I officially declare Planner Fridays – that way those among you who aren’t interested in such things know when to skip a day.
When you first get into the whole planner scene you can be easily overwhelmed by all the stuff – there’s so much to buy! Stickers! Washi tape! Stamps! Colored pens! Paper clips and bookmarks! Dashboards! Oh dear God!
Most people (myself included) make the mistake of blowing a whole crap-ton of money off the bat on stuff they don’t really need. Luckily, the planner community is very active on YouTube, so if you search for “Planners 101” or similar you’ll find a lot of good information. Here’s my personal advice, in non-video form, because I sound like a duck on camera and nobody needs that.
Let’s start with the biggest and most obvious money-sucker: Stickers. I divide them into three basic categories:
1 – Functional
These are what most people think of when they think of “planner stickers” – appointment reminders, checklists, medication trackers, a cute little dog that tells you it’s time for Fido’s flea treatment. This is the bulk of what I sell, because when I got into the sticker business I assumed that was all there was. Then I discovered…
2 – Decorative
Everyone likes a cool-looking planner, and their idea of what’s cool can vary wildly. Most any sticker you buy at a craft store is decorative – animals, flowers, butterflies.
A large percentage of the stix on Etsy are made for a vertical-column weekly planner – you’ll usually see it referred to as an Erin Condren Life Planner, though that’s just one brand of many. No one brand will fit everyone, and you have to go with the closest to perfect you can find. Luckily there are myriad ways to customize and prettify any layout.
When the first Erin Condren planners came out they had each column divided into three sections: morning, afternoon, evening. The headers were .25″ x 1.5″, and the space beneath them 1.5″ x 1.9″ Since people love to make things their own, pretty soon they started making creating new headers and “squares.” (They’re not remotely square but I guess that’s easier to say than rectangle or quadrilateral.)
I’d estimate 60% of the stix on Etsy are made for the original ECLP dimensions. (Okay, I pulled that number out of my ass, but still, it’s a lot.) Since then, Erin Condren has come out with other layouts, including a horizontal, as have their competitors; the stickers available have diversified accordingly. If you’re not averse to trimming, you can make almost all of them work in almost any planner. I used plenty in my Filofax.
There are decorative squares for just about every visual style, fandom, and subject out there. I’ve seen entire sets of Sherlock squares, squares about coffee (there are a lot of those), and inspirational quotes of all sorts. (I’ll tell you now that most of the artists and photographers whose work is featured in these stickers are not being compensated or credited; it’s up to you if you want to buy them. I don’t sell other people’s art, but I’m not going to lie and say I’ve never downloaded for my own personal use.)
3 – Themed Kits
A kit is just a sheet of mixed functional and decorative stickers all in one theme or color scheme, usually designed to be used in a single themed week. They often have a section of squares and then banners, check boxes, headers, flags, and usually a “hydrate” sticker for tracking your water intake. (I don’t know why those are so popular, but they’re a huge thing.)
There are so many varieties it’ll make your head spin. Some are flat-out beautiful. Many are seasonal or based on the monthly color schemes of the planner; there are also movies, TV, artistic styles, and there’s even a vegan kit or two. I usually go for an eclectic (read: thrown-together but somehow it works) weekly layout, but occasionally I go for a kit, like this year’s Christmas week. I didn’t want to have to think about that week but I wanted it to be pretty.
The issue that I have with these kits is this: They can be hella expensive. Depending on the size and complexity, they can run anywhere from $4 to $10 each. You can save money on the items and shipping if you’re up for printing your own – plenty of shops focus mostly on digital downloads. Still and all, I’ve seen a lot of people who use a different themed kit every week. Even at the lowest price point, a year’s worth of stickers would cost $200, and that’s not including the cost of the planner itself, any other decorative items, and functional stix not in the kit. That’s a shit ton of money for stickers!
Here’s my advice for those of you who are new to the nutty world of planner stickers:
- First, sit down and make a list of the things you need to keep track of in your planner. Decide which you might want a sticker for (you do have other options), and go looking. Prices will vary wildly and there will probably be a lot to choose from. Don’t go ultra cheap if it means buying something you think is ugly because “it’ll do.” You have to like looking at it or it’s pointless. Take care of your practical needs first, then go for the fun stuff. Functional stix are usually a good value, since they tend to be small and you get a lot on a sheet.
- Start small with decorating. If there’s a fandom you belong to, search for stickers related to it. Find a couple of kits you like and try them out. There’s no rule that you have to use them the way they’re set up; you could make one last a month if you want.
- It’s painfully easy to spend a lot of money without even realizing it. It’s just a couple of bucks a sheet, right? Next thing you know you’re out $50. I’d advise you to hold back and start with a couple of items to check out a seller. A lot of shops have samplers that will give you a good idea of their quality, and many also send out freebies with your order, or send you a coupon code for your next purchase.
- Make kits a special thing. Do up your holidays, birthday week, the week a movie you’re excited about premieres. Go for a theme when school starts or the new season of Doctor Who gets underway. Then go more minimal on the average week. It’ll save time and money.
- If you’re willing to print your stickers, don’t buy anything until you search Pinterest for freebies. They’re legion. Also, you don’t necessarily have to spend a lot on sticker paper; you can always print on regular paper and then use a glue stick. I’ve done it myself, and while it’s less convenient, it works just fine. If you do want to shell out for sticker paper, I suggest OnlineLabels.com, where you can get 100 sheets for half the price of Avery brand. If you’re printing, you don’t have to be limited to actual planner stickers, either – you can download clip art and print it out just the same. Look for “bottle cap” images and then use a 1″ circle punch.
Vocabulary Lesson: You’ll see the phrase “kiss-cut” a lot in stickerdom. That just means the stix have been cut by machine so you can peel them off the sheet like the ones you buy at Michael’s. The alternative is to cut them all out individually with scissors. (Known as “sticker flakes” in Japanese Zakka parlance.) If you do have to peel individual stickers, try using a craft knife to get between the layers, or your fingernail will mangle the paper.
I hope some of this is helpful. It can be pretty intimidating trying to navigate such an odd little world as the plannersphere, and getting overwhelmed or overspending can suck the fun out of it. The whole point here is to make staying organized a fun hobby rather than an onerous chore – otherwise you might as well just use Google Calendar.
(because this post wasn’t long enough already)
Individual Items I Love
Fuck It List Stickers
Earth Day Set
Watercolor – Rapunzel’s Tower stickers
Writing Inspiration Squares (hand-lettered)
Chibi Baymax Stickers
Classic Literature Sticker Set
Watercolor Galaxy Weekend Banners
Hogwarts House Inspired Sticker Set
Winter Rain Set
Doodle Printable Stickers
Free Sticker Resources
Next week, another decorating land mine: Stamps.
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