Six Simple Steps to Bullet Journal Success on a Tight Budget

In this post I will share the first six steps to creating a Bullet Journal (‘bujo’). What’s more is that I will show you the most inexpensive way to get started. I appreciate that times are very hard for some people and money is really stretched. Keeping a journal like this may be a good way to get organised and set some routines, even in lockdown.

What is a bullet journal?

Let me unravel some of the mystery surrounding this type of journal.

A bullet journal, most often seen with the hashtag ‘bujo’, is a system of organising information in one place. It is a combination of a diary, organiser, planner, to do lists and notes. It is short and snappy, using bullet points, but with the opportunity to expand when necessary. What I love about it is that it is flexible because you design all your pages yourself. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. Lots of people are put off by the cost of the special stationery you seem to need, and the beautiful pages on social media can be daunting. Although it is nice to have the ‘proper’ notebooks and pens, it isn’t essential. You can start a bullet journal without spending lots of money.

Forget those artistic looking pages shared on the internet! They have probably taken hours of experience, and there is no reason to think that you’re not capable of creating something equally as beautiful, but it might take a while to get to that level.

The six steps

1) Start with basic supplies

You will need a pencil, an eraser (preferably a soft one), a pen and a notebook or some paper. You may also need a ruler.

If you have a notebook that’s great, but if you don’t, hopefully you have some blank paper. If you are using paper, take 2 sheets, fold them in half and put one inside the other to make a booklet.

2) Plan in pencil first

Take the time to plan your page layout lightly with a pencil first. That will minimise mistakes. When you are happy with your pencil guide, draw it in pen. Wait until the pen ink is completely dry before carefully removing the pencil marks with an eraser. Remember that, the lighter the pencil, the easier it is to remove the pencil marks. Once you get used to how your layout is going to look, you may only need to mark where grid lines start and finish, rather than draw the whole line.

3) Make a list of all the things you want to put in your journal

I divide my list into sections and this helps with setting up my index later. My three sections are PRODUCTIVITY, INFORMATION and COLLECTIONS.

Productivity:

  • Planner pages such as weekly and monthly spreads
  • Ideas

Information:

  • Birthdays
  • Trackers
  • Budgets

Collections:

  • Playlists
  • Recipes
  • Books

Your sections could be different to mine, or you might not need sections at all, so long as you have a clear idea of what you are going to put in your journal to start with. You can expand your list later on, because your journal will adapt.

My sections are colour coded on my index. Alternatives would be using simple symbols, or arranging your list in columns.

4) Number your pages and create an index

Number the first few pages to start with and update your index as you go. It will save time later, and when your journal is filling up with information, it will help you find your information.

The best way to set out your index is with the page title, followed by all the page numbers where that title appears, like this:

reading list – 7, 22
mood tracker – 2, 9
budget – 30

5) You don’t need to be an artist

This is YOUR journal, YOUR way. If you can’t do modern calligraphy and write with a brush pen, it really doesn’t matter. You can just alter your normal handwriting to make fancy titles, as this next image shows:

Try making your letters taller, smaller or wider. Put dots inbetween the letters. Use a combination of upper and lowercase (my personal favourite). Draw a cloud shaped outline around a whole word, or outline each letter individually. You may notice some bubble writing slipped in to the examples above too! Draw your lettering in pencil first and then you can keep erasing it until you are happy. Alternatively, try out different styles on a scrap piece of paper.

6) Make it an event

Get into the habit of using your journal, and make it an event.

It isn’t easy to start a new habit, but once your journal is set up, you may only need a few minutes each day with a bit of extra time once a week/month to plan ahead.

Decide which time of day is best for you and find a comfortable place, away from distractions if possible. It may be that you can review your journal quickly in the morning, checking for appointments and seeing what is on your To Do List, then update your journal in the evening.

Your journal is a space to plan and also to be reflective. Maybe you are the sort of person that prefers a “Done” List instead of a “To Do” list? In which case you can list everything you have accomplished in a daily log, or activities tracker.

However you decide to use your journal, using it regularly is the best way to using it successfully. You can then decide if you want to spend money on those notebooks and pens once your habit is established.


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