Have you ever purchased a brush pen, only to realize that it bled right through your pages? Or perhaps you bought a notebook that was the wrong size for you?
I think you would agree with me when I say that it’s hard to find affordable, high-quality supplies. With so many different people recommending different products, how do you know which supplies to pick?
Luckily, I’m here to show you what you need as a beginner without draining your pockets. Bullet journaling does not need to be expensive. As a frugal person, I want to save you as much money as possible. Seriously, I promise. I’m not out here trying to sell you $50 markers.
I will walk you through what essential, but affordable bullet journal supplies you need, providing different options that will best suit your needs.
If you want to read more about bullet journaling and how you can start, I suggest you check out our blog post here.
I also use some journaling terminology throughout the post. I explain what they mean, but if you want to get a better understanding of the lingo, I recommend you to check out our planning and bullet journal glossary.
That being said, let’s get into it.
Full Disclosure: I use affiliate links for book recommendations, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you.
What do you Need
To be honest with you, there are only two things you need to start bullet journaling:
- A notebook
- A writing utensil
You don’t need a fancy notebook or any expensive writing utensils. It is made for anyone and everyone.
That being said, there are some things you should consider for the best journaling experience.
What to Keep in Mind
Everyone has their own preferences. It’s important for you to consider your preferences when choosing supplies.
There are a lot of factors that you should consider when choosing your supplies. Some of us have a stronger grip and press harder onto paper when writing. Others might have larger handwriting and might prefer a larger notebook. Write down your personal preferences.
These are the factors you should consider when choosing your supplies:
Before choosing your notebook, note that there are many different sizes available. How much space do you want and what is the size of your handwriting?
Maybe you have larger handwriting and prefer more space. On the other hand, you might want a smaller sized journal you can carry everywhere.
- Paper thickness (GSM)
Gsm (grams per square meter) refers to the paperweight. This is something you keep in mind when looking for a journal. If you use a lot of pens and markers, a journal with thicker paper might work better for you. If you mainly just use a pencil, the thinner paper is OK for you.
The higher the gsm, the thicker the paper. If you plan on using a lot of different mediums, I recommend a paperweight that is greater than 100 gsm.
- Lines, dots, or grids
This is all up to personal preference. If you do a lot of tables and grids, maybe a dotted or gridded journal will better suit your needs. Grids are also nice if you do a lot of ruler work.
- Paper color
There are warm and cool paper tones. The paper tone will affect how your pens look, as well as your colored utensils. Some people prefer cream tones, as it is softer and less jarring. Other people like bright whites, where you can achieve stark contrast with your writing.
- Journal Binding
Different types of binding will affect your journaling. Spiral-bound and disc-bound notebooks open up flat whereas perfect-bind books don’t. I recommend you do your research before settling on a specific notebook.
- The thickness of your journal
How much paper do you want in your notebook and how long do you want it to last you? It’s also important to keep in mind that thicker, perfect-bind books don’t open flat.
Aside from that, thicker journals allow you to add more sections. You don’t have to skimp on the pages as much.
When choosing your writing utensils, there are some details you want to consider.
Soft pencils and certain types of pens tend to smudge more. This can be bad news if you are a lefty or if you just move around your paper a lot.
Thicker pens, or pens with larger tips release more ink, which slows down drying time. If you’re insistent on having no smudges, finer tips are the way to go.
There are different thicknesses to each writing utensil. There are different thicknesses of pens, pencils, and markers. I wouldn’t go too thin on your writing utensil, but I also wouldn’t go super thick.
Thick brush pens work great for lettering and header texts. Anything that needs to be big and bold would benefit from a thicker stroked brush.
Thin pens are good for detail-oriented work, such as fine lines, stippling, and intricate drawings.
- Bleed and Ghosting
Bleeding, which is when ink permeates a page can be annoying. It is the enemy of all bullet journalers, as it can ruin your spreads.
Ghosting, similar to bleeding, is when a bit of your writing shows up on the other page. While it isn’t a big deal, it’s best to avoid both of these scenarios when possible.
BEST AFFORDABLE BULLET JOURNAL SUPPLIES FOR BEGINNERS
Larger notebooks are great for anyone who wants more space. With more space, you can add more elements to your journal. They also work well with those who have larger handwriting, or just need more writing space in general.
Minimalism Art, Classic Notebook Journal, A4 Size 8.3 X 11.4 inches
This larger-sized notebook has a hardcover, making it durable for any scenario. It is also minimalistic and simple, making it perfect for your own personal touch. The paper is ink-proof (100 gsm), so you can use most markers and pens without worrying about bleeding/ghosting.
One struggle I have with a lot of planners is that it doesn’t open up flat. I’ve gone to many stores looking for notebooks and planners, only to find out that none of them opened flat. However, Minimalism Art ensures that these notebooks open up flat for seamless user experience.
You can find the plain version of it here. This notebook is also available with ruled-paper, dotted paper, and gridded/square paper.
If you don’t want something too big to carry around but want adequate space, I would recommend getting a middle-sized journal. A5 is a good size.
Minimalism Art, Classic Notebook Journal
Click to Purchase here 🙂
This journal from minimalism art has a dotted grid. This journal is affordable but is of high quality. There are 192 pages and a paper thickness of 100 gsm. As mentioned before, papers that are thicker than 100 gsm tend to not bleed or ghost and the pages open flat!
This is a good option over Moleskine notebooks, which only have a paper thickness of 70 gsm.
This notebook is also available with ruled-paper, plain paper, and gridded/square paper.
Dotted Grid Grey Journal, Smooth Faux Leather
This journal, also by Minimalism Art, comes with a gorgeous faux leather cover and off-white, creamy paper. The dots are faint but are nice for tables and charts. (I promise I’m not sponsored by them, I just really love their journals!)
The pages open up flat and come in different colors.
You can find it here!
Great small-sized/pocket-sized journals
Pocket Notebook 3.5″ x 5.5″, Small Hardcover Journal with Pen Holder, Inner Pockets, 100gsm Thick Ruled/Lined Paper, Black
If you want something portable, smaller-sized journals are perfect. You can carry them anywhere and fit them in your pocket.
They work well too if you just need to write a few key points.
You get two pocket notebooks that each have 192 pages. The page thickness is 100 gsm and comes with a pen holder, which ensures that you’ll never lose your writing utensil.
I also love the addition of the pockets, which is where I store personal cards, coupons, and more.
You can grab these here!
Smudging is the last thing you want to happen to your journal. Pencils with softer graphite are a culprit to smudged pages.
On the flip side, harder pencils smudge less. However, you have to apply more pressure, which might leave an imprint. Imagine the nightmare of your writing suddenly becoming illegible.
Pentel Sharp Mechanical Pencil, 0.5mm, Black Barrels, 2 Pack
I really enjoy the precision of these pencils. They were always my favorite pencils to draw in, to create charts and tables, and just my favorite sketching pencil in general. I like to use these when sketching a quote or when sketching and planning my spread.
You can find them here.
Zebra Pen DelGuard Mechanical Pencil
This is a unique mechanical pencil designed so that it protects the lead from breaking. It’s durable and reliable. This pencil writes with 0.5 mm lead, but it also is available in a 0.7 mm option, which can be found here. The engineering of this mechanical pencil allows you to press hard (at any angle) without fear of breaking the lead.
Plus, it accepts any lead refills (as long as it’s the proper size).
You can view it here.
You don’t need that many pens, especially if you’re starting. I recommend staying simple in the beginning and then expanding your selection as you continue journaling.
If you ever had experiences with gel pens that smudge, then here is good news for you. The ink in these pens dry 3x faster and is such a pleasure to write with. I also love the fine point, as it gives you crisp, clear, and beautiful writing.
If you are interested, you can find them here.
Prismacolor Premier Brush Tip Marker, Black
Regarding markers, I do not recommend using alcohol-based markers if you want to preserve your journals as it eats the paper over time. I know some people enjoy using Copic markers or other similar alcohol-based markers, but these markers were never meant to preserve or creating lasting art/letter pieces.
I’ll start you off with one marker I found incredibly easy to use, which is the Prismacolor brush pens. Compared to the Tombow brush pens I have used, I find this to be a lot more beginner-friendly. The pen gives you great control over your lettering. I find that I can create a variety of brush strokes with this pen, ranging from delicate lines to thick and bolder ones.
These are also acid-free, which is perfect if you want to archive your journals. You can either buy a single pen or buy a pack of four. If you plan on using your brush pen a lot, I recommend the latter, as it’ll save you some money in the long run.
You can find them here!
Other Useful Journaling Supplies
High Polymer Eraser, Large, by Pentel
Have you ever used an eraser that was hard and left unappealing smudges?
In case you make mistakes, I got you covered. From my experiences, it erases the best and the cleanest. Because it is so efficient, you don’t need to apply an excessive amount of pressure, which usually ruins paper.
In addition, there is very little debris after erasing, which means less of a mess to clean after. You can find it here for almost any office supply store.
Find it here!
BIC Wite-Out Brand Extra Coverage Correction Fluid, 20 ml, White, 3-Count
When using pens, mistakes are inevitable. Having white-out readily available relieves the pressure of being perfect. It’s OK to make mistakes. In fact, it’s abnormal not to make any mistakes.
You can the white-out on here or in any supplies store.
XFasten Double Sided Adhesive Scrapbook Runner Tape Roller, Permanent Adhesive Dots Roller Applicator, Acid-Free and Archival Safe Scrapbooking Tape
A tape-runner is a bullet journaler’s best friend. If you never used one before, your life is about to change.
For my introductory graphic design class, this was on our supplies list. I didn’t think much of it since a glue stick worked fine for me. However, once I used one, there was no going back. It’s fuss-free, easy to use, and insanely effective. It’s super convenient and attaches pieces together without any clumps or bumps. Sometimes too effective.
You can find it here!
Westcott Stainless Steel Office Ruler with Non Slip Cork Base, 12 inch
The reason why I recommend metal rulers over plastic or wooden is that it is insanely durable. If you decide to use it to help with your cutting, the ruler will protect you.
I used this exact ruler throughout my four years in design school. I made dozens of books with this, cutting each page one by one. It’s reliable and durable.
You can find it on Amazon here.
This should be more than enough to cover everything you need as a beginner. You don’t need anything or any of the specific items I suggested.
If you have any supplies that you love or can’t journal without, please share below in the comments! If you found this article helpful, please share it for others to see! It helps us a lot 🙂