How to Start a Bucket List Bullet Journal

Travel the South spread in my bullet journal.

For yearsss, I have seen gorgeous bullet journal pictures on Pinterest and Instagram. I have always wanted to do one, but I knew that I would never have the time or the motivation to draw out a layout each week. Plus, I like my Happy Planner.

How to Start a Bucket List Bullet Journal

(A beautiful bullet journal spread from

After seeing a bullet journal list of America’s National Parks, I had an idea. Why not make a bullet journal for bucket lists?

We already know that bucket lists are my jam…I’ve posted 2 of mine here on the blog (the Deployment Bucket List and our Fort Bragg Bucket List), so why not write those down in a bullet journal?

Ummm… have I not thought of this before?

After making the decision to start this journal, I read several articles on ‘How to Start a Bullet Journal’ and they pretty much all say the same thing:

  1. buy a journal
  2. buy something to write with
  3. make a plan/outline
  4. start writing

And that’s pretty much all it takes. Except….

Which journal should I get? Which pens are the best? Should I use color? Markers? Colored Pencils? Watercolors? How much will this cost? Should I do the index first? Where do I start? Where do I end?


It’s enough to make ya crazy!

I did some more research and went shopping.

What bullet journal should I get?

The first answer ended up being really simple for me. I went to Michaels and bought a bullet journal. All of the ones recommended online were around $20 -$30, which I think is wayyy too expensive for a freakin’ notebook. But I braced myself for the cost and decided to do it anyway.

So, imagine my surprise when I found a bullet journal for $5!

Yes! $5! I was so excited I almost bought 2.

If you look in the sketch pad section of Michaels, they sell ‘sketchbooks’ with the dot grid patterns just like bullet journals. They have leather covers and come in a ton of different colors. You really can’t beat it!

Cheap ($5) bullet journal that you can buy at Michael's.

(This is the journal I bought, but they come in all different colors.)

You could probably find ‘true’ bullet journal-ers that will tell you that these are crap and they’re not ‘real bullet journals’, but whatevs….they’re just jealous because they spent $30 on a blank notebook.

The only negative thing I have discovered about my cheap bullet journal is that the pages are made out of ‘regular paper’. I imagine that ‘real bullet journals’ use thicker cardstock paper so that ink doesn’t bleed through to the other side of the page.

After I got started, I did have some issues with my pen bleeding through the page. However, since my bullet journal is about traveling anyways, I’m leaving every other spread blank and plan on adding pictures from our trips. So, it will be sort of like a travel journal.

Which pens are the best?

Umm….honestly, I have no clue. Every bullet journal blog that I looked at gave a different answer. And all of them were expensive. I am just using a fine point black pen that I picked up at Michaels for less than $3. Sorry, I’m not more helpful in this department.

Should I use color?


Or at least I am anyway 

I have seen layouts and lists in bullet journals that are done entirely in black and white and they are gorgeous. I was tempted to keep mine that way too, but after I got one of my lists wrote out in black and white, I was itching to add some color to it. And I am so glad that I did!

I think the spreads look so much more interesting after I add colorful little illustrations.

Bullet Journal travel layout with illustrations.

(A bullet journal travel layout that inspired me to add color to own bujo.)

What should I add color with?

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to adding color to your bullet journal. The images that are most likely to catch my attention are the ones that use watercolor 

Obviously, that would be a terrible choice for me, as I know nothing about painting and my bullet journal has thin paper. So, I chose to use colored pencils.

Markers and colored pens are other options, but since I was already having bleeding issues, colored pencils make the most sense for me.

Bullet journal with watercolor illustrations.

(I love the look of this watercolor art in this bullet journal from Kelly at Odyssey Art.)

How much will this cost?

I walked out of Michaels having spent less than $10! My husband was so proud!

The bullet journal was $5 and the pen was $2.65-ish. And that was all I needed to buy. I already had colored pencils and a ruler here at home.

I’m making this bullet journal with:

  • 1 cheap journal
  • a pencil
  • 1 fine point black pen
  • a box of colored pencils
  • a ruler

This proves that bullet journaling can be a cheap hobby. I’ve looked at several different blogs that recommended expensive journals, fancy pens, watercolors, high-end brushes, a ‘practice’ journal, calligraphy pens, etc.

If you have the money to put into it….go for it! But don’t think that you NEED all of those things to make a bullet journal, because you don’t.

Should I make the index first?


That’s a hard no! At least for this type of bullet journal.

I made an outline of what I wanted to put in my bullet journal in a Word Document. However, once I got started actually making the lists and writing them in the journal they ended up taking up more pages than I originally intended. I thought that my National Parks list would take up one spread (2 pages), but I was so wrong. It ended up being 2.5 spreads (5 pages), plus the blank pages that I left in between the spreads for pictures.

I recommend that you don’t write page numbers in your index until you are completely finished with that layout.

The Artist’s Loft notebook that I bought actually has a printed index grid at the beginning of the notebook.

Index for a bullet journal.

(This bullet journal index is neat as a pin!)

Where do I start? Where do I end?

There is no uniform answer to these questions. It all depends on you and what you want to put in your journal.

My bucket list bullet journal is unlike any that I’ve seen online. It’s not a schedule, a to-do list, or even a big ‘life bucket list’. It’s more like a travel bucket list, based on where I’m living at the time. This journal can be whatever I want it to be.

My bucket list bullet journal might seem random and useless to someone else. But for me, it’s inspirational and makes me want to get out of the house and explore. Even if it’s just look around the military town I’m living in. And that’s what I want it to be.

Make your bullet journal exactly what you want it to be. So that when you open it up, it makes you happy. It makes you want to get up and do something!

Here is a peek at my own bullet journal!

How to make your own travel journal out of a bullet journal.How to make your own bucket list bullet journal for travel.

How to Start a Bucket List Bullet Journal

How to Start a Bucket List Bullet Journal


  1. rasa
    January 26, 2021 / 12:41 pm

    I need to write a travel bucket list for my college assignment. How to do it?

    • findingmandee
      January 27, 2021 / 8:33 pm

      Start by writing down things that you’ve always wanted to see and places that you’ve always wanted to visit. You can look at Instagram and Pinterest for ideas if you get stuck.

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