New Planner for 2016

When money gets tight, you tend to re-evaluate the things you buy on a regular basis. Do I really need this? If the answer is yes, Do I really need this kind, or can a get a cheaper kind? I find myself doing this a lot lately. And I just noticed my Erin Condren planner is about to expire in three months.

How much would I have to change if I went with a different type of planner?

How much would I have to change if I went with a different type of planner?

If you are at all familiar with Erin Condren, you know that they are expensive.  No bones about it.  Yes, you can rationalize the cost with the fact that you use it daily over the course of a year or 18 months. And the sheer fact that it is expensive is a motivator to many (myself included) to use it on a regular basis. This is the one I like, and now they have a horizontal option for the daily planner, which would fit my planning style better, I think.

But now, when the purchase of that planner (including shipping) would equate to at least a couple of days of work, I begin to re-evaluate… And research. I’ve found that their customer service seems to be sub-par. I’ve never had a problem personally, but there are so many unhappy customers out there, and it worries me that you spend that much on something and there is no telephone number to use on their website, anywhere. I don’t like that.

I’ve found Plum Paper Designs as an affordable alternative. Still a bit pricey, but nowhere near what an Erin Condren planner is. Customer Service reviews seem great. They have some really smart add-ons that EC doesn’t offer, and product reviews seem to get high marks, too. (If you need a 10% discount code, let me know in the comments and I can give you one!)

And yet… I cannot make a decision. I have a product in a cart on both websites, and just cannot commit.

Do any of you have an opinion?  Please share.

I will be making a purchase within the next week or so, and I will do a review post on my purchase when it arrives (probably in a month or two). Decisions, decisions…

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DIY Erin Condren Stickers using Picmonkey and Pinterest

If you have an Erin Condren planner and are on Pinterest, you’ll find lots of stickers to purchase out there, but they can get expensive, and they may not say just what you want them to.  A pack of stickers from a craft store that are not even sized to fit the squares in the Erin Condren planner can run you five or six bucks, and to me that’s a lot to spend on something that’s not quite right.

While on Pinterest, I found this handy post on how to use Picmonkey, a free online photo editing tool, to create your own stickers.  Ms. Marcia Beckett does an excellent job explaining how to re-purpose Picmonkey to make a sheet of cut-yourself stickers.  And luckily, I had purchased some full-sheet sticker paper from Staples last fall.  A package of that can get expensive, too.  But with coupons and watching for sales, I think I got mine for about $12, and it has lasted me quite awhile.

But I didn’t want any old random stickers.

Like many people, I have a board on Pinterest with Quotes that resonate with me, some funny, some inspiring, and these are what I wanted sprinkled through the pages of my planner.  I googled to see if anyone else had done this before, and couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.  I decided to play around with it myself. Here are the steps I followed:

1.  Open Pinterest, and find the pins you want to make into stickers. I recommend pins that have a lot of space on each side, and are more vertical than horizontal, but you can play with it yourself to get the look you want. Once you click on your pin, right click on it to save it as an image.

pins into stickers

2.  Open picmonkey, and follow the instructions in Marcia’s post above.  You can add more pictures by dragging them onto your layout, and waiting until a grey area appears.  Then simply drop your picture.  You can also resize them by dragging the sides of each picture you have placed.

3.  I would recommend putting 16 pictures on an 8.5 x 11 page to get close to the size of the boxes in the Erin Condren planner.  You can eyeball the sizing to get it fairly close to the right proportions.

Pinned Quotes into EC stickers

4.  Adjust your spacing to around 127 to get the pictures to the right size on the background page (the icon looks like an art palette on the left of the Picmonkey page).

5. Print and cut out!

pins into EC stickers

A couple of notes:

  • Don’t try to make a buck off of other people’s designs. That’s stealing.  Using these for personal use is one thing, but using someone else’s work to create stickers to sell would not be the right thing to do.
  • I wouldn’t recommend using people’s designs from Etsy or other sites where people are trying to make a living from their work.
  • If you have some pins/quotes that won’t work due to the layout, you can always create a new one using Picmonkey, as well! It really is a lot of fun!

A Looky-Loo at my planner

You may recall that I splurged a bit and purchased an Erin Condren Life Planner awhile back.  These are kind of a trendy thing right now, and I had no idea if it would be worth the cost, considering I’m not a sorority girl, a teacher (they have a special lesson planner, too), or getting married – all very popular markets for this planner.  But I have kept it up, and especially like finding the perfect supplies to make planning fun (more on that in another post!).

I went back to a paper planner, because I needed one spot to find all my important dates and lists. I’m keeping track of:

  • bills and due dates
  • assignments, quizzes, and tests for The Boy
  • blog posts I want to write
  • appointments at work, and when the boss will be out of town 😉
  • evening activities like school events and date night
  • budgeting and expense tracking for our trailer flip
  • ideas for novels
  • my christmas list
  • prescription renewal reminders

I’d like to also include (but haven’t yet):

  • meal planning
  • shots I want to take and skills I want to practice – I got a new camera for Christmas!
  • a real dashboard – mine (pictured below) is more of a home for unused or previously-used post-its and pre-cut washi tape

Here are a few shots to show you how I’m using it.

photo 2

stars are bill due dates, wash tape indicates evening activities (I like to keep the month at a view fairly simple)

photo 1

my “dashboard” on the inside cover – needs help, I know, but it functions

photo 3

Work is in the middle, because that’s where I spend my days. Due dates on top, because the morning is when I make sure they are all met. Evening activities are on the bottom.

photo 4

Commonly used stickers are in the back (as well as school calendars and other important papers).

 

Planners Who Need Planners

I succumbed.

A co-worker introduced me to the Erin Condren Life Planner in July.  Suddenly I remembered my undergrad days when a planner was my lifeblood.  I couldn’t function without it, and if someone had ever taken it or I had misplaced it, my world would come to a screeching halt.  As I read reviews and watched the plethora of YouTube posts (it seemed everyone who had ever purchased one had also either done a blog post or a video with a 20-minute “walkthrough”), I suffered from sticker shock, but also a growing need to have one.  How had I gone so long without a planner? I asked myself over and over again.  I had never quite gotten the hang of the digital organization I so wanted to make work: Evernote, SpringPad, even Notes and Reminders on the iPhone just hadn’t quite cut it.  And I thought about the nights where I can’t sleep because my mind is racing with to-dos and ideas, notes and projects, blog posts and emails I need to write.  When those nights pop up, the only, ONLY way to calm my fevered brain is to get up with a pen and a pad of paper and just write everything down.  Good old pen to paper.

I could get my money managed more effectively, and keep track of expenses, I thought.

I could organize my blogging calendar, I thought.

I could have all of The Boy’s school and Autism Society events in one place, I thought.

I could even put events for work in there so I always know what’s going on and when, I thought.

I could include a daily to-do list, I thought.

I could keep our evenings on track between homework and other household chores, I thought.

In the end, I convinced myself to bite the bullet, and give it a shot.  In the whole scheme of things, if it didn’t work, the cost was not that prohibitive.  I ordered my planner and waited about 4 weeks for it to arrive.

When it came, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, and again, watched videos and read blog posts on the most effective way to use the planner.  Come to find out, most people’s posts were about how pretty they could make the thing with washi tape and stickers, without any real substance on how to use it.  So I turned to the notes section and made a list of all the things I wanted to keep track of, and began to form my own ideas of just how I would keep track of all of the stuff I mentioned above.

It’s been about two weeks, and it is being used, multiple times a day.  Not only do I plan, but I record expenses (usually first on a sticky note, and if I have time later, with the “proper” label that I have devised), and other things that have happened.

ECLP

But the biggest A-Ha of all is that by having everything recorded, I don’t remind myself six times a day about that one thing I want to remember.  I have a go-to spot for important papers.  I know where stuff is.  And all of these things allow me to 1) relax more, and 2) be more creative.  I have time to think about (and jot down) ideas for blog posts, and even outline my dreams and plans for my own nonprofit which I hope to start someday.

So I guess this is my own obligatory Erin Condren Life Planner blog post.  And I’m not trying to sell you on anything – it’s not for everyone.  But I am glad that I have gone back to paper, because it’s actually allowing my mind to unburden itself of all the small stuff so I have more time to think about the big stuff.