My Quest For The Perfect Monthly Planner
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>>Updated for 2021
Confession: I still use a paper planner.
Mr. Native Texan has urged me to go paperless, but I just can’t do it. I’ve got to feel the paper and smell the pages and write with a pencil.
This is probably related to my inability to read books on a Kindle…I just can’t bring myself to do that, either.
Anyone else? I’m sure I’m not the only one…
The Free Wall Calendar
Get this: I used to carry around a free wall calendar from a realtor friend. Every year without fail. It always had beautiful nature photos, and great big squares for each day of the month.
Want to see the actual calendars I used for at least four years?
When we had date night and needed to “sync” our calendars, I’d just stick the whole big calendar in my purse and then pull it out right at the table in the restaurant. Mr. Native Texan was so embarrassed by my big ol’ wall calendar! Especially at fancy restaurants. Tee hee.
He’s pretty happy that I’ve finally tracked down my perfect monthly planner…that doesn’t involve big glossy nature photos with our realtor friend’s photo in the corner. (I should probably point out that he has nothing against nature photos or our realtor friend. It’s just that he thinks wall calendars should be hung on the wall and not carried around as though they were planners. Ahem.)
Here’s a peek at my new and improved planner for 2018. It was Mr.-Native-Texan-approved.
Definitely a step up from the free wall calendar, right?
Yep, I experimented with those big beautiful expensive planners that are supposed to organize all the facets of your life and fill you with meaning and purpose.
They just didn’t work for me. There were too many pages, too much complication. Hello, overwhelm!
Keep It Simple
I finally realized that all I needed was one two-page spread for each month. Just like my old wall calendars! Those were the only pages of the huge expensive super-planner that I ever used.
Yes, I’m managing schedules for 5 people, plus 2 businesses.
Here are my five people…
But I need to see it all in one place. And I don’t want to flip back and forth between multiple pages of goals, lists, and calendars. I want just one simple calendar where I can mark all activities in one place.
I also needed a simple lined spiral notebook for my endless to-do lists. The notebook needed to be separate from the planner, with major bonus points if they both matched.
I work best when I have room to make my “stream of consciousness” to-do lists on simple lined paper. I don’t need all the little boxes for Morning, Afternoon, Evening; or Mom, Dad, Kid 1, Kid 2, Kid 3.
Way too complicated, people!
Just give me a spiral notebook, a perfect monthly planner, a mechanical pencil, and I’m good to go.
Oh, and maybe some really cute planner-sized sticky notes. I used double-sided tape to mount these stickies inside the back cover of my planner.
That’s all. Super simple.
My Perfect Planner Criteria
- monthly calendar only – with big squares for each day
- tabbed months – for quickly flipping to a different month
- spiral binding – lays flat when open
- durable cover – duh, I’m a mom
- cute cover – I look at it every day. I also carry it to date night restaurants. 😉
- slim profile – do you even know how thick those “super planners” are?
- medium size – in my opinion, 7 x 9-ish is the perfect size
- bonus: matching lined notebook – for running to-do lists and brainstorming sessions
I Found My Perfect Monthly Planner At…
Believe it or not, I found an almost-perfect 2017 planner at Target for about $12. Hooray!
And get this: there was a coordinating lined spiral notebook. I did a little happy dance right there in the aisle.
My system worked perfectly for me that year, but I did keep thinking you know, this would be even more perfect without the weekly part in between the monthly calendars. Because as you know, I only use the monthly pages. And wouldn’t it be cool if there were a bunch of lined pages at the back?
Well, lo and behold, the next year I found that very planner. At Target. For about $12. Hooray again!
And it’s the same color combo as last year, which means it matches the lined spiral notebook I already have!
I bought two notebooks for 2017, not knowing how quickly I’d make it through the first one. Turns out I filled exactly one notebook in one year. Which means I already had my 2018 notebook, and it matched my 2018 planner!
Another happy dance in the aisle!
Good News & Bad News
Here’s the part where those of you who plan like I do are ready for the purchasing link. Um, I have good news and bad news. UPDATE!! Scroll down for updated purchasing links…
First, the bad news: I cannot find this planner online ANYWHERE. Not on Target.com, not on Amazon, not even on Mead’s website. It’s like it doesn’t even exist. Weird.
The good news:
- You can look for it in the office section of your local Target. I believe it comes in a few other colors, too.
- I found several similar options on Etsy and Amazon. Hooray! They’re listed below…please note that if you make a purchase through a link from this page, I may earn a small commission.
Simple Monthly Planners
- Cambridge Monthly Planner by Mead – Choose from several colors and designs. I chose this one for 2021.
- Monthly planners with tabs from SHP Planners – beautiful, affordable, and they meet my perfect planner criteria. Many colors and patterns to choose from. This is the planner I chose for 2019 and 2020. It’s working well so far, with the small exception that the monthly tabs are not on the monthly page, which drives me crazy. Simple fix: use double sided tape to stick the tabbed page to the monthly page.
3. Simple monthly planner from Blue Sky – available in several colors, at an amazing price.
4. Basic Blue Sky monthly planner – Another simple, sturdy, and super affordable option.
Happy planning, friends!
Do you still use a paper calendar? What’s your perfect planner?
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Great minds think alike. I use the same kind of planner. I have been for years. I really love your idea of the separate spiral notebook for notes. I will definitely start doing that. Thanks for the idea. Have a great year! Regards from a fellow dT oiler.
Glad I’m not alone in my love for the monthly planner!
All about the paper! I use a real paper calendar, and I simply cannot read on the kindle…hence why my entire family has 100+ books checked out of the library! Oh and I carry a spiral notebook around to jot down all the things I will never remember 🙂
Spiral notebooks are my favorite!
Like you, I only need the monthly view. I’m not organized enough and can’t seem to flip back and forth, too much effort. Is this style still available at Target? I have looked everywhere online for something similar on various websites. Due to awful handwriting I cannot do a smaller monthly view because then I have no clue what I wrote down!!
Hi Heather, I couldn’t find it at my local Target this year, but I did find this similar version on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2QVGs3a. And the etsy planners I listed above are a great option–that’s what I ordered for myself this year.
Thank you Kathleen. I started out using the pocket monthly calendars I got free from the bank. I have tried using the plan your entire life planners but I just cannot do it. I just need the monthly view with room to write and it has become next to impossible to find month only planners. I thought I was the only one that doesn’t have time for too much detail that I am not going to keep up with.
I agree! Monthly calendars are getting harder to find, but I’m thankful there are still a few options available. 🙂
I love this one. Monthly calendar on two page spread in the front, and then notebook pages after.
The notebook pages are numbered, and the calendar boxes have a small square in the corner to write a page number in.
So, if you have additional notes about an event, you jot down the page number where you’ve written them in the corner.
When you take notes on a particular day, you can go back and add the page number to that square on the calendar.
Have you ever checked out the See it Bigger 2 year monthly planners? I find them at CVS and Walmart and the price is amazing-$6. However, no tabs and not spiral. But lots of space in the boxes.
Good to know! I feel pretty strongly about tabs and spiral bound, but I will keep this in mind. Thanks!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I feel like you see me.