Planning + Productivity

The Best Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Pricey Planners

Hate spending $50, $60, or even $80 on a planner? I don’t blame you! This collection of cheap planners is the best alternative for your wallet, and still packs a huge productivity punch.

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Hate spending $50, $60, or even $80 on a planner? I don't blame you! This collection of cheap planner ideas is the best alternative for your wallet, and still packs a huge productivity punch. Includes FREE planner printables so you can completely customize your own! #freeplannerprintables #planner #dailyplanner

Planners are my brain. Ever since high school, I’ve had some sort of calendar/to-do list to track all my assignments. Fast forward to today, and planners are still the best way to keep me on task!

But have you noticed all the nice ones are expensive? I mean, really expensive. Like we’re talking $50, $60, even $80 kind of expensive.

And I get it. Well, sort of.

If you’re going to use something every single day, it has to last the entire year. That means you need a high quality cover and thicker pages, which end up costing more to print and ship. Plus, these planners tend to offer a lot more perks. You have meal planning pages, budget pages, daily planning sheets, etc, in addition to the traditional monthly and weekly overview.

In fact, when I splurged on the Day Designer two years ago, it was one of the best planners I had ever tried! I thought of it as an investment that would pay for itself over and over again in my productivity….and it did. But the price was still REALLY hard to swallow.

That’s why I’m all for budget-friendly alternatives for those who can’t afford to spend that much on a planner, or for those who simply choose not toHere’s what I recommend you use instead!

Free Printable Planning Pages

Pinterest is the absolute best way to find FREE planning printables. If you don’t mind mixing and matching designs, you can create your own planner inside a 3-ring binder, Filofax cover, or by using Discbound notebook. For the last two, you’ll just have to get a special hole punch to insert your pages.

Here are a few samples:

1. Free Printable Weekly Planner {includes 9 different layouts via Eliza Ellis.}

weekly-planner

2. Free Printable Daily Planners {a roundup of 10 different options via Contented at Home.}

3. Free 2017 Planning Set {Complete with cover pages, meal planning sheets, contact pages and more, via Shining Mom.}

Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? Visit an Etsy shop like I Heart Planners or I Heart Organizing and download a planner kit. Most cost under $10!

Retail Planners

I have been pleasantly surprised at what kind of planners are available at Target lately. The designs are gorgeous and the price tag is even better.

planner-alternatives-6

Another option is The Happy Planner from Michael’s Arts and Craft stores. Although I haven’t personally used it, I have heard amazing things about how cute and functional it is. The price tag ranges from $19.99-$34.99, but you can get it for cheaper with a 40% off coupon.

Happy Planner

The other neat thing about this planner are the coordinating stickers and paper packs you can buy to go with it. There are fitness stickers, reminder stickers, budget pages, pocket folders, sticky notes, and more.

It makes me just giddy thinking about all the things you can do to personalize your planner!

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Bullet Journaling

Earlier this year, I fell head-over-heels into bullet journaling. At first, I thought it was a waste of time—I mean who wants to draw out their planner every week? But now I spend about 20 minutes preparing for the week ahead, and I’m actually more productive because I can customize just about anything.

weekly-planning

My bullet journal has become so much more than a planner though.

I have all my to-do lists, monthly goals, online order trackers, shopping lists, and even a TV series tracker tucked inside. Because you start with a blank notebook and a pen, the possibilities of what you put inside are endless!

If you’re interested in learning more about how I bullet journal, you’ll want to read Bullet Journaling 101: Everything You Need to Get Started. 

So there you have it. My recommended alternatives to pricey planners.

I’d love to know which planner you currently use in the comments and why you love it. Or if you’re looking for a new planner, what is the #1 thing your planner must have? Since I’ve tried a lot of planners, I might be able to help you out!

Have you found a budget-friendly planner yet?

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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18 Comments

  1. As a teacher, I wanted a planner that would work for my job AND my family’s needs so I ended up creating my own on Word. I printed it out at home and I had the covers laminated and the entire thing bound for under $10. My planner and many others are available at the website TeachersPayTeachers.com, and many are versatile enough that they could be adapted for personal use.
    If I hadn’t created my own, I’d want to use the free one created by Ashley at the blog HandmadeHome. You can choose different styles and themes, and the whole thing is gorgeous!

  2. I decided to splurge and get the living well planner from Ruth this year. I have never used it before but I hope it’s as awesome as all the reviews say :).

  3. I’ve added a few business ventures recently, and my small dollar-store planner just wasn’t offering enough space. So my husband convinced me to buy the ARC planner at Staples – same punch system as the Happy Planner, but slightly less artsy and less expensive for the basic pages. So I bought a simple $14.99 notebook that had all the calendar pages I wanted, then added some of the Happy Planner embellishments from Michaels. I *love* that you can create your own pages and refill or change things up whenever you want. Here’s hoping it works well for me!

    1. I love anything customized. Being able to add pages and take out pages can really make a huge difference. It lets you organize the planner to the way your mind works.

  4. Hi, Kalyn!

    What an honor to be included in your list! I sincerely thank you for including Shining Mom planners! =)

    Have a great year ahead!

    Warmly,
    Khaye/Shining Mom

  5. You’ve put a lot of thought into the details of planning, and have made a good case that a high quality notebook is a strong decision. Thank you for this excellent breakdown of where to find deals on notebooks to aid financial and improvement goals.

  6. Thanks for the ideas! One of my favorite parts of the new year is picking out a new planner. I’ve been going with cute ones from Walmart before last year when I bought the LWSL planner from Ruth. I really like her planner, but I really don’t like having to fill in the dates myself. I’ve heard good things about Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner but the price tag has made me hesitate. Hopefully I can get it figured out before January gets here!

    1. Picking out planners is almost better than actually doing the planning! 🙂 Ok… maybe it actually IS better.

      1. Totally agree with you there 🙂 Makes me think of all the planner pages I’ve never actually written in..oops!

        Oh and I think I’ve finally narrowed it down to the Day Designer. I flipped through one of the less expensive ones at Target today and I think I could be very happy with it next year!

  7. This is so great!! I am ALL about planners!! I have been getting the Sugar Paper Planners from target the last two years. This year I want something I can breakdown each day into morning, afternoon, and night. Which I think they might have… ? LOVE this list! Thank you so much!

    1. Joseph always cringes when I start walking toward the home/office section of Target… because he knows I’m going to spend a bunch of time looking at all the planners, papers, markers, and cute supplies. I may need to create a new budget line item: “Target office supplies” 🙂

  8. Hey Kalyn
    I use my happy planner …ALL THE TIME. I EVEN GOT MY NEW ONE FOR 10$ …it was a Michaels door buster on Black Friday. And you are right, all the great stuff that goes with it including the new delux covers are AMAZING. I LOVE THE FACT that you can use the arc or leave gear punch as well as their discs. I have a set of aluminum leave gear discs that are way more durable and can take a beating!!! Thanks for the article it covered a lot of ground!!

  9. I got a beautiful Plum Paper planner on sale recently to start in June. I’m also making my own stickers instead of buying them retail.

    1. Stickers are a great way to personalize your planner, but they can be so expensive! Making your own = Problem solved. 🙂

  10. Kalyn,
    Some advice please. I’ve alway kept a weekly planner to keep track of appointments, to do lists and a couple of other things. Have discovered, however, I need to keep track of more than just that stuff. That’s where a self styled day planner type book would help a lot. Question is, should I go with a 5 x 8 notebook or an 8 x 11?? Either way, I will buy some dividers and then print out my own pages?? Your thoughts would be most welcomed.

    1. Hi Flo,

      Size depends on which is more important to you between space on the page or portability of the planner. If you’re like me and want to carry your planner with you everywhere, then I would go with the smaller size. But if your planner has a “spot” that it stays, like a desk or countertop, then the larger size may make more sense.

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