7 Affordable Tools That Finally Turned Me Into a Bullet Journaler (They’re All Under $16!)

updated Jul 20, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

When it comes to notebooks that will help you organize your life, there are planners, and then there are bullet journals, which adhere to an endlessly customizable system to think big and map out your week, month, and year ahead. Some people who swear by the BuJo lifestyle use the Ryder Carroll-devised format to track their meetings, budgeting goals, and more. Others turn their day-to-day habits into Instagrammable works of art, which can be intimidating if you (like me!) don’t like your handwriting or aren’t as confident in your design skills.

The good news, however, is that you really don’t need a lot of supplies to lay out your to-do lists and goals on paper. Whether your journaling habits are rusty in general, or you’re ready to finally dip your toes in the BuJo process, here are seven supplies that helped me get into the swing of the process.

A Bullet Journal

There are plenty of premium bullet journals on the market — and the Moleskine option definitely feels like a luxurious choice — but I’ve found that the nicer the journal, the less likely I am to use it. (What, and ruin the pages with my handwriting?) Starting with a lower-priced journal, like this one from Artfan, can help take the edge off until you’re in the swing of things.

A Quilting Ruler

If you’re less than confident in your ability to draw a straight line from dot to dot to create any number of grids and tables, a ruler can be super helpful. I opted for a quilting ruler because the built-in diagonals help me be as precise as possible when I’m drawing angles, and the extra surface helps me keep the ruler in place as I draw.

Mechanical Pencils

Technically, all you need to complete a beginner BuJo set is a journal and a pen or two. But as someone who scrolls the #bulletjournal hashtag on Instagram for ideas, I often prefer sketching things out before committing a layout to paper. Enter the mechanical pencil, which forgives goofs and messy lines, and doesn’t need a separate sharpener to stay fresh.

Plenty of Pens

Take it from a professional writer: A good, smooth pen makes all the difference when it comes to writing lists, notes, and everything in between. These gel pens feature over 15,000 glowing reviews, so you know they’re good.

Sticky Tabs

If your BuJo doesn’t come with a ribbon or two to mark your place, it’s helpful to invest in some kind of system that helps differentiate sections so you’re not flipping through pages every time. A friend of mine, who swears by her bullet journal, folds pages in half to create sections, but in the effort of saving paper, I’ve found these tiny, durable Post-its do the job well.

Colored Pens

You don’t need to rely on a color-coded system on every page of your BuJo, because doing so might slow you down at first. “At first, I tried using different kinds of colors and other decorative elements, but I figured out quickly that would deter me from staying consistent,” one Bullet Journaler, who now uses whichever pen she “keeps nearby,” previously told Apartment Therapy. But if you’re looking to level up your pages, this set of 18 colorful pens comes highly rated — it has over 32,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.

Tons of Stickers

Whether you can’t draw or simply don’t want to, there are plenty of ways to jazz your BuJo pages up with minimal effort. Case in point: This book of 2,600 stickers, with fun and colorful designs for almost any layout you can think of.