Finding the perfect planner

Now if you know me, you know that I am a planner.  That being said, I love a paper planner.  Call me old school and outdated, I just don’t understand how you people keep everything you need/want/dream of doing all in your phone.  It’s just too much.

That being said, I thought about hosting a “planner brunch” this year for all of my fellow planner lovers (I realize some people call them agendas, but that just sounds mischievous to me.) to come together and share our planner knowledge because I still live in the world where you buy a new planner every summer, rather than starting in January.  But life is life and I didn’t quite have the time to host my planner brunch. Instead, I collected everyone’s thoughts to share.

So, below are some planners I have had.  Also, a few friends shared their thoughts on planners they have used.  Just to clarify a few things:

  • I get no “kick-back” from any of these companies. I’m just a little obsessed.
  • If you click the name of the planner, it will open a new tab to that company’s website.
  • If you click on the person’s name who shared their insight, it will link to their Twitter for you to learn a little more about them!
  • If you have owned these planners or another, please share your thoughts in our little virtual brunch in the comment box at the bottom.
  • These are in alphabetical order, not any order of greatest to least because I think each person’s needs for a planner are so different based on what your daily life looks like.


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Emily Ley is a planner designer that started her company out of her guest bedroom.  Within the last 5 years, the SIMPLIFIED PLANNER has only continued to grow in cuteness, precision, and demand. Emily is passionate about helping women simplify their lives, so she includes tips, how-tos, inspirational quotes, along with ways interleaved throughout the planner to simplify like planning meals ahead of time.

Featured in this photo is the Daily Academic (meaning it starts in August and there are individual pages for each day), but the Simplified Weekly planner also just came out yesterday which features weekly spreads and is smaller and lighter.

Typical price: $58

Here’s some insights from my friend Kristen who used the SIMPLIFIED PLANNER for 2015-2016.

-The inspirational quotes are always uplifting. Who doesn’t want to start a week hearing some words of widsom from C.S. Lewis or Walt Disney?
-It reminds you to plan your meals. Especially on tough weeks, it’s good accountability to see what you’re planning to feed yourself.
-There’s a to-do list right next to the column for panning the day. A to do list..for every day. Hello, perfection.
-My favorite thing is that at the beginning of every week, it reminds you to make margins for yourself. As an introvert who also has a tendency to fill the day up, this helps me remember that I have to be filled up before I can pour anything out to other people. This reinforces the planner’s main mission to help us simplify and organize our lives to make the most of our time. #selfcare
-Durable. It’s lasted this whole crazy year and still looks #flawless. (Okay, there are a couple coffee stains, but that’s not Emily Ley’s fault.)

-Kinda pricey. Check eBay, though! If the pros are enough for you to spend $50, by all means I recommend it and I think it’s worth it!

I will share that I have already purchased the included planner for the upcoming year as I am starting a new job with lots of meetings and appointments and beginning an online graduate program in August.  Also, my family wanted to give me a graduation gift so I treated myself! 


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Alright all of my crafty friends, I’m looking at you.  This planner is sold in craft stores (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, etc.) which I think makes perfect sense because there is just so much you can add and do to this planner.  The spine features the Levenger tabs which allow for a good deal of accessories, bookmarks, etc.

Typical price: $20

Here’s some insights from my friend, Madison who used the Happy planner for 2015-2016.

-First of all, this planner is so cute. It fits the name “happy planner” with its use of color, inspirational quotes, and unique tab pages for each of the 18 months
-Each tab is followed by a Monthly Summary Page—things like Birthdays, Things to Remember, Goals, etc.— a Monthly View Calendar, and Weekly pages
-The Weekly pages are divided in columns for each day with “morning,” “afternoon,” and “evening” as the rows—this is perfect for anyone out of school who is using a planner for keeping up with meetings, appointments, and other events.
-There are extra accessories to purchase—Create 365 sells stickers, folders, wedding-expansion packs, and so much more—but any disc-bound accessories fit. Personally, I purchased Staples-brand disc-bound to-do lists that I put in each week to help with organization at work and they’re a fantastic addition! The stickers are also fun to add for weddings, haircuts, working out, etc.
-Because it’s disc-bound, you can just take out the previous months if you want—they also see refill pages so that you can keep the cover and don’t have to start from scratch.
-The newer versions just keep getting cuter!
-The biggest pro for me is the price! It’s currently $29.99 on the Create 365 website and at Hobby Lobby. Even better, it’s rarely on sale at Hobby Lobby, so you can use that weekly 40% off coupon and get it for $18+tax!! This price is great regardless, but especially if you’re unsure how much you’d actually use a paper planner, spending $18 and only using it for 3 months is much better than dropping much more and rarely using it.

-No built-in to-do list section
-The older versions don’t have laminated tabs for each month, so mine (2015-2016) started folding, and looking worn—the newer versions are laminated
– The disc-bound is great for desk use, but not to be carried around in your bag. They do sell cases now, but without a case, the front and back covers pop off in my bag.
– Wednesday is sort of hard to write on (if you are right-handed) because of the discs. Sometimes, I take out the page to write on Wednesday and then put it back in once I’ve finished writing on it (benefit of disc-bound!)

If you want a cute—but VERY affordable—planner that allows for both structure and flexibility, the Happy Planner might be a perfect fit.


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For all of my cute, Southern, sorority girls, we know Lilly is the queen of all things.  And I mean who doesn’t want a planner that matches their dress?

The 2016-17 Agendas are not yet on sale so I am not sure what the typical price will be for this year.

Here are some insights from my friend, Emily:

-The first thing that you notice about the Lilly Agendas is the bright pops of color throughout the entirety of the planner. The cheerful prints are sure to get you motivated to check off your to-do-lists even on your least exciting days!
-The stickers that come in the front of the agenda are fun to place throughout your agenda as you pre-plan the coming weeks. The stickers coincide with holidays and a few are added for you place on personal celebrations. My personal favorite sticker in the 2015-2016 agenda was the “Happy Shopping” sticker showing a girl with her laptop and her cup of coffee. Might as well have been me pictured on the sticker.
-I loved the beautiful “extras” in the new 2015-2016 agendas. The extras in the agenda include a yearlong monthly view section, Days to Celebrate section, Escape Plan: Next Adventure section (great to write down upcoming travel plans and stare at constantly in order to procrastinate daily life), and a numbers and addresses section. All of the sections are great for writing down important dates/information that might be forgotten if they’re not recorded.
-I love how large the boxes are on the monthly plan pages are at the beginning of each monthly section. This was the highlight of the planner for me each year that I had one. I had plenty of space to write in each box. Class, two meetings, a social event, an assignment due, study group, and someone’s birthday all on the same date? No problem! There was plenty of space in the boxes for all of the reminders I needed, as long as I color coordinated them for my own sanity.
-Spacious day-by-day writing sections. Just like the large boxes on the monthly plan pages- I loved the space here. This space was what made the planner of functional, effective use to me.

-One year, my agenda completely fell apart. Meaning, the front hard cover of the planner came unattached from the binding. Granted, it was overused and should have been placed in its own protective covering. However, I feel that if you pay $40-$50 for a planner… it shouldn’t fall apart. Luckily, it was close to the end of my semester of student teaching.
-The inspirational quotes on the decorative pages at the beginning of each month were cute… but not always applicable/inspiring. A pro for cuteness, con for the fact that I need some real inspiring motivation to get through the last weeks leading up to Christmas break. I do not need to flip open to November and read, “celebrate the queen of the jungle.” I need to read “you’re gonna make it after all” or a quote about celebrating thankfulness. That would really amp the motivation, in my opinion.
-I would love a designated spot for a daily or a weekly checklist somewhere in the day-by-day section. This would be extremely helpful for those that think in to-do-list form like I do!


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Customize, customize, customize.  Plum Paper is an Etsy shop, which is great becuase you can choose to customize absolutely everything.  This may seem overwhelming at first, trust me it is a gift from above.  There are 3 different layouts for the inside- monthly, weekly (vertical), weekly (horizontal).  There is also a family weekly.

Typical price: $35

I used this planner for 2014-15 and loved it!

-Cute! I mean I never pass up a monogrammed cover.
-Plenty of room to write and to-do lists on the side with areas to check things off as you do them.
-Students: You can adapt the family weekly to have the names of your classes/organizations so they are already labeled for you.  Trust me, it is a game changer.
-Moms:  You can put you, your husband, and each child’s name in the family categories so they are already listed for you and all you have to do is add in appointments, events, etc.
-Monthly pages interleaved.
-Pocket in the front to hold extra papers.
-You pick your start month.
-Can include monthly tabs to help you find your spot quickly.
-Etsy Shop is friendly and quick to respond if you would like a more specific order.

-Students: if you are labeling your classes, you may only know them for 1 semester which can make it difficult to know how to label.
-The binding is not the sturdiest metal and and can get off track.


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Rifle paper is literally doing all the things right right now.  I love their stationary, cards, prints, calendars, and this planner is just the icing on the cake.  My sweet sister-in-love got me this planner for Christmas so I have used it from January and will continue to until my Emily Ley picks up in August.  Rifle has not yet come out with their 2017 planners.

Typical Price: $34

-So so cute.  Sometimes I would just take this out to sit it on my desk in class because it’s beautiful.
-Weekly spread has plenty of room to write all you need to do in a day!
-Love that the spine is not only GOLD, but covered by the outer casing so it’s protecting coming in and out of your book bag and purse a million times a day.
Inspirational quotes at the top of the page.
-Notes along the sides of monthly spreads.
-You can buy stationary and a wall calendar to match your planer.

-No to do list on the weekly spread.  I’ve been fixing this by taping my own from the Target $1 section with cute paper tape.
-Months are all at the front together.  I’ve fixed this by using a paper clip that starts at the month and opens to the week.


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Last summer, I was determined to spend less than $30 but find a planner I loved and that’s exactly what I did with SHP.  Similar to Plum Paper, SHP is an Etsy shop that specializes in customization.  They feature a few different layouts: Vertical and horizontal (both pictured above) of the weekly spread and just a monthly planner.

Typical price: $16

I used this planner from June 2015-December 2015.

-Customize! I love being able to put your name on the cover so if you leave it anywhere, people automatically know where to bring it, rather than having to flip through and study everything you do in a day.
-Super cute covers!
-You pick your start month.
-I think this planner is the overall best value for the price.
-Months interleaved throughout.
-Room for notes on weekly spread.
-You can buy a notebook to match your planner!
-Also, this is an Etsy shop so they are quick to respond and very willing to personalize.

-The vertical columns didn’t have enough room for me to write really more than one word, which proved pretty trying.
-Binding is metal so can easily get messed up, but it seems like they may have updated their binding on the newer planners! (I would read the Etsy reviews on the planner you like).

So in honor of 2016, here are 6 of my favorites.

Some others to check out: Erin Condren Life PlannerBloom Planners, and Posy Paper Co.


I feel you.  I think a good place to start is to go to Barnes & Noble, Swoozies, or Hobby Lobby and start looking through to get a feel for what you like or don’t like.  Then, think about how faithful you are to write in your planner and how much you typically write in a day.  Next, decide how much you’re willing to spend!

Questions? Ideas?