Let’s Talk About Planners: Choosing a Planner – Bound Planners

One of my first entries on this blog was about how I was going to do my own DIY hPDA (hipster PDA) because I couldn’t find any planners that had everything I wanted and blah blah blah. The truth is… that endeavor fell on its face. Shortly after that I ordered a cute weekly planner from Buttoned.Up I didn’t use because the spaces were too small for me, then moved to a Franklin Covey I spent money on only to use it for three months and abandon.

In July, I tried to go back to digital planning. I downloaded apps. I built a system. It worked for less than two weeks. The biggest drawback for digital planning for me is that I work in a building with signal blockers installed for security purposes. It makes it impossible to update anything while at work. I simply couldn’t utilize it and gave up.

Then I found Facebook planner and Filofax groups and the possibilities became ENDLESS. There are possibly thousands of options out there: different brands, styles, sizes, and combinations. I’m well on my way to getting my planning in control and back on track, but there are plenty of people out there like me who are either new to planning or searching for the “perfect” system. It can be almost overwhelming at first. So I thought I’d try to help out by offering hints, tips, and suggestions on getting started and being successful with paper planning.

The goal of this series of entries will be to help you chose the planner that’s right for you and help you explore how to use a planner to get your life in control.

The first step, of course, will be to choose a planner. There are tons of different choices that go into picking a planner or planning system you want. First, we’ll need to identify whether a bound or unbound system will work best for you. Today’s entry will focus on bound planners: their pros and cons and a list of examples and where to buy them. Next week we’ll take a look at your unbound planner options.

Bound Planners

Bound planners are simply pages of calendars or pages bound like a book. Whether it’s a simple $5 Mead Academic planner or a $50 Erin Condren planner, there are a ton of options and a wide variety of price ranges out there. So what are the benefits?

  1. Simplicity. Bound planners do not require a printer, paper-cutter, hole punch, or large time investment. Because of this, they’re a great place to start if you’re not sure what you’re looking for or if you’re too busy to invest a lot of time in getting your planner “just right”.
  2. Price. Save for the “upper end” planners, bound planners tend to be less expensive than a fancy binder system. You could use a simple notebook or sketchbook and draw your own calendars. You can simply use a list system like Bullet Journal. Bound planners and notebooks are available practically everywhere from the Dollar Tree to upscale book sellers to online stores.
  3. Variety. The great thing about bound planners is you can find them in all different styles: monthly, weekly, daily, or combinations; dated or undated;  full of color or nice and simple; traditional or even innovative planning systems. Depending on your price-point and what you’re looking for, you may be able to find one or combine a couple of planners inexpensively to get everything you need.
  4. Portability. Depending on their size, bound planners tend to weigh less than heavier binder systems which means they can be great for offices on the go, for mothers who already carry too much in their bags, or even for men who want a system they can tuck into their jeans or shirt pocket.

But bound planners aren’t perfect. They have quite a few down sides as well.

  1. Inflexibility. This is the biggest complaint with bound planners. It is rare for a store-bought planner to have everything you need. With a binder system, that’s okay. You can find or make your own inserts to print or order inserts from various companies. It’s difficult to add to a bound planner. You can use sticky notes or for spiral bound planners you can use a single hole punch and hobby knife to create sheets which can be clipped in. You could also use multiple notebooks or planners, but for me that would get frustrating and confusing.
  2. Price. I know, I know; this is both a pro and a con. Depending on your – for your bound planner, there’s a real possibility you’ll end up spending more on buying a new planner each year than it would cost for you to invest in a good binder system and change out the inserts over time. There are some people who are okay with that, simply for the convenience, and others who like variety enough that they can’t stick to a single style of planner! Needs and wants for planners change… which could lead to multiple purchases of planners in a year…. which means even more money spent.
  3. Durability. This is a bigger issue for those of you who (like me) carry your planner with you. Have you ever thrown a spiral bound notebook into your bag and carried it with you for a year? Pages get ripped. Spirals bend, leaving you to struggle with turning pages. Covers become ragged. Even for perfect bound and staple bound planners durability can be an issue. If the glue they used to bind doesn’t hold up, pages can fall out. Though this can happen in a binder system, it’s less of a crisis. Put on some washi tape or hole reinforcements, repunch if necessary, and keep on keepin’ on

So now that you know the pros and cons, let’s look at some of the huge variety of planners. I’m going to be linking to sources for them online. Please realize, as of now, I have no sponsors and am receiving no referral credit for any of these links. These are simply for informational purposes only. Many of these are the most popular bound planners I’ve seen referenced in my Facebook groups, and some of them are lesser known, but just as nice as the most popular. Take some time to look around. There’s a huge variety out there.

  • Mead/DayRunner/At-A-Glance/Five Star – Owned by the same parent company, DayRunner.com has all of these available. When I was in school, I was a HUGE fan of Mead or Five Star Academic Planners. I had one nearly every year of high school and college.
  • Blue Sky Planners – Once I moved out of my Mead planner, I went to Blue Sky, next. I was attracted to their color schemes, their cheerful designs, and the fact that their calendars were still just as simple as Mead’s.
  • Moleskine Planners – Best known as the notebook of artists and writers, Moleskine has branched out from their simple sketchbooks and journals to include a planner line. At a slightly higher price-point than the previous choices, I think Moleskines are worth it. Their paper quality is excellent, and they offer simple, modern designs.
  • Franklin Covey – Usually known for their binder systems, Franklin Covey offers a line of wire-bound and perfect bound planners which can be used with or without their leather covers. Usually, they are the same style as their binder inserts and could be a way for you to test their system without a large output.
  • Day-Timer – Like Franklin Covey, Day-Timer is a planner supplier which is normally known for their binder system, but which also offers it in wire-bound format.
  • May Books – Customizable notebooks and planners. May Books offers personalization at a cost most people can afford. Choose your cover, add your monogram or name, and get a slim notebook that’s both portable and designed specifically for you.
  • Plum Paper – More expensive than May Books, Plum Paper offers a ton of customization options – from the cover to a personalized inside that can even start with the EXACT month you need. Their price point is between $30 and $40, so they are definitely an investment. The people who have one LOVE it, though.
  • Buttoned.Up – A great organizational resource, Buttoned.Up offers printables and tons of organizational products. I was first introduced to them when I stumbled upon the line in my Target. It seems Target has stopped carrying it, but I did find them online. In fact, the planner I referenced in the first paragraph as “too small” is one of their classic collection. Though it was too small for me, it could be PERFECT for you, and you can still find it (with an incredible discount) here. They are also now offering a more customized planner line available here.
  • Erin Condren Life Planner – I have one of these and I absolutely love the design. In fact, many people do! It comes so close to having it all, and it’s in a beautiful, personalized package. The paper quality is fantastic and because of the attention to detail the company pays, it’s much more durable than your average bound planner. Laminated covers, pages laminated at the spiral, and laminated tabs add to that durability. However, it also adds to the cost and the major set back to these planners is a prince-point of $50 and up!

These are the most traditional bound planners. If you’re looking for something a little less traditional, you should check out the following:

  • Uncalendar – Available in bound and unbound versions, the Uncalendar plays by no rules! 90% of the Uncalendar is unlabeled, uncluttered, and uncomplicated. You can choose what to put where and what works for you. If you’re tired of search for pages that have it all and not finding them, this might help!
  • Planner Pad – Another option available in bound and unbound versions, the Planner Pad is fantastic for those who love lists and who have multiple roles to fill or projects to work on. It allows you to take all those to do lists, drill them down to what needs to be accomplished this week, and schedule them around appointments or deadlines you may have.
  • iBloom – There’s a trend here! The iBloom is available in both bound and unbound versions. Aimed toward women, iBloom reminds me a lot of the Planner Pad format, with additional resources for goal planning and healthy living.

And there’s one more style of bound planner I’d like to share: Asian-style planners. Most Asian planners are a bit different from planners offered here in the US. There is more room for notes, decorations, and doodles, and they are usually undated. As is the international standard, most of these planners have weeks that start on Monday. There are lost of resources for these planners online: eBay, Etsy, J-Box, and other Asian cultural stores. On eBay or Etsy you can usually find them by searching for “Korean” or “Japanese” “planners”, “diaries”, or “schedulers”. Check out two sources for them below:

  • Mochithings.com – One of the largest sources of this style planner, Mochithings is great for seeing what’s out there due to the number of pictures they offer with their products. One warning, it is seriously easy to get lost on this website!
  • Hobonichi Planner – A little different from most bound planners, Hobonichi planners are direct from Japan and were specifically adapted for an American/International audience. These are day-per-page planners utilize grip paper and include quotes and even Japanese cultural information. They can be used with or without covers.

What do you think? Overwhelmed yet? Do you like the options of bound planners or do none of them strike your fancy? Have you used a bound planner before? If so, what did you like about it? What drove you crazy? Leave me some comments and let’s try to figure out what will work best for you.



7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Planners: Choosing a Planner – Bound Planners

  1. I’ve used a “Birds and Blooms” planner for years. It sits opened on one of the kitchen counters, and everyone passes by it. Everything gets written in there, and then yellow highlighted when done. I love it because of the beautiful pictures, but it also has other info that is especially of use to gardeners – which I am.

    • Sounds like an awesome planner for you. There are tons of specialty planners out there like this, as well. There are devotional planners for all faiths, planners for geeks (like the awesome Doctor Who planner I’ve been looking at), and planners for just about every hobby. There are a few of the ladies in my planner groups on Facebook which have printed or customized gardening pages for their unbound planners as reference, as well.

      For any of my readers who are also gardeners/birding enthusiasts, I’ve found where you can purchase the Birds & Blooms Planner online: http://www.shoptasteofhome.com/new-items/birds-blooms-daily-planner-2014.html

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