My Favorite Bullet Journaling Essentials: Notebooks, Pens, & More!

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My Favorite Bullet Journaling Essentials

notebooks, pens, decor & inspiration…

Where are all my planner-obsessed peeps at out there?!


  • The Plum Paper Planner - It's just not great quality.

  • The DailyGreatness Journal - It's awesome on the habits. But, tried to do too much and didn't have enough of a planning element for me. 

  • The Erin Condren Life Planner - Great quality and construction, but was missing the healthy habit elements and it wasn't customizable enough for me. I know, I know. That might be blasphemy to #ECLP addicts

  • The Happy Planner - Probably the closest I've come to absolutely loving a planner. Totally customizable with it's removable pages, but was missing something.

Then, when I was in Medellin, I was at an art store (always a dangerous place for me to be) and I found Moleskine notebooks and I thought to myself, what about a Bullet Journal?

Well, let's just say I'm in love. Ever since I started using it, I've been absolutely in love with the customizability of the system, how easy it is to implement, and how perfect the system is for me. But, as I was starting my journey into Bullet Journal-ing, I realized that there is a lot wrong with the Bullet Journal culture. Namely, it's overwhelming as all hell. I realized that a lot of the "Bullet Journaling for Beginners" stuff you find on Pinterest are complete and utter BS. I mean, they're incredibly artsy, photogenic layout and they're beautiful! But are they practical? I'm sorry, but if I'm a) just getting started and b) wanting a simple solution that going to get me organized so that I have MORE time? I don't want to do that!

What I've realized since starting my Bullet Journal is that it doesn't have to be complicated. You can create an  EFFECTIVE planning system AND you can do in a SIMPLE way that still looks incredibly beautiful and aesthetic (if you're into that!). In my newest blog post, I've walked you through how I use my Bullet Journal, what's important in your layouts and some SIMPLE places to start! Link in Bio!


  • It's customizable. My biggest hang up with so many other planning systems is that I felt like I couldn't adapt it to me. If it was a strict planner, I wanted it to have more lifestyle, health, habit features for me to use. If it was more habit + lifestyle adapted, it didn't have enough planning elements. This system allows me to customize my Bullet Journal for exactly what I want to use it for and for how I want to use it. That customizability is invaluable in my opinion.

  • It's easy to implement. You really don't need anything to start using a Bullet Journal. Ya, there are definitely materials that I recommend, which I've detailed below, but the bottom line is you need a notebook and a pen. That's it. You don't need to order off of some online store and wait multiple weeks for your planner to arrive. You don't have to go to a special store to buy the planner. You can go anywhere that sells notebooks and pens, really, and you're ready to get started.

  • It allows me to be creative. I've found that I love that creative outlet with my planners. With the Erin Condren and Happy Planners, particularly the Happy Planner, I loved all the stickers and the ways that I could decorate the planner. It was fun for this former-scrapbook fiend to engage in that creativity. I was afraid a Bullet Journal wouldn't give me that. But, what I love is that the whole process of drawing out your layout is an exercise in creativity and finding simple, easy ways to add in pops of color or creative elements allows me to play and be creative in a way that isn't overwhelming or that makes my Bullet Journal to labor-intensive.

  • It's cheaper. Unless you're one of those people that goes crazy with the water colored pens, Washi tape, etc., Bullet journaling is so so cheap compared to other planning systems. Erin Condren planners run for $50 a pop. Happy Planners are cheaper, but still can be steep. And then you've got all the add-ons and stickers and customization, etc. Basically, it can add up and it can add up FAST. With the Bullet Journal, at least with the approach I take, all you need is a notebook and some pens and that is SO much cheaper.

To me, bullet journaling is a TOOL that helps me achieve even bigger and better goals. I want my journal to simple and functional. That's why you'll never see me doing watercolor flowers and shit in my BuJo. Too damn hard. And it completely negates the simplicity that I love about the bullet journal. There shouldn’t be and isn’t a necessity to make complicated layouts….

That being said...I also get a lot of joy out of making my planner look nice...

So, I figured that, for those of you that love bujo and love seeing the pictures of my bullet journal layouts, I'd share with you my essentials, the places I find inspo and my fave tools!

For the journal itself…

I started with using a Moleskine notebook. But, lately, I’ve really started to obsess over Leuchtturm 1917 notebooks. I LOVE that they have numbered pages. In the Moleskine notebooks, I always had to hand number the pages and it was irritating AF. They also have a built-in table of contents, meaning you don’t have to create one. Some people might not like that because they may want to make their table of contents all fancy. But personally, I liked that this was one less thing I had to do! Now, they're just GREAT quality notebooks. Ya, they're a little pricey, but for how much I use my planner, it's worth it! I’ve also started using these notebooks as my note taking notebooks during coaching and training. So, I want something that’s going to stand the test of time because these notes end up being worth $1000s.

For pens…

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Pilot Frixion erasable pens for my day-to-day writing in the planner. Be forewarned, I've gotten more than my fair share of friends hooked on these pens. They're the only erasable pen I've ever used that is actually 100% erasable! I love them! Here are some in multiple colors and here are multiple black pens. Plus, they're retractable! One thing I learned when I was in Prague though at - dun dun DUN - yet another art and pen store is that you can buy refills for these pens, which is SO great. I used to just buy a brand new pen every single time. Learning that they have refills has saved me a lot of money and has made me feel so much less wasteful.

To decorate my bullet journal…

I actually am very very simple when it come to decorating my Bullet Journal. In fact, I mostly just use highlighters. Sharpie highlighters in particular. I like their weight and the lack of bleedthrough. I've used others over the years, but I have never liked them. This is how I get a little bit of color and extra design elements into my planner without resorting to all the washi tape, watercolor pens, etc. that a lot of the other really crafty Bullet Journalers use. But, again, I like to keep it super simple. So, I just add little embellishments here and there. 

I also have an ABSURD number of stickers leftover from the days when I was a Happy Planner and ECLP lover. I love the sticker packs from Create 365 to add pops of color, cute quotes and just a tiny bit of decoration here and there. Some of my favorites include this seasonal value pack, these to-do stickers, the productivity pack, this fitness pack, and this quote pack. Again, none of these are required. I bought them I was really into Happy Planners and now they’re serving a decorative purpose in my bujo.

Check out some of the photos below for some examples of how I like to decorate my BuJo.

To bullet journal inspiration…

I have a whole fricken Pinterest just for Bullet Journaling inspiration! CUZ IT’S FUN! And what’s the point in reinventing the wheel! Other people have come up with great, minimalist Bullet Journal layouts that incorporate so many of the things that I really want to incorporate! My Pinterest board includes Headers & Decor, Collections, Monthly layouts, Daily & Weekly Layouts, Table of Contents and so much more!

I Hope This Was Helpful...

and for all my bujo fans out there, I hope you found something new to try!!

Ellyn SchinkeComment