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The big planner comparison post – which should you get for 2019?

I’m aware that we’ve still got four months left of 2018.

However, in the planner world it’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s planner! Prompted by the release of the 2019 Hobonichis (yes, I’ve placed an order) I thought it would be good to do an overview of some of the main planners out there. I’ve probably tried most of the ‘main’ ones now and while I’ve figured out what works for me, you may still be on the fence.

I’m going to be looking at the main ‘types’ of planner; rings, strings, coil, discs, bound and within each of them talk about the main brand of each of those types. I’ll also mention others that are available. This post will mainly be about my experience with each of these planners, but I will pop some pros and cons at the end of each section, to help you weigh up your choices.

Rings | Filofax

I had to start with what I consider to be the original. Founded in 1921 these ringed organisers are high quality, beautiful and come in styles to suit almost everyone.

I started my Filofax journey with a bright pink Original

The set up of the Original suits me perfectly, as I’m not one to need lots of pockets. I’m all about function. I now own three personal Filofaxes and one A5. Filofaxes are very classically styled and will never go out of fashion. I know I’ll still be reaching for them in years to come.

Filofaxes and ringed planners in general are perfect for those who like to switch up whats in their planner. You have complete freedom to put whatever you want in these. There’s lots of inserts out there to purchase, but it’s also very easy to make your own for complete flexibility. Even if you’re using the Filofax as a bullet journal, you can just buy some dot grid paper and pop it in there to use. There’s also lots of opportunities to really personalise your ringed planner. From filling the pockets with die cuts and paper clips, to creating your own dividers (as I’ve done in the above picture) you can really make these reflect your personality.

Franklin Covey is a popular US brand for ringed organisers though the ring set up is different to the Filofax. These have seven rings rather than six, so I’ve never tried it personally. One alternative brand I have tried is Kikki K. Despite also being leather, these planners are cheaper than Filofaxes. They also have larger rings, meaning you can stuff loads into them. I’ve owned a few of these over the years and still own an A5 sized one (called large, in Kikki K world). However, if you want a sturdy feeling planner a Kikki K probably isn’t for you. My last ones just felt a lot lighter and flimsy than my Filofaxes. However, if you do change up your planner frequently and want designs a little more trend driven, then Kikki K is for you.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Thanks to the ring system, you can change out pages and sections anytime you want
  • Lots of insert choices available both on the high street and online
  • Easy to make your own inserts for complete flexibility
  • Large choice of UK based stockists of ringed planners
  • Non-leather options available

Cons:

  • Rings can get in the way when using the planner meaning it’s sometimes easier to remove the pages before writing which can get tiresome
  • Can get expensive, particularly if you want to change the colour every year
  • The rings can be faulty and care needs to be taken not to mistreat them
  • These planners can get bulky and heavy which isn’t ideal if you want to carry it around

Strings | Travelers Notebook

Rings and strings has a great little ring to it. Rings recently seemed to fall out of favour and were replaced by strings. I’ve owned a couple of strings over the years with my first being my Traveler’s Company Notebook

You’ll also hear these being referred to as Midori’s. Midori refers to the paper that comes in their inserts. These leather notebook covers are beautiful. They just get better with age too. What started as a simple notebook has now evolved into whole planning systems for some people. Just like with the Filofaxes, there is now a wealth of booklets available to use in your TN. Making your own is trickier to do, but is possible. This planning system therefore gives you a similar amount of flexibility as the Filofax.

There’s now loads of sellers making both leather and non leather TNs. Meadowgate Leather and Lyra & Co are two I’ve used previously. Foxy Fix in the US has a massive following and if it weren’t for the threat of customs and high postage, I probably would have bought one myself. There’s also a massive range of sizes available, from micro to A5.

Sadly though, I just can’t get along with TNs. I’ve tried many times but I see no reason to pick one of these over my Filofax. I hate that due to the strings, nothing really feels secure in a TN and every time I’ve tried to use dashboards in them, they just move around and irritate me. Laying flat is also an issue for me. Part of the reason I love the Original Filofaxes so much is because they lay flat. I’ve never had a TN notebook lay flat without lots of clips holding it down. That’s just too much messing around for me, particularly if I just need to make a quick note in my planner.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Due to the strings and booklet system, you can freely move things around in these whenever you want
  • Lots of insert choices available online
  • Making your own inserts is possible
  • Many UK based suppliers
  • Non-leather options available
  • Less bulky than a Filofax, so a better option for on the go planning
  • Huge covers (that hold ten inserts) available meaning you could build a large planner that holds everything

Cons:

  • Booklets don’t always lay flat, meaning you’ll need to use clips to keep it flat
  • Not as many pocket options inside the covers are available
  • Elastic closures aren’t for everyone
  • Less ‘off the shelf’ versions available, so generally a higher price point due to the handmade nature

Coil | Erin Condren

Ah, my least favourite planner! It’s probably the most popular planner in America, but I’ve never been able to figure out the appeal. I bought one once, used it for a few weeks and went back to my Filofax. 

I found the paper very thin, I didn’t like the day being split into three, and I thought it was too big for my needs.

Back when I bought this I also wasn’t really into decorative planning too much. Even now, I can’t imagine dropping £10 on a weekly kit to make this look pretty. Now I know you don’t have to do that with an Erin Condren and I know lots of people who don’t. However, using this planner I just felt that if I didn’t cover it in stickers I’d have lots of white space and I wouldn’t like it. Perhaps if I’d tried the horizontal version, I might have felt differently.

However, this is a popular planner for a reason. For those with busy weeks or kids to keep track of the size of this is probably perfect. The way that the days are segmented into three means you can split out your days and have complete flexibility in how to do that. The sidebar on the left is also perfect for the weekly tasks and goals. It’s also the perfect location for habit trackers if that’s your thing. However, because of the coil there is no flexibility to add or change anything about this planner other than the cover. You can get monthly views and weekly views but there’s very few notes pages so you’d struggle to use this as an all in one planner (in my opinion). However, if all you want is a planner to track your appointments and tasks then this would work for you.

Other coil planners that have been on my radar have been Inkwell Press and Plum Paper Planner. Both are a similar size to the Erin Condren, but their layouts appealed to me more. I would have bought an Inkwell Press but between them making it difficult for International customers and the threat of customs I changed my mind.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Flexibility of covers means you can update the outside of this planner very easily
  • Lots of space in both the monthly and weekly views
  • Huge choice of planner stickers available for the Erin Condren
  • Can be uncoiled, punched and put in an A5 ring bound system

Cons:

  • Coil gets in the way when writing near to it
  • Can’t move or change any of the pages
  • Comes from the US, so can get expensive
  • At around A5 size, it’s quite large so not easy to carry around
  • No pockets or bespoke dividers mean the personalisation level of this type of planner is low

Discs | Happy Planner

I thought I would hate the Happy Planner, since I hated the Erin Condren. 

Strangely, I got on much better with this. It may have been because it was around a year after I tried the EC, so perhaps my planning had moved on a bit. The pages are also thicker in the Happy Planner and feel much nicer to write on. The layouts are very similar though. The main difference is the boxes on the HP are longer than on the EC. The discs and the price is what sets them apart. With discs you have the ability to add or change pages in here much more easily. While there are add on packs from Me and My Big Ideas available to allow you to do this, you can also buy a (expensive) punch and make your own. Because this is available from UK stockists, and it’s cheaper than the EC anyway, this is a more wallet friendly planner.

There’s three sizes of this available and I’ve tried all three – the Mini, Classic and Big. 

The Big was far too large for me. The Mini was nice, but I hated that the pages were lined. 

In terms of other disc based planners the main one isn’t really a planner. In the US version of Staples they have the Arc notebook system which is a coil based notebook you can put together yourself. Some people have used this to essentially build their own planner. New for 2019 though, Inkwell Press are releasing their planner with a disc system.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Flexibility of covers means you can update the outside of this planner very easily
  • Lots of space in both the monthly and weekly views
  • Different sizes available to suit your requirements
  • Due to the disc system you can add and change pages, and even make your own
  • UK based suppliers make this a cheaper alternative to the Erin Condren

Cons:

  • Discs can get in the way when writing near to it
  • Not as many sticker choices for the Happy Planner
  • Hole punch is expensive
  • Very little flexibility in terms of decorating with pockets or dividers

Bound | Hobonichi & the Bullet Journal

I saved my current system till last, as it’s probably the least popular out of all I’ve mentioned so far. I say least popular, but I mean least popular in the planning world. In terms of everyone else (who doesn’t love planners as much as we do!) bound planners are the go to. They’re cheap, simple and available everywhere. There’s many different layouts available but the most common tend to be week at a glance and daily.

Obviously the big drawback with a bound planner is you are totally at the mercy of the planner designer. There is no flexibility here at all. With so many available though, chances are you should be able to find something somewhere. If you have your heart set on a bound planner though and can’t find a layout to meet your needs, there’s always bullet journals.

People do bullet journal in other things, such as Filofaxes and Travelers Notebooks but as this method is probably the most common I thought it worth a mention here. 

This is a Leuchtturm and is probably the most popular notebook among bullet journalers. They even have a bullet journal edition of the notebook (which is the one I have). Browsing Pinterest and Instagram you’d be forgiven for thinking that you need to have artistic flair to be a bullet journaler. You don’t. All you need is the notebook and a pen (or pencil). Then you can create whatever you need to keep yourself organised.

I debated buying a Hobonichi for well over a year. I loved the weekly layout in this planner. It’s a vertical one but as the book is A5 size, I knew it would be just the right amount of space for me. The daily pages are what stopped from me from purchasing earlier. I don’t like daily planning as I like to see my week altogether and I’m not really one for journaling. I then discovered this great You Tuber who uses their daily pages for everything else. It’s a little bit like collections in a bullet journal. When I realised I could use the pages for that it opened up a world of possibilities and I took the plunge! 

The A5 cousin isn’t the only Hobonichi available though. There is an A6 size that comprises of just monthly and daily pages and the Weeks. The Weeks is the same height as personal size but thinner, so is perfect for on the go. It comes with monthly and week pages and a section of note pages at the back. Given there’s so many note pages at the back of the Weeks there’s freedom to really fit this planner to your needs.

Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • A huge amount of choice available in terms of layouts and sizes
  • A notebook can be used to create a bullet journal for complete freedom
  • A Hobonichi is a good choice for those who love to use fountain pens, as the Tomoe River paper is perfect for it
  • Can purchase covers and cases for them to personalise your planner more

Cons:

  • Completely stuck in terms of your pages and sections as they’re fixed
  • There’s very few places to purchase a Hobonichi in the UK, and it can get expensive
  • Most planner stickers don’t cater specifically for any of the bound notebook planners out there (though there’s more coming for the Hobonichi)

The main contenders for 2019?

I’ve only covered a few of the planner choices out there for 2019, but hopefully I’ve covered the main ones. If you’re all about digital there’s a wealth of apps out there and there has been a rise in iPad planners recently which allow you to do most of the above, but completely digitally. There’s even digital stickers!

In terms of my 2019 set up, it’s looks like I’m going to continue with my Hobonichi Cousin for at home, and my Weeks for on the go. I’m using my Filofax even less as I find more ways to incorporate things from there into my Hobo (my social media tracker and financial planner recently moved into it). This makes me sad as I love my Filofaxes but I’m excited to have nearly everything just in one planner.

Have you picked a planner solution for 2019? Let me know in the comments below!

Please note this post contains affiliate links, they don’t cost anything to follow, but do help support the blog!

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