Three Tips for Choosing a Planner

Planning is becoming something that is very mainstream, every where you turn around there is a new planner coming out.  Even scrap booking companies are getting in on the planning game.  Because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of planners to choose from it becomes important to realize that not every person fits every planner.
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A little bit ago I got an email from someone asking what planner I'd recommend, and my response was long.  But the gist of it was decide what is right for you.  Today I want to share with you three tips on choosing a planner that I think can help immensely when it comes be being satisfied with your planner.  If you're new to planning or just trying to find planner peace in the new year, here are some tips:

Make a List

Before you even reach for the first planner you see, you should sit down and make a list of what you need your planner for.  Do you have kids?  Are you juggling their schedules as well?  Are you constantly in meetings or traveling?  Do you own a business?  Are you going to need to juggle both your personal and business life?  Are you dealing with anything medical related?  Will you be budgeting and keeping track of your fiancees?  Are you planning for yourself or for you and your partner?  Are you planning for a family of 3? A family of 7?
A5 size Filofax is nearly equivalent to half letter size.  On the left is an A5 Filofax and on the right is a half size binder from Target

Obviously everyone's answers will be different.  Someone who has 4 kids, a business, and needs to keep track of their spouses nights off from being (I dunno) a firefighter is going to need a much different planner than a twenty something starting their career and juggling book club and community involvement.  You can see that this list will be very helpful for you!  The list will determine the size you might need as well as whether you'd like to have a customizable system (where you can take pages in and out) or if you'd like a more standardized option.

Choose your style and size

There are a few common styles of planners - ring bound, spiral bound, arc bound, and those that are bound like a traditional book.  I'm not going to mention the latter because, honestly, these have never worked for me.  There are also tons of sizes.  You can get an A5 size (slightly larger than a half sheet of standard printer paper), a personal size (about a quarter the size of the A5), the Erin Condren planner is 7.5 x 9.25 inches, there are smaller planners like those from big box stores like Walmart.  The sizing is endless.
Erin Condren Life Planner on the left and undated MAMBI Happy Planner on the right.  ECLP is spiral bound and MAMBI is disc bound.

A ring bound planner - like the Filofax or Kikki K - is going to be more customizable.  You can create different sections, move pages around, change things up on a whim.  Because it has a binding like a three ring binder, you can be more creative.  Often this style of binder will have an elastic, zip, or snap closure.  You may choose a personal size (or medium size if you're ordering a Kikki K planner) for portability, but you will be limited on space to write.  You may choose the A5 size (or large size if you're ordering a Kikki K) because of the space you'll have to write.  While that size is still portable, it is less compact.  Then you can get even smaller in the Filofax world - Compact which is smaller than a personal size but fits the same size pages, and Pocket size which is so small often others us this as a wallet.
Vertical layout comparison between the ECLP on the left and the MAMBI on the right

A spiral bound planner will offer more structure.  Pre-made spiral bound planners like the Erin Condren, Plum Paper, and Inkwell press offer a set class of sections.  You won't be able to change things around or add things in easily.  You can't up and decide you want to move something from the front to the back because the inserts or guts of the planner are pre coiled together.  This might be better if you feel you can make a planner work for you.  If you find that store bought planners tend to help you out with out the customization then this style might be right for you.  I'd suggest researching the insides of each planner to see which style of spiral bound will work for you.

Disc bound planners are a blend between the two.  While this arc system is an investment up front - you have to purchase a punch that will accommodate the unique binding style while a ring bound planner offers the ability to use a $1 single hole punch to get your stuff done.  It is harder to add things to the planner (investment in the punch) but it is possible.  You get the benefit of the ring bound planner in the style of a spiral bound.  The arc system can get a little bit bulky but this system is used in a variety of sizes.
UPDATE - there's a couple of new things in town : a horizontal layout in the classic size of the Happy Planner and a Mini Happy Planner.  The Mini Happy Planner is my current favorite planner and the one I've been using for quite a while.  The minis are great because you've got the portability of the smaller size and the flexibility of the discs!  You can flip these guys back around like a notebook and remove pages!

So based on the list of needs you have for using a planner, this will determine the style and the size you may need.

Test it Out

There is no need to spend the big bucks up front on something you're not sure you will like.  I suggest starting out with something equally similar to see if you like the system you've decided on.

If you're thinking about a ring bound option - the Filofax or Kikki K - why not try out a small, half size three ring binder first?  Target has some freaking cute ones but you can also pick some up at places like Office Max and Staples.  Avery makes some great inserts for small binders but you can also find half size (or desktop sized) printables on places like pinterest and even here on the blog.  When I first started planning, I used a half sized three ring binder to see if I really wanted to do this.  and I really liked it.
Webster's Pages Color Crush planner on the left and the personal sized Filofax on the right.

If you're thinking that the half size binder might still be too big, I suggest seeing if you can get your hands on a personal size Webster's Pages Color Crush planner.  It is one of the most affordable six ring planners out there.  The personal size planners have HUGE rings!  You can stuff these full.  I loved my Color Crush because it was so small yet I could fit everything I was using from my A5 in there.  If you're thinking that you may not like a Color Crush (they do have some flaws) another affordable option is the Filofax Saffiano.  This is the most affordable (I believe) of the Filofax brand and if you move down to the personal size, you're gonna find it even more affordable.

If you're thinking you might want to start off in something like the Erin Condren Life Planner, why not try the Classic Happy Planner The HP is a disc bound system while the ECLP is spiral bound but the inserts are set up quite the same.  They each have three daily sections - morning, afternoon, evening - but you can use them for whatever divisions you'd like.  Another key difference is that with the HP you can add bigger discs and add in different sections.  You can pull things out, add things in, etc - where as the ECLP you can't easily do this.  However, these are total dupes of each other so before you drop the big bucks on the ECLP try out the HP and use a coupon at your local Michael's, Hobby Lobby's, etc.  (I even found them at my Meijer!)

Of course you can also try out planning in general in any planner.  If you're just looking for super cute ones, Target has so many it's ridiculous.  You may have heard of the Day Designer, but they also have some cute neon ones (I found them in the craft section of my Target) and some generic ones in the notebook aisle.   If you're lucky, you might even be able to find the Heidi Swapp planners at your local Michael's.

If you'd like to read more on how I found my current planning style, read my planner journey here and the reasons I switched to vertical style inserts here.

How did you decide on your planning style?  What was your first planner?

xoxo, Moe


  1. Very nice post! Very informative! I agree with your ARC system summary. I wish that punch wasn't so expensive! I have yet to see a smaller and more portable one, like you get with 3-ring and or the other planner systems.

  2. Thank you! I've been planning for a while, but it just seems like I can't just stick with one planner, but don't need multiple, so I end up having half used planners and starting new ones. This will help me.


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