A couple of years ago, I heard about the Erin Condren planners on Instagram. It only took a few minutes of browsing the website before I fell into the huge planning rabbit hole. It combines so many things that appeal to me — colored markers! coordinating stickers! doodling! organization! art! Ultimately, I couldn’t justify the cost without knowing if I would like them or not. Also, at the time I discovered them, I would have only been able to get a partial year book, which seemed like a waste given the cost. For those not familiar with Erin Condren, it costs about $55 for the basic planner (more if you want additional features or accessories).
So I went on the internet and found an alternative: Personal-Planner.com. Their square planner costs about $35 and you can start on any month and get 12 months from that date. That was perfect for me because it was the middle of the year. I ended up getting a 2015-2016 planner and I used it quite a bit. The pros of the Personal Planner (aside from price) are the customizability of the pages, the size (this could fit in an average pocketbook or purse), and the date coverage flexibility. The cons of this planner were the size (you can only use very small stickers) and the lack of planner-specific themed stickers and accessories (which are widely available for the Erin Condren planners. You can even buy Erin Condren accessories at Staples now!
I quickly learned with my Personal Planner that Japanese planner stickers worked best (they are very small). I quickly amassed a big collection! The pictures below give you an idea of what the stickers are like and how they look in the planner. They are very cute, but probably not to everyone’s taste.
The downside to using the Japanese stickers is that they are not really themed. I am a sucker for coordinating the week in the planner. Alas, I couldn’t always do that the way I wanted to. I still had fun, but I browsed the Etsy Erin Condren pages with envy.
We finally moved in October, and I unearthed my personal planner and supplies sometime in November. By then, I had started thinking I would like to invest in an Erin Condren planner as a reward for meeting my 100 lbs lost goal. I asked for a gift card to Erin Condren for Christmas, and when I did not get one, I went ahead and ordered the 2017 planner. The planner took a little over a week to arrive and came beautifully packaged in a pink patterned box. I also bought some accessories, like the meal planner dashboard, a pen holder and some of their planner stickers.
My planner also came with a Plan For It pouch and a CoilClip connector and some bonus stickers. All in all, I felt it was very good value for a starter planner for the money. It is quite a bit bigger than my Personal Planner, but since I keep it on my coffee table or desk at home, size isn’t an issue for me.
The planner itself feels really sturdy. It has laminated covers, which will not only keep the cover clean and unbent, but you can also write on it with dry or wet erase markers. There are some note taking areas on the inside of both the front and back covers.
I’ve already used the covers as a quick note taking area as I began organizing the month of January, so I think they will come in handy. I attached the pen holder to the back cover and I keep my dry erase pen there. (NOTE: you can buy wet erase pens from Erin Condren, but it was cheaper to get a pack of fine tip dry erase pens from Staples. They work fine). I also clipped my Plan for it Pouch in the back of the book and that’s where I keep my themed monthly stickers.
YES! Themed monthly stickers! The best thing about the Erin Condren planner is that you can get all sorts of different stickers designed specifically for it on Etsy. At first, I was searching through all the pre-cut sticker sets, but I soon realized it is WAY more cost effective to print your own. The only downside is you have to cut them out yourself, but I’ve found that I don’t mind that. (If you own a Silhouette or Cricut machine, you can buy files programmed to print and cut from most etsy designers). After browsing Etsy for about a week, I chose this January Monthly Planner set from Design Lovely Studio. I also got the coordinating weekly sticker set. After reading the instructional pdf that came with my sticker files, I purchased a big box of 8.5 x 11 inkjet labels at Staples and printed out my first set of stickers.
I loved this themed set because of the winter sweaters, and I love that all my weekly planner layouts will match. This particular designer does more than one design for each month, so I will probably stick with her unless none of her offerings for the month appeal to me. PRO TIP: Since the planner background is white, the stickers look neater if you leave a small rim of white around them. When I tried to cut right to the edge, you could see my mistakes a lot more. Learn from my mistake!
The meal planner was totally worth the extra purchase. I meal plan with my husband twice a week, and it’s nice to jot it down in the planner and then work from that while I build my shopping list. I also can take a quick look at it again to refresh my memory when I put our menu plan on the kitchen chalkboard. (I do this because otherwise my husband texts me every afternoon asking what we planned for dinner. Now he just takes a look at the board when he gets home).
I also did something I’ve never done before to see if it helps. I went through all our monthly bills and noted the date they are due. I put this into the planner as a weekly reminder showing which bills come due. Normally, I just pay bills 2x a month (usually on the 1st and the 15th), but with those dates there were always some bills that went in a bit late, so I’m interested to see if paying them the week they are due works better for me. As it turns out I will just pay bills the first and last week of the month if I do them this way. Who knew? I have everything set up online, so it’s just a matter of logging in and paying them.
I also use the planner to document all the appointments for the family, my exercise schedule and my weekly chore routine. I do household chores more or less on a schedule, which I adjust based on what I have going on each week. I find it helpful to keep me on top of my most hated chore – housecleaning.
I get a lot of joy out of decorating the planner each week. It appeals to my crafty side. I like choosing the stickers, using my markers to decorate, and just generally making my planner look cute. It’s honestly like scrapbooking lite.
I have my one pouch of supplies and the monthly sticker set, and get just as much pleasure out of it without all the mess.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy seeing the depths of my planner obsession. I mark out two mornings a week to work on my planner with all the bells and whistles. The rest of the time, I just add notations as needed. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my phone calendar as my on-the-go organization, but I love having my cute personal planner on the coffee table at home. Each morning, I open it to the current week and take a look at what I’ve got going on that day. It’s a good time to pause and reflect and make any new plans. I keep a goals list in the sidebar of each week and I try to meet those goals each week.
Here’s to an organized 2017!