Planning on a Budget: Choosing the Perfect Planner

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Is your New Year's Resolution this year to get better organized? Mine is! If so, today is the perfect day to start using a personal planner.

Keeping a planner or journal is a great way to help you stay right on track in 2018. Cue the Breakfast Club. But if you are not careful, it can quickly become a giant money pit. I know from experience!

Over the next two weeks, I'll offer a few suggestions on how to choose a planner, stock your supplies, and find freebies all while spending only what your budget will allow, which for me is very little.

Types of Planners

There are a lot of different types of planners out there: Erin Condren, The Happy Planner, Emily Ley, Moleskine, Hobonichi, Recollections, Passion Planner, Heidi Swapp . . .  The list can go on and on. 

And what is crazy is some of these planners are selling for well over $50! 

Just for the planner! 

I think that is nuts, especially if you are new to using a planner or are on a fixed budget. So, I've narrowed it down to the top two types of planners that would be a perfect choice for the beginner or budget-friendly planner. 

Discbound/ARC

The discbound planners are some of the most available planners on the market. They are everywhere! What makes these planners unique is they use a sequence of discs to keep the pages bound together, instead of a three ring binder or spiral notebook. The discs also allow you to easily customize your planner since the punched pages pop right in and out of the discs very easily.

1. THE HAPPY PLANNER

The most well-known discbound planner, I think, is The Happy Planner from Me and My Big Ideas (MAMBI). You can find them in a variety of stores, like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and Staples. They are also available online on the MAMBI website.

Style

There are several styles of The Happy Planner available:

  • Dated or undated pages
  • Vertical or horizontal pages
  • 12 months or 18 months
  • Lots of cute and fun cover designs

I suggest you check out the MAMBI website for all of the styles or flip through them while you are in the store. They are quite different from one another.

Sizes/Prices

  • Mini (5.125" x 7.5" / $19.99)
  • Medium / Classic ( 8.5" x 9.75" / $24.99)
  • Big (11.5" x 10.25" / $29.99)

Pros/Cons

Pros
  • Monthly and weekly calendars are included in the planner.
  • 12 dividers included, one for every month.
  • The planner lays flat and can be turned like a spiral notebook.
  • The prices are very reasonable, especially when you use a coupon.
  • Easy to add or remove pages.

Cons
  • The planners can be a bit bulky, especially the larger planners.
  • The more you add and remove the pages the more worn the punched holes can get, and they tend to bend. 
  • If you are not into cutesy & girly designs this planner might not be for you.
  • The covers are laminated and bit flimsy.
  • There are no pockets, stickers, or pen holders included.

Money Saving Tip

These planners are almost always on sale. Michaels and Hobby Lobby offer 40%-50% coupons weekly, so if they aren't on sale just use a coupon. Michaels also accepts competitor's coupons, so you can wait for a 55% AC Moore coupon to save a little more money!

2. ARC CUSTOMIZABLE NOTEBOOK/MARTHA STEWART

Staples also carries their own line of discbound planners, the ARC customizable notebook in a variety of colors and sizes. They also carry Martha Stewart's discbound planner in two sizes (junior and letter) and three colors: blue, gray, and persimmon.

Style

The ARC Notebooks are similar to The Happy Planners, but the one noticeable difference is they have a solid colored leather cover instead of a flimsy plastic laminated cover making them look a little bit more professional.

Sizes/Prices

ARC Notebooks
  • Small (6.75" x 8.75" / $16.99)
  • Large (9.5" x 11.5" / $22.99) 

Martha Stewart
  • Junior (6.5" x 9" / $17.99)
  • Letter (8.5" x 11" / $24.99)


Pros/Cons

Pros
  • The front cover has an interior pocket with business card holders.
  • One pen holder is included.
  • The planner lays flat and can be turned like a spiral notebook.
  • Easy to add or remove pages.

Cons
  • No calendars are included in the planner, only 60 pages of lined paper.
  • The planner gets bulky the more pages you add and you might need to change to larger discs to hold all of your pages. 
  • The more you add and remove the pages the more worn the punched holes can get, and they tend to bend. 
  • The cover is hard and the planner can get heavy the more pages you add.

Money Saving Tip

You will need to buy additional items if you want to use your planner as a calendar. Staples offers coupons throughout the year, including a really awesome $10 off a $10 purchase coupon. The ARC items go on sale from time to time, but I'm not sure if the Martha Stewart planner items go on sale. You can also use ARC items in Martha Stewart planners and vice versa, which is really nice!

Where Can You Buy Discbound Planners? 


Spiralbound 


I am a huge fan of the spiralbound planner. I really like how easy the pages turn in a spiral notebook, but it is not as easy to add and remove pages. If that isn't an issue for you, this is a great choice for an inexpensive first planner.


1. RECOLLECTIONS PLANNER

This is Michaels' planner and is only available at Michaels. There was talk that Michaels was sued last year by Erin Condren because it is a cheaper version of her planner. I've never seen her planner & don't know if this is true, but the planners are back this year so. . .

Style

There are several styles of The Recollections Planner available:

  • Dated or undated pages
  • Vertical or horizontal pages
  • 12 months or 18 months
  • Lots of cute and fun cover designs

Again, I suggest you check out the Michaels website for all of the styles or flip through them while you are in the store. They are a lot of different layouts and styles in both the mini and medium planners.

Sizes/Prices

  • Mini (5.13" x 7.14" / $14.99)
  • Medium ( 7.5" x 9.25" / $29.99)

Pros/Cons

Pros
  • Monthly and weekly calendars are included in the planner.
  • 12 dividers included, one for every month.
  • Extra pages are included: 2019 calendar, Important Dates, lined pages, blank pages, and graph paper.
  • The planner lays flat and can be turned like a spiral notebook.
  • The prices are very reasonable, especially when you use a coupon.

Cons
  • The planners can be large and bulky, especially the 18 month planners in your purse or bag.
  • The covers are laminated and bit flimsy. 
  • My biggest pet peeve, which is in no way Michaels' fault, is morons people pulling the covers off and switching them to the interior they want and leaving a bunch of broken planners. My Michaels had an entire display with broken planners. Such a shame! 
  • If you are not into cutesy & girly designs, this planner might not be for you.

Money Saving Tip

I think the medium planner gives you the most for your money. It comes with a pocket folder, a see-through zip pocket, and 373 stickers. You can't beat that!

These planners are also almost always on sale. Michaels offers 40%-50% coupons weekly, so if they aren't on sale just use a coupon. And, sometimes, Michaels includes a coupon for an extra 15%-20% off sale prices. If you time it right, you can get your planner at 70% off! That is how I got mine. :)

2. EMBRACE TODAY PLANNER

I have never used this spiralbound planner, but it is a great deal and has good reviews from Hobby Lobby.

Style

There is only one style available that I can see. It is an 18 month, undated, horizontal, medium planner with a flower cover.

Sizes/Prices

Only one size/price available: 7.5" x 8.5" / $19.99


Pros/Cons

Pros
  • The front cover has an interior pocket and a sheet of stickers.
  • 18 dividers included, one for every month.
  • The planner lays flat and can be turned like a spiral notebook.
  • The price is very reasonable, especially when you use your 40% Hobby Lobby coupon.

Cons
  • The planner can be large and bulky, especially an 18 month planner, to keep in your purse or bag.
  • There is only one planner you can choose. 
  • No pen holder is included.

Money Saving Tip

Be sure to use your 40% off Hobby Lobby coupon to save!

Where Can You Buy Spiralbound Planners? 


Which Planners Do I Use? 



I am currently using three planners: Martha Stewart, Junior Size, Blue, Recollections planner, mini It is Well With My Soul, and Kate Spade Agenda, medium Scatter Dot.

Why am I using 3 planners? Well, I use my Martha Stewart planner as my blogging planner and my Bible study (I'm reading the New Testament in 2018) / prayer journal, my mini Recollections planner for my daily and monthly things and I keep it in my purse, and my Kate Spade agenda for everything I can and I keep it on my desk next to my computer.

You might find you need more than one planner for different things, like I do. Or, you might be able to fit everything into one planner, which would be ideal! I would try one for now and see if you need a second or third one later on.


Bottom Line 

The bottom line is, take a look at all of the planners out there. I only discussed two types of planners, but there are a ton of other planners on the market. If these don't appeal to you, check out some of the others.

And don't feel bad if you want a more expensive planner. If you have the money or if there is one planner you just have to have, go for it! I love my Kate Spade planner. It wasn't overly expensive, but more than I really wanted to spend. Plus, I got it a week before I was laid off from my job of 12 years. But, I love it!

Check back next Tuesday for my follow up post in my Planning on a Budget series: Gathering your Planner Supplies.



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