Make or Buy: Calendar/Planner

One of my favorite parts of a new year is getting into a new planner! Back in the day I always got a wall calendar with big photos of whatever my current obsession was; Hello Kitty, Pirates of the Caribbean, Audrey Hepburn. But to be honest, this was just something to hang up and try to remember to flip every month, I never really used it. NOW, I have a planner/calendar and it pretty much goes everywhere with me. This year I got an ink+volt planner and I absolutely love it. The whole thing is geared towards goal setting, making lists, and celebrating achievements; perfect for what I want to accomplish this year. There's room for sketches, notes, and to-do lists as well as daily appointments. Alright, I also bought a watercolor monthly wall calendar, but it was $3 at Target and strictly decoration! Finding the right calendar for you is all about assessing your needs to find the perfect match!

Decisions, decisions.

When looking to purchase a planner or a calendar, there are so many options. Do you want a desk calendar or a hanging calendar? Or a planner book? What size? Monthly view or weekly view? Black cover of bright floral print? 

For me the main factors about what calendar to choose is:

  • Function - Does the layout allow me to use the planner the way I want?
  • Looks - Is it something I want to look at everyday for a year, what size is it, etc.
  • How much does it cost?
  • How much work do I want to put it - A few minutes on google or a week designing, printing, and assembling it.

All of these factors will help you decide which option is best for you.


Making your own custom calendar might be right for you if you:

  • Have a very specific idea of how you want the planner laid out.
  • Want the packaging to be customized specifically for you.
  • Don't want to spend a lot of money (the cost of paper, ink, and however you decide to hold it all).
  • Don't mind putting some or a lot of work into the end product. If you're someone with computer skills and likes the idea of assembling your project.

Consider: This option is the most time consuming option, and does require some tech skills. But can definitely be a fun project, especially if you want to make a custom cover of a painting or drawing you've done. Lastly, consider how you will bind it. The easiest way is a 1" 3-ring binder which comes in a full 8.5"x11" or smaller like 5.5"x8.5". You could also bind it by making a spine yourself. 

Find a tutorial for binding a book here.

Find a tutorial about making watercolor typography in Illustrator here.

Pinterest is a great place to search for illustrator tutorials for step by step graphics!

Some assembly required.

Finding a free or inexpensive digital download that you print and assemble yourself might be right for you if you:

  • Want more than a daily planner but can find the layout that fits your needs.
  • Just want a simple wall calendar (there are lots of pretty designs ready to go)
  • Have a very specific cover or binding but just was to print daily pages.
  • Again, don't want to spend much. A lot of calendar downloads are free or very inexpensive.
  • Don't want to spend a lot of time on the computer making a layout, adding all the dates, etc. When so many people have already done the legwork for you!

Consider: This option is right in the middle as far as time consuming and cost. This option is for you if you want a unique design that is also customizable. My favorite part of having a planner in a 3-ring binder is that you can add, remove, and arrange pages as you like. The down side is that a lot of downloadable calendars come blank and you have to fill in the dates yourself (which may not matter to you but for me I want the dates printed not written).

Find a simple planner with a page per day view here.

Find a simple watercolor wall calendar here.

Find free downloadable pages here.


Buy a calendar or planner all ready to go if you:

  • Use a very basic calendar that is simple and easy to find.
  • Like common designs and popular sizes.
  • Don't mind spending $15-$45 (or more if you REALLY wanted to).
  • Don't want to do any assembly (think: click, click, enter payment info, wait to arrive in mail).

Find some options herehere, and here.

Consider: This option is (obviously) the easiest, no real work for you, but it will cost the most. My advice is look at Etsy, they have a lot of planners and calendars that are more unique than you can find at Target or Staples. Even Amazon has some nice planners if you want something simple. This is also the best option if you don't need anything more than a monthly or weekly display, no grocery lists, meal plans etc. Not that you can't find those, it'll just cost a little more work/money.

In the end there are a lot of ways to find the right planner for you. The important thing is that you like it enough to actually use it! You can even add pages to your planner to keep track of how you use your planner and what you use it for so you can learn to be more productive. Maybe you keep notes about your meals or grocery lists. Think the three options through and make a decision that fits your lifestyle. And get a move on, one month is already almost over! Happy Planning!