Bullet Journal – How to Make a Cheap Journal Work

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3 sleek journals on white wood table with 4 pens and 2 rolls of washi tape with title text reading Bullet Journal How to Make a Cheap Journal Work For You

Using a bullet journal is an incredible tool to keep  focused, much more productive and to reduce stress. Don’t be intimated by the expense of a bullet journal or how elaborate many of them are. You can make your bullet journal as complicated or as simple as you’d like. You can also choose to use an inexpensive journal. Sometimes a cheap journal is the best choice for your bullet journal. These tips for a bullet journal will show you how to make a cheap journal work best for you.

I’ve been using bullet journaling principles before I even knew what a bullet journal was. You can learn more about bullet journaling in  Bullet Journal – What You Need to Know.

There are many reasons to use an inexpensive journal for your bullet journal.

Why Use a Cheap Journal for Bullet Journaling

  • A fancy journal just isn’t in the budget.
  • You’re just getting started bullet journaling.
  • You like to change out your journal often.
  • You already have a collection of pretty, new journals.
  • You like to have different journals for different uses.
3 journals spread out on white wood table with 2 rolls of washi tape and 4 pens

I picked up a pack of three small journals at my local discount store for $3. The pretty covers called my name and I had to get them. I’ve experimented with using them as a bullet journal and learned some tips to make a cheap journal work as a bullet journal.

Bullet Journal – How to Make a Cheap Journal Work

Use Ballpoint Pens 

2 open journals with black circles on 2 pages

Using a felt tip pen or fine marker will bleed through your cheap journal paper. If you use a ball point pen, you may see some ghosting (the top example in the photo below), but nothing like the clearly visible bleed-through you can see in the lower journal below.

Write on One Side of the Journal

open journal with days and dates written on one page

Choose one side of the journal to use. I’m right-handed so I chose to use the right-hand side of the journal. By using just one side of the paper, you won’t be bothered by ghosting or bleeding on the backside of the paper. I find that I think better on the phone when I doodle or jot notes. I simply use the backside of pages to doodle or jot notes on the left side, opposite my daily spread. 

Leave Extra Pages Between Spreads

open journal with black arrow pointing to blank page

I created my monthly spread on two pages, so there was some heavy ghosting. I left an extra blank page before I started my daily layouts. It made the start of my bullet journal feel fresher.

Use Washi Tape

Washi tape is an easy way to embellish your bullet journal. I often use it to create tabs, like below. Washi tape is great because:

  • It doesn’t bleed
  • You can use it on pages to embellish
  • It’s easy to use
  • It’s inexpensive
  • It comes in an endless choice of colors and designs
hand holding mint green notebook with purple tabs at top


If you’re using a cheap bullet journal, you’re not competing with the expensive fancy bullet journals. You’re doing your own thing, so embrace it. Don’t sweat it if you have ghosting or bleed-through on some of your pages. Don’t sweat it if the cover gets a bit beat up. Recognize that it was a choice to use a cheap journal and go with it. 

Now that you know how to make a cheap bullet journal work for you, it’s time to get started and get organized.

More Bullet Journaling Ideas:

For more simple and powerful productivity tips, hacks and printables, see the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.

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  1. You have the most beautiful writing! I like the idea of making your own bullet journal to save money. If I hear of anyone that wants to start this type of journal, but likes to save money, I’ll send them your way.

    1. Thanks, Brenda. I find great joy in saving money and still making organizing and planning tools work for me.

  2. The beauty is that this can be customized to be exactly what you want it to be. This is why I love paper. I can tape a quote inside the cover. I can attach a post-it with details I want to remember for an item coming up next week. It is flexible and versatile and doesn’t require wifi:)

    1. I love paper, too, Seana. I think so much better when I write on paper. Somehow my thought process doesn’t work the same on technology.

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