The bullet journal toolkit: part one — decorating on a dime

In this entry I share my inexpensive options for decorating a bujo!

This is a first in a two-part series discussing different ways to decorate your bullet journal. Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration in my suggestions to get drawing and doodling — if you do so desire! I’ll also be publishing some pricier options — so stay tuned for that piece if you’re interested!

Recently I’ve taken a shine to decorating my bullet journal to reflect how I’m truly feeling at that point in time I put pen to paper. Looking back at my first bullet journal, it’s been fun seeing how much I’ve grown in my artwork. It doesn’t mean I’m getting better at drawing or doodling, (I think I was a much better artist when I was younger) it means I’m taking more risks in putting my perception of me on pages. This is what makes these compilations so meaningful to me. Juxtaposing the work I did a year ago to the work I did mere weeks ago is fun, educational and cringe-worthy all at once. (Yes, I have art that I hate, but it’s given me a chance to understand what I do and don’t enjoy in my spreads.)

So, how do I communicate myself artistically in these 250+ pages? Not just through drawing, of course!

In this two-part post, I will be talking about the things I like to use to keep the visual part of my bullet journal fresh and fun to look at. The first part includes cost-effective options (under CAD $6.99), while the second one involves a bit of splurging (CAD $7 and up). Whatever you choose, ensure your methods are best for you.

Good old pens and pencils

Being a writer, I have oodles of pens around the house. Pencils are more or less the same, especially when I am sketching out ideas in my bullet journal. Either way, regular old black or blue pen, along with pencil makes for some really great contrast work in a bullet journal. Be warned, though: pencil can transfer — that’s why I’ll use pencil to sketch out an idea, then go over it with a felt pen. I’ll then gently erase any pencil lines afterwards. (A tip, if I may: don’t overdo it on erasing, especially in a Leuchtturm1917 bullet journal — the paper breaks down if you erase the same area WAY too much.)

School supplies like felts & pencil crayons

Crayola is a tried and true brand, but there are so many other options out there that won’t break the bank. As an example I found cheap, fine line markers on sale at a Chapters Indigo last year for $4.99! I always like to wait until back-to-school season to buy these kinds of supplies, because the pricing is far better when comparing with other months. Pencil crayons can also offer depth and dimension to backgrounds if you’re lightly shading a piece of work. When drawing, I enjoy using a mix of pencil crayons and felt pens as they’re the least likely to transfer. I’d avoid anything like crayons or pastels as they can transfer from page to page.

Dollar store sticker sheets (and other decor)

The dollar store is an economic crafty girl’s best friend…usually. I love finding one-of-a-kind, quirky stickers at dollar stores; my favourite place to go is actually in Vancouver’s Chinatown. There’s a dollar store called “YokoYaya” that sells adorable page tabs and stickers — and each pack is $2. I might as well be stealing from them. The downside is it doesn’t take long for the basket to fill up in dollar stores. I am guilty of walking out with more than CAD $80 of stickers after one trip.

These dollar stores are also a great place to find unique paper cut outs, generally used for other paper arts and crafts (like scrapbooking). I never tend to find anything for my style in particular, but there are other designs — from birds to baby-themed pieces — that I always see for less than $5. You can glue down confetti, if the size and design is to your liking — just make sure you invest in a good glue stick to do that.

Magazine & newspaper cutouts

This is an idea I’m hoping to use more for my next bullet journal. This is becoming a bit tougher as newspapers have been reduced in my neighbourhood (very, very sad) but I still get magazine subscriptions from time to time and I will cut out things that inspire me. You can use such cut outs to keep track of an important historical moment, or to build your own vision board. Either way, this is a great option by which to preserve a moment or goal that is important to you.

‘Scrapbook-like’ pieces

When you deconstruct it, my favourite layout is made from incredibly simple pieces: metallic sharpie (which I’ve actually added to the ‘expensive’ section), a few stickers…and baggage claim tags from my travels. Sure, I had to pay for the flight tickets, but the leftover portions that come out of it are great for scrapbooking. If you’ve been on a trip where you’ve taken a transit system and the tickets can be glued or taped into your bullet journal, go for it!

Other things I like to scrapbook into my bullet journal include logos from packaging from restaurants. When we were in Portland my husband Jon and I went to a restaurant called Biwa — we got these little cards after our order and we knew we’d never use them again so I decided to tape it into my bullet journal. (An aside, Biwa has amazing food — I had a delicious poke bowl there!)

What kinds of things do you like to use to decorate your bullet journal? Leave me a comment below!

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