A Guide for Making Your Own Custom Planner or Bullet Journal

custom planner

In the original bullet journal system, Ryder Carroll introduced a running log method that keeps track of your to-dos, events, and note items with just a pen and paper. The bullet journal notebook is supposed to be the only notebook you need to keep your life straight. The system is so incredibly simple, yet effective, and it has become wildly popular.

After using the bullet journal system in its original form for several weeks, I found that I need more structure in my planner. I need to be able to glance over the whole week and see what I need to do. I need a space to track my personal goals. I need a monthly calendar to jot down my major appointments and plans. I imagine a lot of people share the same pain, because many people have posted their hand-drawn weekly and monthly spreads which deviates from the original bullet journal form.

To help address this need, I created my own bullet journal system. It’s an agenda / bullet journal hybrid! I use a Filofax (a ring-bound planner) to host my bullet journal pages and custom agenda pages, instead of a bound notebook such as Leuchtturm1917. I like how this system offers so much more flexibility!

Why Create Your Own?

Although creating your own journal can take a little bit of work, it’s a time saver in the long run, because of the following reasons.

  1. You will save the time spent drawing the same spread over and over. Once you find the spread you love, you can print them out in unlimited quantity and use them over and over without the need to redraw.
  2. The consistent structure will help you stick to your planning routine.
  3. Migration to a new notebook is super easy. Imagine the situation where you keep a collection of your most important contacts on the bullet journal and you often need to refer to it. With bound notebooks, when your old notebook runs out, you have to copy the whole list into the new notebook. For a ring-bound or disc-bound planner, you never need to migrate manually, the pages you need can be kept in your planner permanently.
  4. When a page is messed up, you can just take it out and discard. With bound notebook, I would be super tempted to tear off the page I messed up, but I know that will destroy my notebook over time. With a ring-bound planner, I can just take off the messed up pages easily.
  5. Things will never be out of order. When I start a collection, I do not know how long that collection would be, so it’s hard to guess how many pages I should reserve. For example, I started a Christmas gift list in early November with the intention to keep filling it in the following 6 weeks, so I reserve 2 pages for it and continue using the following pages. In early December, I might find out that I have used up the two reserved pages. With a bound notebook, I would have to continue my gift list in a separate page far away from the first 2 pages, but with ring-bound system, I can just add another page right after the first two and keep my collection neatly in order.

What You Will Need

Hopefully you are convinced that making your own custom bullet journal is the way to planner peace! Great! Here are some supplies I recommend getting …

1. A ring-bound planner

When you start looking into ring-bound planners, you might be overwhelmed by the choices and it’s probably difficult to choose one. The topic of choosing ring-bound planners deserves its own blog post, but to preserve your sanity, I am going to give you a few options based on a few rules of thumb. If you plan to print your own inserts (which is an awesome decision!), I recommend getting a ring-bound planner that fit A5 papers, (the size of paper that is similar to half a US Letter paper sheet). This is because you can get cheap A5 papers from many stores. This will allow you to print, print, and print lifetime supplies of inserts really quickly. Here are two incredible options.

A. If you love leather planner and the cost is the biggest concern for you, or you just wonder what’s the cheapest way to try out a leather ring-bound planner, I recommend getting a Filofax Domino ($36) or Color Crush A5 ($37). These are well-known brands. I personally own a Filofax Domino and love it! It lays flat and has plenty of spaces to host my desk journal. It is possible to get cheaper ring-bound planner from AliExpress ($22), but the quality might be a bit compromised.

 

 

B. Most people love to bullet journal in Leuchtturm1917 because of how small and portable they are. If portability is important to you, then you should consider the following options. Filofax has a relatively small ring-bound notebook called Filofax Clipbook ($25). These are plastic ring-binder though, not leather. I have read so many good reviews about it so this is now in on my most wanted list! If you absolutely want leather planner, another fantastic option the Filofax Heritage ($109). This leather ring binder is small compared to most others. The price is a bit high, but if you want to invest in a good planner that will last you a long time, this is it!

 

 

Note that if portability is very important to you, you may consider getting a Personal size ring-bound planner. I have a Filofax Saffiano Compact, which I simply load with a ton of high-quality personal size grid inserts. I love this combo and have used it as my bullet journal for a long time. The only downside is with the smaller paper size, you can’t really draw fun layouts and insert printing is more troublesome for a personal size planner. If you don’t plan to print your own inserts, then this might be another great option!

2. Printing papers

After selecting your ring-bound planner, you are one step closer to holding your very own custom planner! The next thing you need is a good pack of A5 papers. If you are a paper junkie and want your journal to be flawless, no bleed-through, no ghosting (dang, you are a premium type of girl!), please do invest your lovely money in 32lb Bond A5 papers. As far as I know, there’s no place to get it offline, so on Amazon you go. This will make you feel like petting your princess planners every single day.

If you are more down-to-earth, you probably don’t mind a bit of ghosting here and there (maybe, you see it as the beauty of natural substances). Great! You may then buy regular A5 papers (24lb). Then you will be all set!

500 sheets of A5 papers will cost you around $20, that’s 3.8 cents per sheet, aka. crazily good deal in my book!

You may ask ‘where can I get A5 dot grid papers’ that are pre-printed and pre-punched. Trust me I flipped the whole internet and searched for it, and I couldn’t find one! I mean Amazon has a few options, but they are either too thin or the dots are not printed the right size. Some people resorted to buying a dot grid journal and cut and punch the papers. I think you are better off buying some loose leaf papers and printing dot grid pdf file on them. Cheaper and less time wasting!

3. Paper Puncher

This one is simple. I got an industrial 6 hole punch from Amazon about two years ago and never regretted. This one punch will handle all your insert punching no matter what ring-bound planner sizes you use, due to its adjustable punch positions. I have no complaints whatsoever. My punch has stayed strong for years of heavy punching. Beautiful product!

4. Printer

I assume this is a regular household item, but if you don’t have any printer, please do read on; otherwise skip ahead to Item 5. I used to work at a helpdesk call center; I know about office electronic junks!

First of all, you want a printer that can take A5 papers, luckily most printers do this, check check! Another neat feature to have is AirPrint, so you can print right from your laptop or wireless devices. You will appreciate this feature when you are busy journaling at one corner of the house and feel too lazy to lift your cute behind and walk to the printer to print your inserts. Trust me this happens too many times in my life! Also, you want to consider printers with good cost per page. Be aware that some printers are super cheap, but cost blood and tears when you try to get extra ink! This industry is notorious for ripping people off in this way. So avoid printers that are too cheap (especially the $20 printers calling for your wallet at Walmart).

I have made those mistakes, so to save you, I did an extensive research on various places to find printers that meet all the mentioned criteria. I found great two printers around $50 range to recommend.

HP Envy 4500 Series ($60) – This one was named “the best inkjet printer” in many tech blogs and also number one best seller on Amazon. One strength of this printer is HP’s Instant Ink program, which asked you to pay small monthly fee (minimum $3) to have ink cartridges delivered to your home whenever it runs out. If you trust tech guys, go for this one.

 

Canon MG5720 ($45) – I’ve heard many good things about this printer. It’s been raved about by many Etsy shop owners. The quality of the color is just the best in the market. Another neat feature of this printer is auto-deplex. What is auto-duplex? It refers to those genius printers that can flip your paper and print both sides automatically. If you are lazy (like me), you will love this feature! However, ink cost might not be as good as HP. If you plan to print some stickers as well and you love the vivid colors of Etsy planner stickers, you will pick this one!

 

5. Printable designs

If you prefer to draw all of your layouts, you really do not need to buy any printable designs other than a one-dollar dot grid PDF to print on hundreds and hundreds of your journal pages (you can get that from my shop here). Also, you can subscribe to my blog and get some free printables to get started (subscription form is in the sidebar).

If you feel like a little bit of printable goodies would make your setup come together much faster, please do visit my shop for some great printables. I designed these products very carefully in order to create a delightful planning experience. I enjoy using them myself and hope it’s joyful for you to use as well! My store has a Satisfaction Guarantee, so if you’re unsure if printables suit your needs but want to try them out, no problem.

6. Accessories

The rest is up to you! In the world of ring-bound planners, there are plenty of neat accessories out there, such as ziplock pouch, sticker tabs, or cute dividers. I also enjoy using stickers in my planner! So many fun choices!

Some Bullet Journal Pages to Get Your Started

I hope you have fun reading this post! Before I go, I want to just show a gallery of my custom bullet journal pages, just for inspiration. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to leave them in the comments and I will come to rescue! See ya next post!