I began my first bullet journal in February 2017. I ‘window-shopped’ so to speak, lurking on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest…All these fantastic ideas, but there’s no way I could do all that. There’s no way I could justify spending that much on stationery supplies!
It’s only been 7 short months and I’ve realized something: There are some things in life that are WORTH spending more for.
I started out with a few cheap pens from Wal-Mart. Papermate Inkjoy was the first variety pack I purchased. They absolutely do the job, and they were definitely more than enough when I was first getting up on my feet when I was trying to learn the basics and keeping design at a minimum. As I dove deeper down the bullet journaling hole, I expanded my layouts, the intricacy of design, the time I spent planning, etc. I got to a point where I spent more time planning than actually doing. Honestly, I’m willing to bet there’s more than a few fellow bujo-junkies out there who are with me on that! All I think about is bullet journaling, and that’s pretty much 24/7. I’m addicted.
The bottom line here is that it took me months to not only figure out the kind of bullet journaler I wanted to be but the style that I’m leaning towards as time goes on. It takes a significant amount of time to figure this out about yourself, which is why this list of go-to supplies will be different. I’ve read tons of blog posts for “top 5 products” or “what you need to start a bullet journal”, etc. and while they are great articles, I found there were a few things missing. I want to tell you WHY I like a certain product, rather than just say it’s good quality, good price, etc. I want you to know what it is about this item that I like, whether I felt it was worth the cash and if needed, other products that could be used in the interim that may be more economical. So here we go!
These are 4 categories of products that I keep in my small pencil case to grab-and-go.
1. Pick a go-to pen!
The first pen to touch the page of my notebook was a Papermate Inkjoy Ballpoint pen. It’s a perfectly fine starter pen but I found a few issues with it. First, I found that the ink would clump up on the page every now and then, leaving some pretty ugly chunks in my writing. Second, when I wrote with them, I almost felt like the ballpoint would leave a transparent spot in the centre with the ink around it…it looked odd on the page. I don’t know if I did something wrong… but is there a wrong way to write with a standard ballpoint pen? I moved on to Staedtler Triplus Fineliners that I purchased from Staples. I actually still really like these, however, I only use them for specific items. This is my go-to pen when I need ink in a different colour.
My FAVOURITE pen to use — the one that stays with me 24/7 is the Pigma Micron 005 by Sakura Color Products Corporation. I found them initially on Amazon, later at my local Michael’s! Why is it my favourite? Most importantly, the line is only 0.20mm thick! That is the thinnest damn pen I’ve ever found! I challenge you to find one thinner than this, and if you do find one, oh dear, please tell me! I absolutely love how thin this line is. When I write at a normal size, it just looks so incredibly clean. It also gives me the option of writing super tiny, which is absolutely impossible with anything else I’ve found! The next thinnest I’ve seen is 0.45mm thick and while these numbers seem tiny, think about the fact that this number is 2.5x the size of my Micron!
Six dollars does seem pretty steep just for a pen, but if you want these super thin, clean lines, it’s well worth it!
My Choice: Sakura Pigma Micron 005
Cost: $6.23 (Amazon)
Budget alternative: Sharpie Pen ($4.59 at Staples)
If you’re like me, you can’t draw a damn line to save your life. It’s quite funny actually. I draw realistic portraits in pencil but I can’t draw a straight line!
I purchased mine from staples. My biggest stress on this one is it must be a metal ruler, and here’s the reason: Because of the layer of cork on the backside, it lifts it up from your page ever so slightly and the ink from your pen won’t touch the edge of the ruler. This means there won’t be a streak when you pull it away sloppily (as I do many times). It also means that when you fully palm your ruler in your hand, you’re not gonna get annoying ink lines left on your skin all day!
My choice: Staples® Stainless Steel Ruler, 6″/15cm
Cost: $1.36 (Staples)
3. Pencil & Eraser
I’m not sure how many out there are incredibly brave, but I almost always use pencil for at least a small portion of my layouts. If it’s a standard daily, or a layout I’ve done a bunch of times, okay maybe I don’t need it but that’s very rare. I’ve tried to start layouts in just pen but I’ve messed them up — sometimes it’s a huge mistake and almost unusable, sometimes it’s just a small mistake but it’s enough to really irritate me! I like to always keep a pencil on me, especially when I’m away from home (or work, but I work from home!) and have a few minutes to jot a few things down or start a new layout idea. I love that I can sketch out a rough idea of something I want to try and just fill it in with my fun, fancy pens when I get home!
I personally like to use mechanical pencils. First, because then I don’t need to carry a sharpener with me and secondly because they stay relatively sharp and thin unlike a #2 pencil. The only downside: I hate the erasers on those things. I’m always sure to keep an eraser on me as well. Because, you know….mistakes happen!
Pentel® Mechanical Drafting Pencils, 0.7mm
Cost: $11.96 (2pk, Staples)
Staedtler Mars® Plastic Erasers
Cost: $2.45 (2pk, Staples)
4. Add a little flair on the go!
If I’m out somewhere and miraculously have time to work on a layout while chasing my two hyper boys, I like to add at least a little bit of variety to my layouts! I found these on Amazon after seeing people in the community raving about them. I also was given these as a birthday gift from my parents, so now I actually have duplicates here! There are a few things about these. People are crazy over these because not only are they unorthodox colours to use as highlighters, but they’re also actually dual-tipped with a medium marker nib on the other side. I find that they seem very wet and when you complete your line, you get a bit of extra ink on your page. It doesn’t really bother me but sometimes I’ll just dab it with my finger just so it looks uniform. Aside from that, I really am happy with this purchase. The colours are beautiful (except the new neon ones — I hate neon. Yuuuuck!), and I love the transparency.
For a more budget-friendly alternative, Crayola Supertips are fantastic! They’re incredibly cheap, so many colours and not only can you use them as a marker or a highlighter, but you can actually create a brush-lettering effect with them!
My Choice: Zebra Mildliners
Cost: $18.99 (Amazon)
Budget Alternative: Crayola Super Tips ($4.97 for 20pk, $7.97 for 50pk, no brainer!)
These 4 categories will have you bullet journaling everywhere you go. Keep in mind, I’m preaching here how little you need to keep with you when you’re busy, but realistically, this is how I’m packed for a day away:
I do, however, keep it to my Micron tucked into my Dreamdori when I’m out for a walk with the daycare kids or just running to the store.
Honestly, hype aside, just remember this: All you need to bullet journal is ANY pen and any notepad. Use a tiny pencil nubby that you’ve found in the back of the closet with a dollar store notebook. It really doesn’t matter. The benefit of bullet journaling is the system, not the aesthetic. Do I like trying to make mine look pretty? Yes. Is it a must? No. If you bullet journal to stay organized, then don’t worry about all this hype. Stick to Ryder Carroll‘s genius system.
I hope this quick guide has been helpful to you. If you’re still new, haven’t started, or just need some help getting organized, check out my first post, The Basics of Bullet Journaling!