thank you so much to everyone for your advice and links. You're all so helpful and welcoming - and creative!
I'll definitely buy the Signo pen and Stickles glitter - it really helps to know which products are worth investing in when the budget is so restricted. I used to spend whatever I wanted on craft supplies, but now I'm a single mom so I'm watching the pennies on new purchases.
I'm going to take some time this week to practice with the alphabet stamps and see if I can get a better result.
It's interesting that white ink pads seem to be disappointing. I'll have to think about whether it's important enough to my pages to try embossing. I was going to do a whole book using just a black, white and red theme, but then when it came time to prepare the art journal, it seemed very repetitive for 24 pages to be only 3 colors, so I just did a "chapter" in that theme and the rest is multicolor.
Thanks again for everyone's help. I'm sure I'll be back needing more advice. Hope everyone has a great week, full of creativity and achievement.