get too many images to comb through. The bujo community is thriving on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, and they want you to copy their layouts! Just make sure you give credit where it is due. No maker wants to see an exact replica of their work with someone else’s name on it. It is good etiquette to tag and link back to the person who inspires you!
Of course, free printables are also available on a number of blogs. Check out my freebies page here.
When I first started my bullet journal, I was obsessed with washi tape. I wanted to use it for everything, but I didn’t want to spend money on it. I feel the same way about stickers! I love stickers! They are great for adding some fun and whimsy to a spread without spending hours on it.
Dollar Tree, 5 Below, and the impulse buy bins at Micheal’s have all provided me with fun, beautiful accessories for my bullet journal on the cheap. You can get out of any of those stores with a bag full of goodies for less than $10. Just try not to go overboard!
Bullet journals are all about creativity. They send out sparks in your brain and put you into productivity mode! At least, they should. Don’t worry about having the nicest supplies, or even the most beautiful bujo! If you do, that’s great, but it isn’t what bujo is about. Start (or restart) where you are with what you have. Anything can be beautiful, even a ballpoint pen in a $.99 composition book. Practice is all you really need to make your bullet journal perfect, so make sure to plan every day!
The best part of the bullet journal system is flexibility. Use what you have, make it what you want, start where you are. Make sure you are getting what you need out of your journal. It should never be a chore or a source of stress. If it is, get rid of it! Try something else! Whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to others. It may seem like you’ll never be as good or as organized as your favorite Instagram feed… but believe me, you are someone’s favorite instagram feed. There will always be someone to compare yourself to, and someone comparing themselves to you. You are on your own journey, so follow the path you want to follow.
Start your bujo on a budget, and when you’re ready, splurge on the things you love!