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Review of the 5 Best Bullet Journals for Beginners

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best bullet journals for beginners

The Best 5 Bullet Journals for Beginners for 2021|Journaling for Anxiety and Depression

Are you wondering which are the best bullet journals for beginners? Searching for the perfect bujo can be a little daunting because there are literally hundreds to choose from.

If you are like me, beginning bullet journaling kind of freaks you out. I mean, who wants a journal with a bunch of dots and nothing inside of it? Well, that was me until I broke down and purchased my very first one in February 2019. That is correct, I am a beginner just like you. What better place to get Bullet Journaling 101 education than from a person who is fresh out of the course? We are at the same level, and I have graduated from my very first year.

Bullet Journaling 101 Trivia: Bujo is short of bullet journal or bullet journaling. I feel very accomplished to have figured that out.

One of the primary reasons I was overwhelmed with the thought of bullet journaling was because when I wanted to see what one looked like, there were entirely way too many dot grid notebooks, pens, markers, stickers, and other accessories to choose from.

The other reason was because I didn’t know how to use one, and I wanted to do it “right.”

As the end of the year is approaching, it is time for me to think about beginning a new notebook, and since there are things I have learned along the way, I wanted to pass on my beginner lessons to you.

Stationary haul

I have purchased a plethora of notebooks and supplies and have tested them all out so that I can help you out and for you to avoid spending a ton of money on crappy supplies or things you don’t need.

Although these products came from Amazon, and I am an affiliate, I purchased these on my own, tested them, and am offering an honest bullet journal and dot grid notebook review.

I have no video to go along with this “haul,” but only because I thought it would be more beneficial to go into details with you and create a product list for you that you could print out for reference later. I have included photos of the actual journals, the results of my product tests which are much easier to see than you would in a video.

whats true about you planner and journal

What the heck is a bullet journal ?

A bullet journal is a method of journaling created by Ryder Carroll, a digital designer and author. Instead of using lined paper, bullet journals use dot-grid paper.

It is different than traditional journaling in the sense that it is a way of keeping your thoughts and your life organized, rather than random journal prompts that invoke a deeper thought process. That is not to say that you could not use it for that because you most certainly can.

One thing that freaked me out while doing bullet journaling research, is that bullet journaling seemed to have an organized structure.

Once I bought my first one, which happened to be the original notebook, Leuchturm 1917, and began playing around with it, I literally said to myself, “ohhhhhhhh.”

Trust me. There is nothing difficult about it. In fact, it is YOUR journal, and a brand new one is your blank canvas to do whatever you like with it. For me, the most complicated thing about bullet journaling was limiting the amount of stickers and markers I was buying, because there are probably THOUSANDS to choose from.

What is the difference between a bullet journal and a dot grid notebook?

The only difference between a bujo, a bullet journal, dot grid, dot grid paper, and dot grid notebooks, is the name. The original bullet journal created by Ryder Carroll and, therefore, has a copyright so bullet journals, technically, cannot be sold using that name. The bullet journal is an organizational system rather than a style of paper.

I just thought I would clarify that for you because I was super confused. The dots on the paper are fabulous because they help measure out the items you

Why should I start a bullet journal for my mental health?

There are many mental health benefits for journaling. Some of them include:

  • Helps establish and follow through with goals
  • Empowers you to become more organized and productive
  • Identifies triggers and mood patterns with mood trackers
  • Helps establish everyday habits and daily routines
  • Helps pinpoint thought patterns that contribute to low self confidence, self esteem, thoughts, and other things
  • Provides a place to keep track of important tasks
  • When done consistently is an autonomous tool that facilitates self growth, self discovery, self improvement, self care, and change
  • Assists with finding and maintaining lifestyle balance

The beauty of bullet journaling is that despite it being an actual system, there are no rules and you can customize your dot grid notebook to suit your needs.

This past year, I used mine as a planner and I definitely have intentions of doing it again and again and again. I also plan on creating another one solely as my self-care slash mental health journal. Because, let’s face it, we all need a little help in that area.

Related article: 50 Ways to Stop Overthinking and Stop Your Racing Thoughts

a workbook guide to bible journaling

What you need for your bullet journal

If you are going to start a bujo, you obviously need the most important supply – the notebook. I was so overwhelmed when I went to Amazon and searched “bullet journals.” There are probably hundreds of different styles. I had no idea what I was looking for.

You will also discover hundreds of different notebooks, pens, brush pens, gel pens, stickers, stamps, amongst other things.

So, for you, my reader, I have gone out purchased several different dot grid journals and other journaling accessories from Amazon and have tested them all out. I have purchased the most expensive to the cheapest.

I don’t want you wasting your money thinking you need to buy the most expensive items and that they will be the best. That is not the case.

Essentially, to begin your bullet journal, all you truly need is a pen and a notebook.

Any pen and any notebook will do.

However, to maximize the enjoyment of bullet journaling, you may want to splurge on a few essential supplies.

And, there definitely is a winner for the BEST dot grid notebook journal to purchase. The result is going to suprise you.

bullet journal stickers download mockup

Bullet Journal basic elements

Before I get to reviewing the actual journals for you, I want to take a moment to explain some basic things that MOST dot grid notebooks will have.

Dot grid paper

All bullet journals have dot grid paper. If you search bullet journals you will find that they are called dot grid notebooks, or dot grid journals, rather than bullet journals. The reason for that is because Bullet Journal is trademark specific to one particular journal and, therefore, no other company can use that exact term for their products. Amazon notebook descriptions will use the term, but the notebooks will not. These are some alternative names used:

  • Dotted notebook
  • Dotted bullet grid journal notebook
  • Dotted paper
  • Dotted hardcover notebook
  • Dot journal

You get the idea. The standard dot grid size is 5 mm, which is the distance between each dot. There are also different shades of dots ranging from very light to dark.

For beginners, if you have bad eyesight like me, you may want to aim for dots that are a little darker, but not too dark that they are ugly and distracting. Dot grid color is definitely a personal preference thing.

Most dot grid notebooks have hardcovers

Most dot grid notebooks are hardcovers. However, they do come in faux leather, leather, and even cork type.

Size – most journals come in A5 size. When I am looking for journals, I generally search “A5 journals” to see the best selections. There are some other sizes, but all of the ones I purchased are the A5 size which is about 5.71x 8.27 inches.

Elastic, bookmarks, back pocket, pen loop

Most bullet journals have thin satin bookmarks, some have back pockets, and some also have pen loops. However, I have not yet come across one that does NOT have an elastic that holds is shut. I am going to assume that is a standard feature of the majority of A5 dot grid journaling notebooks.

There are also some other features that some journaling notebooks have:

  • A key – used to code completion of tasks. The original bullet journaling method uses symbols to help identify where you are at task completion wise. I, personally, do not use it at all. Some people swear by it. It is a personal preference thing. If journals don’t have them, they are very small and can be drawn manually.
  • Index – this functions as a table of contents. If you prefer to have pages numbered, the index is a wonderful reference to use to easily find specific sections of your journal. The index is blank, and as you fill up your notebook, you can write it into your index.
  • Numbered pages – again, these can be written on the pages. I prefer numbered pages. It prevents mistakes numbering the pages and is tedious and I don’t like tedious.

agenda planners

Bullet journal reviews

Now the part you have been probably waiting for: the product reviews.

Leuchturm 1917 Bullet Journal

leuchtturm 1917 black dot grid notebook

This is the exact journal I am currently using, but in maroon. It is my first bullet journal and, to be honest, I really like it. it is the original and true bullet journal created by Ryder Carroll.

At first, when I opened it, I was disappointed that it was creme color paper. However, I quickly got used to it and don’t mind it at all. The color of the dot grid is dark enough for me to see, but not too dark that all you see on the page are dots. It is durable, the binding is so secure that even after tearing several pages out, the remaining pages are intact.

The pages are difficult to tear out without ripping the preceding page. One thing I don’t care for too much, however, is the weight of the paper because there is ghosting and bleeding. However, it is a possibility the pens I used were the bleeding culprit.

leucttturm-1917-pages-with-heavy-bleedthrough-
Luechtturm 1917 page with heavy ghosting and bleedthrough

If you anticipate doodling and experimenting with brush pens, this journal is probably not the one for you. It would definitely serve well for an average planner or simple journal.

This is a great journal, in my opinion. I would use it again however, would likely use it as a business planner, which is what I use it for now. It is a bit pricey given the low quality of the paper.

I tore a page out and used a variety of different brush pens, most of which bled through the paper. The paper weight for this journal is 80gsm which is the low end of the totem pole for paper quality. The paper is also somewhat rough and tore up some of the tips of my markers, including the more expensive high quality ones.

I would not recommend this if you are intending upon using brush pens, or other markers. However, if you are looking for a notebook to use for a planner or everyday simple journal, this is a perfect choice.

Leuchtturm 1917 bottom line – best basic bullet journal as a planner

  • Paper weight – 80 gsm – poor quality; thin; marker bleeding and ghosting; rough and tears up marker tips
  • No pen loop
  • 2 book markers
  • High quality durable cover
  • High quality binding
  • Lays flat
  • LOTS of different colors to choose from
  • Back pocket (I use the pocket for stencils but is large enough to carry a cell phone in it)
  • Elastic is secure
  • 249 numbered pages
  • No key, but has an index
  • Price – $19.95 on Amazon as of 9/13/2020. This is a high price given the low paper quality.

Suggestions for using the Leuctturm 1917:

  • Creating calendars
  • Daily and weekly schedules
  • Creating task lists and checklists
  • Keeping track of meetings and other appointments
  • Daily, weekly, and monthly reminders
  • Goal setting
  • Password logs
  • Simple mood trackers
  • Simple habit trackers
  • Financial planning
  • Self care lists
  • Gratitude logs

Overall, this is a good journal and I will continue to use this for my planner for work. It definitely can take a lot of wear and tear which is what I need for work. I recommend this for beginners because it does have more pages than most blank journals, which is helpful when you make mistakes and want to tear pages out to cover your mistakes. I also think that it is good for beginners because the dots are a bit darker which makes it easier to learn how to measure your elements.

If you are a beginner that does not mind ghosting, paper quality, paper bleed, or are interested in creating a minimalistic journal or planner, this is great for you.

Scribbles That Matter

teal scribbles that matter dot grid journal

This is the most expensive bullet journal I purchased ($25.97).

The first thing I noticed was the packaging. It comes in a book box that is covered with doodles you can color. And it is not a cheap quality box, either. It is heavy, durable cardboard. I am guessing this serves as storage for your notebook. This is nice considering it has a faux leather cover. The box can function as a dust cover to keep your notebook protected.

scribbles that matter with black and white doodles
Scribbles That Matter journal box cover

The second thing I noticed were the bright white pages and light dots. I got used to the creme color so it took me a little while to get used to the pages.

The pages are thick and suprisingly, also has 170 pages, and are 120gsm. This journal is essentially bleed free. Only one brush pen bled through, but it was a juicy, wet type brush pen that bled through everything I tested it on.

I am still unsure as to whether or not I care for the quality of the paper. While it is thick and there is no ghosting or bleeding, the paper is a weird texture. It seems to absorb the pigments from the brush pens quickly and I don’t find the pages to be the smooth texture that some of the other journals I tested. I found that my markers are wearing more because of the need to press harder to get the writing on the page, particularly with hand lettering. But, the colors pop and look beautiful.

bullet journal pages with calendar and quote

Another thing I am unsure of is the quality of the binding. For $25.97 I would have expected the stitching holding the pages together to be more durable. I am using this journal as a gift for a friend, and I have only completed 2-1/2 months of bullet journal spreads. I have concerns the pages are going to come apart before I am finished with it.

There is a nice pen loop and it even comes with a pen. The pen is cheap and doesn’t write well on the pages so I could have done without it.

In the back of the notebook, there is a page for pen testing. I used it and discovered all of the pens and markers I use will not bleed, except for the juicy ones I bought. There are also several index pages which is is nice.

I would recommend this journal. The colors stand out, the grid dots are a bit light for my taste, but it definitely is a nice journal for someone who plans on doing artwork.

(can you find my big mistake on this page?)

bullet journal pages with 12 month calendars

Scribbles That Matter bottom line: best bullet journal to give as a gift

  • Paper weight – 120 gsm – white, bright paper. Soaks up colors. Paper not as smooth as I would prefer, but it does look nice. Bleed is almost non existent. No ghosting.
  • Pen loop
  • 2 book markers
  • High quality durable cover
  • High quality binding
  • Lays flat
  • LOTS of different colors to choose from
  • Back pocket
  • Elastic is secure
  • 150 numbered pages and a pen test page
  • Key and index
  • Price – $25.97 on Amazon as of 9/13/2020

Because it is nicely packaged and a good quality, I think this is wonderful dot grid notebook to give to someone as a gift. I am using the one I purchased for this review as a gift for a friend and creating her bullet journal for her. (She doesn’t know this …shhhhhh!).

Scrivwell

pink scrivwell dot grid notebook

There is nothing fancy about this journal notebook. However, I like it. It is minimalistic and doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles but there is one thing I like a LOT. The pages are smooth and wonderful to write on.

I thought I would give this one a try because there is something special about it; it has a Vegan hardcover on it. Some people are vegan conscious and if that is the case with you, this is an okay journal. I did not find any other vegan journals to test out, but I would not be completely disappointed with it simply because the paper is so nice.

The pages are unnumbered, there is no index, and there is no pen loop. There is a pocket, however in the back which, for me, is a necessity.

In my opinion, this would make an excellent note taking journal for brainstorming and planning.

Scrivwell bottom line – best minimalist and vegan bullet journal notebook

  • Paper weight – 120 gsm – ivory paper. Paper is smooth as silk and is wonderful to write on and does not chew up felt tip markers. or brush pens.
  • Vegan hardcover
  • No Pen loop
  • 2 book markers
  • High quality durable cover
  • Lays flat
  • LOTS of different colors to choose from
  • Back pocket
  • Elastic is secure
  • 208 pages; not numbered
  • No key or index
  • Price – $12.99 on Amazon as of 9/13/2020

Note: I do not have any sample images because this was the first journal I tested and didn’t realize that I may want to take photos until I was halfway through the journals. The page I tested has so many scribbles that it adds no value to my review. Sorry!

Rettacy Dotted Journal 2 Pack

q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B089W9N194&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=trinityshopel 20Rettacy dotted journals

I grabbed this 2 pack of journals because I thought it was a pretty good deal, especially because it is 120 gsm paper. Wow. For $18.99 these journals each have 120 pages, a hard cover, a pen loop, and a pocket in the back. Each notebook also has 8 perforated pages in the back. That, to me, was the firs thing I loved about this journal.

The second thing I loved about it was the quality of the paper. It is so wonderful to draw and color on is virtually no bleed except in heavily colored areas. . However, it is minimal and didn’t bother me too much. The Rettacy Dotted Journal is advertised as no bleed. While that is true, there was some ghosting as you can see in my drawings.

I have used about 10 or 15 pages, and, was disappointed, I really wanted to love this notebook.

The seam has come apart and the pages are now falling out. Luckily, because it has the elastic to keep the cover together, the pages will not get lost.

just breathe on journal page torn from spine

However, these pages are smooth and of all the journals, these were my favorite to draw in.

flowers with bible verse in dot grid journal
tree and matt 7 Bible verse on dot grid journal pages
Drawing from God and Me journal using Rettacy Dotted Journal. Please do not share, duplicate, print, or copy this image without permission.

Rettacy Dotted Journal 2 pack bottom line – best dot grid notebook for sketching, drawing, and doodling

  • Pages – 120 gsm, ivory, visible dots but not distracting, and minimal ghosting
  • Binding is poor and pages fall out
  • Lays flat
  • Pen loop
  • Back pocket
  • Smooth page finish making drawing pleasant
  • Does not tear up markers or pens

I would not use these as a daily journal or planner. However, I will likely purchase them again simply because they come in packages of 2, are reasonably priced, and are fabulous for doodling and practicing hand lettering. Of all the dot grid notebooks I tested, these are my favorite for sketching and doodling. My journaling pens and markers got a lot of mileage on the pages of this notebook. Because the pages are so smooth, I used this dot grid notebook for all of the drawings for my second published journal, God and Me, a journal for Christian women with anxiety.

And last but not least…….

Tumbitri Meri Dot Grid Notebook

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07Z3LMK8G&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=trinityshopel 20&language=en USTumbitri Meri dot grid

If there is ever a time you can get a mind blowing deal on Amazon, this would be one of those times.

I am not kidding.

This is hands down, the best bullet journal for the money and the quality.

The pages are white, smooth, beautiful, and do not bleed. They also did not seem to ghost. The paper is 120 gsm, comes with a metal ruler, a ruler pocket, AND .case for the ruler. It also is equipped with a pen loop on the spine, a pocket in back, a printed index, a key, a beautiful hard cover, numbered pages, AND perforated pages in the back. This comes beautifully packaged in a black box with the company’s name in silver foil.

tumbitri journal in box
The nicest, prettiest, bullet journal ever.

This dot grid journal is so amazing to me that I had to double-check the price I paid for it. I don’t always pay attention to that stuff. I thought I must have made a mistake and purchased a $30 journal.

Are you ready for this?

I paid $10.73. If you are looking for a bullet journal that will have everything and be everything, this is the one.

Tumbitri Meri Dot Grid Journal bottom line – best overall dot grid journal for the value and the quality

I am in love. I am so in love that my bottom line is it is the best and my most favorite. It is so much my favorite that I am not going to use it until I start a new journal and plan it out for the next year. I am so in love that I just don’t even care if the pages happen to fall out. It is my opinion, after testing this journal, it is by far the best in quality overall, not only for the value, but for its versatility. It can be used to suit all of your needs whether it is for doodling, artwork, sketching, taking notes, writing, planners, or journaling. It truly is multipurpose.

I would like to mention, I did not test watercolors out on any of these notebooks. After doing some research, 160 gsm is the best for watercolor artwork.

Summary

Journaling has many benefits for mental health. It also is amazing and wonderful for christian Bible studying. Journaling facilitates mindfulness, reduces anxiety, helps keep us organized, reduces stress, and so much more.

Bullet journaling is not scary. In fact, I have discovered it is my new favorite mindful pasttime.

There are many name brand dot grid notebook journals such as Moleskin, Lemome, Dingbats, Leuchtturm 1917, and Scribbles That Matter. They are pricey and it just isn’t necessary to spend that kind of money on a journal when there are plenty of off-brand journals that are just as good, if not better.

If your question is, how much does it cost to start bullet journaling? The answer is, however much you want to spend. I purchased 5 journals and a plethora of markers and pens to test out for you. The bottom line, however, is it is about personal preference. Where one person swears by Olive and Archer, which is probably the most high quality and most expensive dot grid notebook on the market, one may find that Leuchtturm 1917 is the best.

The best bullet journals for beginners are going to be ones that you feel most comfortable with. Try a few out. One journal may last a year, and one may last for 6 months. In any case, they are the best types of journals to use to keep your life organized, keep yourself on track with your goals, and to promote change and self awareness.

Have fun with your journaling and make it whatever you would like it to be. Whether you are going to make a planner, a journal, a daily devotional, a prayer journal, or a financial planner, make it all about you.

All of the products I tested were purchased from Amazon. If you are looking for other types of journals and notebooks, Day Spring has some that are absolutely GORGEOUS.

In any case, happy journaling.

Love ya!

Nancy

If you prefer an already done for you journal, my journal, ME: A Self Awareness Journal for Women is perfect for you!

me self awareness journal for women book cover

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