Those who know me might tell you I have a bit of a Type A personality.
But those who really know me would more likely say, “Jamie’s a little nuts when it comes to the organization thing.”
Or maybe: “Jamie’s got OCD.”
What? You mean most people don’t start making resolutions in November?
In any case, I’ll be the first to own up: I’m not great at hoarding pennies when I’m tempted by spiffy new planners.
And I bet some of you out there totally feel me. New Year’s is such a great opportunity to get on top of your game, to examine what you accomplished this year and set your goals for the next.
A brand-new planner is clearly an essential part of that delicious, fresh start feeling — that same one you got from buying new school supplies every August when you were a kid.
It’s totally irresistible. But it’s also a really easy way to waste money.
You Don’t Need to Spend More Than 5 Bucks on a Planner
How can getting more organized ever be a waste of money, you might ask? Getting your life in order might even help you save cash, after all.
I’m inclined to agree with you. But hear me out.
First of all, some planners are expensive. Like, much more so than they should be. For instance, Erin Condren’s famous (and beautiful, and fully customizable) LifePlanner starts at $55. Um, what?
The creative, quirky Passion Planner starts at $25 and runs up to $35 for the big ones with the fancy covers. And that’s before shipping.
There are also tons of lovely handcrafted planners on Etsy, most of which start around $30… and can easily be customized into oblivion, ratcheting up the price.
Even a plain old blank, hardcover Moleskine can cost you about $20 — and that’s before you spring for a fancy pack of multicolored pens. Hey, it takes one to know one.
But there’s no reason your planner can’t be in a $2 composition notebook or binder. Yes, maybe even the empty one you’ve had lying around since college.
Want a Cheap Planner? Do it Yourself
Not only is creating your own planner much cheaper, it’s also objectively better for a whole host of reasons.
Most importantly, it’s way more customizable, which will gladden your inner organization freak.
If you design it yourself, every page of your planner will serve a purpose that works for you specifically. That isn’t always the case with premade, store-bought versions.
For instance, every planner I longingly picked up at Staples had a “contacts” page, set up to be filled with physical addresses and phone numbers.
I don’t know about you, but I’m still in my 20s, and most of my friends move around way too much for an address to stay relevant. Besides, we can always connect online.
Creating my own planner would circumvent my being stuck with a set of blank pages I can’t quite bring myself to tear out, but don’t have any use for.
Which leads us to the second best thing about do-it-yourself planners: If you screw something up, you can tear out a page without feeling all gross. Just use a spiral notebook or a binder so you don’t wind up with that horrifying, telltale little seam of a page in your hardbound book!
And finally, if you know you’re the type to enthusiastically start a planner every year — only to give it up and go back to your slightly less organized ways by February, making your own planner saves you from investing so much into what may turn out as yet another failed experiment.
(Psst — spending money to try and force yourself into a new habit is the wrong way to go about it, no matter what behavior you’re trying to cultivate.)
A quick note: This post isn’t even getting into the digital tools and apps you could use to organize your life online, or even on your cell phone, completely for free.
I will mention that, as much of a crazy planner as I am personally, I got through almost all of a fairly well-organized 2016 using only a simple to-do list app called TickTick and a color-coded Google Calendar.
But for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume you mean business when it comes to planning — and that “business” means “paper and pen required.”
So break out the washi tape and three-hole punch: Here are some awesome free planning resources and methods to help you get majorly organized for very minor cash.
5 Resources for Free Planner Printables and More
Yes, you’ll still pay for the ink and paper you use to print these bad boys out — but it’s a far cry from $60, am I right?
1. Passion Planner
Can’t quite stop yourself from wanting to try out Passion Planner’s unique, self-actualizing organizational method? Good news: Its maker offers free organizational downloads, so you can ritz up your own notebook or binder with its creative planning tools.
All you have to do is share Passion Planner on your favorite social media channel, take a screenshot of the share and email it to PDF.PassionPlanner@gmail.com. You’ll be sketching out your ideal life in no time!
2. The Handmade Home’s Totally Free, Customizable 2017 Planner
Ashley at The Handmade Home has created a beautiful, totally free-to-print, handmade planner — all you’ll need is a binder and a three-hole punch.
The best part of this gorgeous agenda? Ashley has provided tons of options for each component, so you can make it absolutely your own.
Maybe you’ll splurge on color printing; maybe not. Maybe you want inspirational quotes on your dividers; maybe you’ll stick in blank pages to provide the inspiration yourself. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom who needs lesson plans or chore charts; maybe not. It’s all up to you!
3. Planner Addiction
She does accept PayPal donations, so if you find that her hard work makes your life easier, you might consider throwing a buck or two in the hat!
4. Bullet Journaling
This one’s not a free printable, but rather a free organizational method — just in case you’re someone for whom a totally blank notebook more readily inspires fear and paralysis than creative planning. (I’m right there with you.)
While you can buy the bullet-journaling-optimized notebook for $24.95 from Bullet Journal’s website, you certainly don’t need to. In fact, we love that the company doesn’t push its wares on you — rather, it’s transparent about the fact that you can apply the technique to any sturdy set of blank pages you might have. (As the site’s beginner’s guide says: “All you need is a notebook and a pen.”)
Here’s the thing: When it comes to DIY planners, your own imagination is really the only limit. These are just a few ideas to get you started.
I’ll go ahead and admit it: I took the easy way out and plunked down $14.99 (plus tax) on a new planner from Target this year. (Hey, at least it wasn’t $50!)
But since I’m a DIY newby myself, I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of the free planning resources available online.
So, if none of these suggestions have quite unglued your eyes from that super-luxe Erin Condren thing, my best advice? Turn to Pinterest.
I have a funny feeling that the impulse to organize your interests into neatly categorized boards lines up well with designing a beautiful, functional journal, even if all you have at your disposal is an old notebook.
So what are you waiting for? Those goals aren’t going to achieve themselves.
Your Turn: Will you create your own planner from scratch this year?
Jamie Cattanach is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder and obsessive list-maker (and crosser-offer). Her writing has also been featured in the Ms. Magazine blog, The Write Life, Word Riot, Nashville Review and elsewhere. Find @JamieCattanach on Twitter to wave hello.