I hate ring bound planners and never use them. If you also have a strong dislike for them but still want the flexibility to add and remove planner inserts to create your own custom planner then I recommend discbound planner systems.
Why I don’t use ring bound planners
- Awkward to write with the rings in the way – regardless of whether you’re left or right handed
- Not enough room – need wider page margins in a ring bound planner compared to other planners which takes up valuable planning space
- Number of times I’ve bought binders thinking they were 2 ring and were actually 3 ring – and then you need to go buy another hole punch
- Hard to find a5 binders in nice colors especially in Australia
- Most large size binders (A4 or US letter size) come with a pattern printed on them, but it’s much harder to find smaller binders with patterns printed on them
- Binders can be heavy but discbound planners are really light
- Not as accurate to punch as discbound planners. Your planner can end up being ‘messy’ with the holes not in exactly the right place on every page. With discbound punches they’re the entire length of a page and have a hard edge to line the page up against. They also tend to have a guide (my Arc punch does) for common page sizes like A4, half US letter etc. so it’s very quick and easy to punch
- Can punch more pages at a time with discbound punches than a 2 hole punch – discbound punches are much more sturdy
- Some inserts come pre-punched like the nice Green and Lyme ones but they will only be compatible with certain planners that use the same number of holes (and have the same spacing between the holes)
- Easier to just change discbound ring size than buy a fatter binder (and much cheaper)
- For larger size binders, unless you get one with 3 rings, stuff will be prone to falling out – especially if you’re storing a lot of pages in them
- Hard to find inserts – plus if you buy a printable you have to cut your own
- Too many different size inserts, holes, hole diameter etc. – I find ring bound planners too overwhelming and confusing
- They all have different types of hole sizes and a different number of holes – 2, 3, 4, 5 or even 6
- Ring bound planners are expensive
- Harder to find inserts in retail stores (that’s the case here in Australia anyway) so you have to buy online (and then pay for shipping as well)
The pages show in the image above are from the Direct Sales Planner
So what do I use instead?
Discbound planners. I love discbound planners.
There are a few options to choose from:
1. Arc by Staples
This the brand I use. I purchased it way back in 2015 when they were half the cost they are now. I highly recommend it and still have the original covers, discs and punch in perfect condition even after a couple of years of use.
Related: Week 14: Using a simple, 1 page weekly planner with only 3 sections
2. The MAMBI Happy Planner
The MAMBI Happy Planner has become more readily available in Australia over the past couple of years – it’s punch and discs are much cheaper than the cost of the Arc system (which has gotten quite expensive!) so if you want to try a discbound system I’d go with MAMBI.
My sister stocks a ton of MAMBI products in her planner supplies shop.
3. Levenger Circa
Levenger’s also have a discbound notebook and punch called the ‘Circa’ system. You can’t easily get it here in Australia but it is available on Amazon.
Why I prefer to use discbound planners
- The discs don’t get in the way when writing like binders can and you can fold the notebook back on itself
- I can easily remove pages (without damaging them) from one notebook and transfer them to another notebook
- I can also transfer pages within the same notebook
- I use the Arc discbound planner from Staples which comes in A5 and A4 size (full page and half page size)
- The Arc brand also has accessories such as plastic sleeves, pocket folders and zip-lock pocket. MAMBI also have an overwhelming number of adorable inserts and accessories!
- Or if you don’t want to take your own cover, The Arc brand has super sturdy leather covers (you can also get a less expensive poly cover as well but it’s not as strong)
- You can make your own covers and add them and swap and change easily
- I use my own inserts such as the planner dashboard I shared in this blog post (which can downloaded from the free printables library when you subscribe to my blog), but you can also purchase pre-punched inserts for the Arc planner, Levenger and MAMBI.
- I can easily add more pages throughout the year. I usually keep about 6 months’ worth of planner pages in my notebook at once time to avoid it becoming too bulky
- You can buy larger discs if you need to store more paper (and the rings aren’t too expensive) – just make sure you change the discs before you add the pages to your notebook (it’s much easier)
- You can punch pages smaller than the size of the notebook i.e. if you purchase the letter size version, you could punch half size pages (on the shorter side) or small lists
- Less bulky and more portable than binders
- I hate small planners like personal size. Most ring bound planners come in these smaller non / standard page sizes
The only reason I still use binders is for filing (important documents such as copies of insurance, stuff for my rental property) and for storing recipes. The plastic sleeves prevent damage and stains from kitchen spills, and means I don’t have the hassle of hole punching any pages. They are cheaper and easier to locate than plastic sleeves for discbound systems.
Apart from that I use discbound systems for everything else!
- Planning 101: Need versus want versus wish list planner supplies
- Buying a planner versus DIYing and making your own (pros and cons)
- Overwhelmed by the planner community? Read this post
- Planner companies that don’t ship to Australia (or have expensive shipping to Australia)
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Obligatory disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post.