I recently had an overwhelmed reader ask me, out of all of the pens, planners, accessories etc. – what the essentials? – the supplies that are must haves, that I’d buy if I was on a tight budget of say $50…. So here’s the list of what I’d buy if I had a $50 budget!
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Notice I said notebook not planner? If you’re new to planning or on a tight budget, buy a notebook.
You do not need a fancy notebook to start planning. Some cheap shops even have planners for a few dollars, but the reason I recommend a notebook is so you can create your own spreads to work out what you do and don’t like before spending a lot of money on a planner.
Cheap planners can be found at discount stores and in the clearance section of stationery shops, Amazon etc.
A notepad is another cheap option – these are usually about $10 for a weekly notepad. You might find you prefer to plan the week just using one big checklist in which case notepads are ideal.
Let’s say $10 for a notebook, cheap store planner or notepad.
The Clever Fox dotted notebook is one of the best value notebooks for bullet journaling that I’ve found.
- Plenty of cover colors to choose from
- Affordable price ($11 USD)
- Good paper quality (a little bit of ghosting but paper is better than more expensive notebooks
- 3 ribbon bookmarks
- Numbered pages
- Comes with stickers
Read more: Clever Fox Dotted Journal Notebook
There are so many pen brands to choose from these days however most of them are admittedly, a bit expensive and for most, you have to buy an entire pack. However, Target, the Reject Shop here in Australia and most discount stores have pen packs for less than $5.
I really like the Papermate inkjoy 100 1.0m. They’re my favorite ballpoint pens – tri grip, write smoothly and come in lots of colors! I’ve seen a pack of these for approx $8.
One Frixion erasable pen (approx $3). This pen is my all time fave – writes smoothly, lots of colors to choose from and best of all, you can erase if you make a mistake! If you’re a fellow Aussie Big W have these for sale individually. If you want to get an entire pack, my sister has them in her planner supplies shop.
If you want to splurge (about $5 for a pen), get a PaperMate Inkjoy Gel 0.7mm. If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know what I’m going to say about these pens: write super smooth and heaps of pretty rainbow colors to choose from!
It’s a lot cheaper to print your own printables / planner inserts.
>>> Want to try some printables? There’s a few freebies in the library including a bill pay checklist, habit tracker, checklists and planner stickers.
If you’re using a notebook you can resize printables (such as habit trackers – so much faster to use a printable then draw it up by hand) and glue them straight into your notebook.
If you prefer to use a 3 ring binder and hole punch, that’s another cheap alternative to a planner, notepad or notebook, and which works well with printables.
You probably already have a printer, if not most office supply stores can print pages for you. This is ok if you’re doing one off printing but in the long run it’ll be cheaper to get your own printer. See this post if you need some advice: how to Choose a Printer (Including the best printer for printing printables and planner stickers)
If you want to learn how to make a weekly planner, I have a free email course which you can enroll in here!
Grab yourself some full sheet label paper and enroll in my free email course to get started making your own planner stickers. Notice I said make not buy. Planner stickers can get expensive if you’re buying themed sticked kits for every weekly spread.
Functional icon stickers will save a lot of money (as you get a lot more stickers on the sheet and, well they’re actually useful, quick and save space.
If you like decorating with planner stickers, you’ll save a ton of money by learning how to make your own.
- Why I plan my day using planner stickers (and why you should too!)
- Where to buy label paper
- Which planner stickers are right for you?
Planner Sticker tutorials
- How to make planner stickers for free using Silhouette Studio (Introduction – Video Tutorial)
- How to make planner stickers – creating perfectly proportioned shapes in Silhouette Studio (video tutorial)
- How to design planner stickers from start to finish (a sneak peak at my design process!)
- How to make your own custom Erin Condren (or any planner) header title section planner stickers (step by step video tutorial)
If you prefer to stamp you could switch this out but stamps are more expensive and time consuming especially with ink packs. For this reason I recommend…
A frixion erasable stamp ($3) or MAMBI self inking stamps (about $8 but comes in a pack of 6). After trying traditional stamps I found they were too time consuming, messy and the ink more prone to smudging (or missing the page) so the end result wasn’t very good. I now exclusively use self inking stamps.
Highlighters are a quick and easy way to add color to a page, divide up a page for list making, for color coding, highlight headings etc.!
To stick to a tight budget, I recommend Daiso highlighters. They’re only $2.80 and come in packs of 5. I’ve found scented, dual tip, thin tip and erasable highlighters at Daiso! If you don’t have a Daiso where you live, try your local discount store.
- 8 Ways to use highlighters for Bullet Journal Spreads
- 4 Similar (and cheaper) alternatives to the Zebra Mildliner Dual Tip Highlighters
- Best highlighters for bullet journaling
- Highlighter Brands Comparison (And My Favorite Highlighters for Each Brand)
- Highlighter swatches and thickness comparison (38 brands compared)
Depending on how much you’ve spent already and whether you’re into planner decorating, I recommend 1 fat, 1 thin and 1 ultra thin washi tape. All of this will likely cost $10.
Otherwise, a cute roll of washi tape will usually set you back about $3.
Daiso has tape similar to MAMBI deco pens that’s like whiteout tape but with pretty patterns, and is a good alternative to thin washi tape.
Specifically, a flat, heavy ruler that can’t be easily bumped out of place when ruling lines for planner spreads, habit trackers, dividing a page in 2 for list making etc. Let’s say you find a cheap ruler for $1 at a discount shop.
Avoid bendy, plastic rulers – they tend to slip. If you can afford it, I recommend both a 15cm (short ruler) and a full length (30 cm / 12 inch ruler).
If you’ve come under budget (or skipped) some of the other items on this list, I really like the Poppin ruler – it’s a splurge but rulers last, like, forever (seriously, I have some from 15 years ago!) – so to me it’s worth it. Plus they come in lots of pretty colors!
Paperclips or butterfly clips
Paperclips or butterfly clips are ideal for keeping your place in your planner. If you like bullet journaling, they can be used to keep the pages open / flat if you’re using a book / sewn bound notebook.
Paperclips or butterfly clips tend to come in rainbow colored packs for $2. If you’re a fellow Aussie try Kmart, Stacks, Daiso or the Reject Shop. If you live outside of Australia, try any discount store – most will have them.
Butterfly clips are ideal for holding your place if the planner or notebook you’re using doesn’t have tabs. Paperclips work alright but butterfly clips are more secure. I mainly use paperclips for color coding and keeping little notes from going astray since not all notebooks or planners have a pocket folder at the back.
Related: Week 51: Weekly planning using only a printable to do list
Sticky notes are ideal for overflow – when you need just a little bit more space in your planner.
Even though you’re on a budget, make sure you buy decent ones that are actually sticky. I like the Post it Note 3M as they can be used for a number of weeks and moved around multiple times without losing their stickiness.
- Quick and easy weekly meal planning using sticky notes
- 5 Ways to use sticky notes for school or college
- 10 ways to plan using sticky notes
- My favorite sticky note brands for planning
Sticky notes are ideal for shopping lists and follow up reminders which i don’t want to write on the planner itself and waste space.
As an added bonus, the Post It Note sticky notes can be found all over the world. I’ve seen them here in Australia, the USA, Canada and all over Europe!
So to recap:
Here’s how I’d spend the $50
- Notebook = $10
- Cheap pen pack = $8
- Printer paper & ink = lets say you print $3 worth
- Full sheet label paper & ink for planner stickers = let’s say you print $2.20 worth (most label paper is only 20c / sheet)
- Highlighters = $2.80
- Frixion erasable pen = $3
- Frixion stamp = $3
- Washi tape = $10
- Ruler $1 (if you don’t already have one)
- Paperclips or butterfly clips = $2
- Sticky notes = $5
Total spend = $50!
This assumes you already own a printer and printer ink. The prices are based on the cost of stationery in Australia (as I live in Australia).
Need more budget saving ideas? See my favorite color coding planner supplies for less than $5
- Favorite color coding planner supplies for less than $5
- Best Weekly Planners For Under $50
- Favorite places to buy planner pens (online)
- Review of the Plum Paper Me Planner
- Life Organized Weekly Planner by Paper House (similar to the Erin Condren Life Planner)
- Planner Review: Rule the World by Sugar and Type
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