Choosing a Planner: The Pros and Cons of Filofax, Bullet Journals, and Pre-made Planners

Chances are, you already have a favorite planning method. But what if you don’t? What if you’re interested in a planner but are overwhelmed by the options? You have stumbled upon some help! We will discuss the pros and cons of using  binder planners like the ever popular Filofax and the newest craze, bullet journaling, affectionately nicknamed “Bujo,” and how they compare to pre-bound planners like Erin Condren.

**For a concise list of pros and cons, scroll to the end of the post. I can be wordy sometimes!**

My Filofax

I started off with a Filofax planner back in late 2015, a turquoise Saffiano I found on eBay for $50 (faux leather, so it was a cheaper way to begin; real leather Filofaxes will run you more than double that). I could add all the pages I wanted and put in pretty dividers, which I loved (I ordered from Minted Sugar on Etsy). I wanted a binder where I could keep schedules and track other things like passwords and what washi tape I already had.  All the note paper included with the Filofax is wonderful. I used it for recipes, quick notes, and tracking my weight/inches lost. It was easy to pull a sheet out when I made a shopping list and take it with me versus hauling the whole planner along.

Filofax Note Paper
There are 3 colors of paper in the rings, and a white notepad in the back you can tear pages off of neatly.

One other thing I liked about Filofax is that I could put in monthly and daily (and weekly if I wanted to) pages. As you can see, my dinner that day was super healthy! With a pre-made planner you’re stuck with whatever it comes with (dailies, weeklies, monthlies may be included or only some of those).

Filofax Daily Planner Page
Totally forgot to track my water!
Filofax Monthly Spread
A monthly spread I never used…February 2016 was the last month I used my Filofax.

Creating Your Own Layouts

The monthly spread reminds me of something I despised about using my Filofax – I had to cut my own pages. This was time-consuming and being someone who appreciates perfection it was frustrating not getting perfect 90-degree angles and straight lines every time. And while I like designing on a computer, I find doing things by hand is more creatively fulfilling. I of course could have done this by hand, but with everyone using computer-generated pages the thought never crossed my mind. Oftentimes I have a hard time thinking outside the box.

My Bullet Journal Planner

While I will save all my bujo contents for a later post, I will share a few things I have done with my journal. Here is my Level 10 Life spread (more on that later). You could totally do this with a Filofax, too, but there’s something about writing in a book rather than just a piece of paper. I also kind of like the finality of writing in a bound journal…once the pen goes down there’s no tossing the page and putting a new one in. It shows character and human nature of making mistakes, and hardly ever doing anything perfectly. It’s oddly satisfying.

Level 10 Life Spread
My Level 10 Life spread in my bullet journal.

Randomization

I love the randomization of my journal. I had a few pages blank after the Saturday daily on the left, which is when I decided to stop doing daily pages for awhile. To fill the space, I did my very first hand-lettered quote. I threw in some messy waves that I’m not too happy with (now when I get better at doodling I have something to look back on and see my improvement!), but there’s that permanence again for which I strangely have an affection. With a binder planner it is more planned out and there is plenty of room for error. Life is not error-free, and I like something as personal as my journal to reflect that. This random quote would not have showed up in my Filofax planner or a pre-made one.

Bullet Journal Daily and Quote

Moving Pages Around

Lastly, here is another spread from my bullet journal. Again, this is possible with a binder planner, too. It shows up on page 50 because I started my journal off without much research and was just flying blind, putting in pages without planning them out. I didn’t decide I wanted a birthday calendar until, well, 50 pages in. This is a con of the bullet journal, you can’t move pages around.

For those of you who scrolled down to the list first, welcome! Here is a neat compilation of pros and cons of using a binder planner, bullet journal, and a pre-made planner. I did not cover many of these in the rest of the post, so keep reading!

Filofax Pros
– Ability to move pages around/remove pages
– Can buy pre-designed pages which saves time and is good for those who don’t feel creative
– Removable note paper capability
– Easy to divide into sections
– Lots of space to store notes, receipts, reminders, etc.
– More decorating options (dividers, tassels, etc.)
– Easy to keep organized

Filofax Cons
– Can get heavy and bogged down with inserts
– Expensive to buy, unless purchasing less pricey brand
– Rings can separate or become damaged/stop opening and closing properly
– Lacks the “journaling” feel
– Inserts can be pricey or free ones may not be what you’re looking for
– Cutting your own paper for self-printed pages

Bullet Journal Pros
– Less opportunity to get heavy/is more portable
– Easy to be spontaneous
– Lots of doodling and hand lettering space
– Ultra personalized
– Comparably inexpensive (the Leuchtturm1917 is around $20)

Bullet Journal Cons
– Can’t add more pages
– Can’t move pages around
– Not many pockets for storing notes, ticket stubs , receipts, etc.
– Time-consuming depending on level of design

Pre-made Planner Pros
– Saves a bunch of time not making your own layouts
– Can be affordable depending on brand
– Easy to start and maintain
– Requires less creativity if you’re not an “artsy” person

Pre-made Planner Cons
– Can’t customize layout
– Some can be a little pricey
– Can’t add pages
– May not contain any pockets
– Many do not have expandability
– Less opportunity to personalize and be creative

Whatever method you end up choosing, take joy in it! Planning is practical AND can be fun, too.

Tell me in the comments what type of system you use or are wanting to use, I love hearing from readers!

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