DIY on a budget

You know, I'm reading all these posts about Levenger and fountain pens and high-quality paper, and I get mad office-supply lust the same way you guys do.

But! I work part-time in the mental health field (which doesn't pay much when you're a lowly peer counselor) and go to college part-time. So I don't have money for the fancy stuff. So I thought I'd bring up ways to do a planner on a shoestring.

First up: the binder. Office-supply stores sell half-size (Classic-sized) vinyl binders, usually in the "Specialty Binders" section. I think I paid five bucks for mine at Office Depot. Yeah, they wear out faster than the big leather things, but they have two things going for them: one, they're easy to replace. (In fact, you can used the cracked-cover ones as archive binders for old pages.) Two, they're small. Stuffing a big padded leather planner in a schoolbag or purse is really difficult. Plain vinyl binders are much smaller.

Also, if you're artistic or punk or whatever, you can decorate the hell out of your binder. Stickers, artwork, paint, whatever suits you. Mine has band stickers on it, and I plan on "laminating" the cover with packing tape once I get it the way I like it. (Of course, I work in a very casual environment, so I can get away with that.)

Paper: Mead makes cheap filler paper in Classic size. Check the School Supplies section. I use this for my Inbox, and therefore feel free to scribble without messing up good paper.

For my journal section, though, I wanted better paper. So I splurged and bought a couple of packs of FranklinCovey blank lined paper. They were four bucks and change each, which I think is worth it for journal paper.

Forms: printing stuff on my inkjet gets expensive. I live in a college town, so there are many copy places that do cheap copies. I print off one "master" page of each form I use, and then take it to a copy place and use the self-serve copiers. I can't afford a good 3-hole punch or paper cutter at this point, so I use a one-hole punch (the handheld kind) and scissors. Yeah, it's not as fast as the other equipment, but it still works. Cut and punch things in advance so you can grab and go rather than taking time every time you need a form.

Pens: those G2 mini pens are awfully cute. But I wanted something sturdier I could slip in my pocket. So I splurged -- eight bucks for a Zebra Extendz pen. They make blue ink refills, which is important to me because all the forms at work have to be done in blue ink. I'm on a campaign to get Zebra to make a matching telescoping pencil. (If you want to join me, go to and email them.)

So those are my tricks. Anyone else have ways to do planners on the cheap?

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an idea :o)

I work at a print shop so I get first dibs on scraps of paper... We often buy huge sheets of paper by the carton (usually around 25" by 38" or so). We cut them down to 11x17, 12x18, or 13x19 mostly. The result is varying widths of long strips of paper. I believe this is ideal for the DIY planner person!

Call your local print shops and ask if they have any scraps of paper around 3 inches wide (if you are an hPDA person)... you might be able to find a good size stack for cheap or even FREE :o) (If you feel odd ... just throw in, "It's for an artistic project" or something of that nature.) The paper I scored most recently was 80lb text~! Talk about heavenly and thick... I'm using it for scratch sheets and outlining my own "forms" on them.

I'm definately DIY on a budget~! It can be done ... the secret is to stick with it and be proud of what you make and have :o)

my artwork

I think I'm just naturally cheap


I was looking for 5.5 x 8.5 dividers and found plastic pockets (the 8.5 x 11.5 Two pieces of plastic bound together, each side with a pocket) for .30 each at the local office supply store. I bought some, sliced them up to fit my binder and voila! Instant dividers.
I used the remainder and some double sided tape to make pockets to hold things like pay receipts inside the binder.

To attach my pen to the binder I used a 3-m clip (the kind that come with the removable adhesive).

I use regular paper (3 lined, graph or plain) sliced in half at a copy store or with an sharp exacto and a cutting surface. The only thing I splurged on were business card holders.

cheap planning

Also, check out your local re-use store ( goodwill, etc.) for empty binders. Evey the leather ones are $5.00.

Save YOUR ink

Print your forms at school or work, like the rest of us 'underemployed' folks;)

Making cheap 'real' refills

Check out the discount bins in stationery supply stores or print shops for bargains. Notepads with damaged covers can be pulled apart for nice journal paper.

A dollar or two spent on a large out-of date-diary can save a lot on smaller-sized planner/journal pages. The best diaries for this are A4/Letter sized day-to-a-page diaries with the date at the top of the page and lines only below.

Rip off the diary's cover and take the inside of the diary to a print shop that has a cutting and drilling service. For a (usually) small fee the print shop can cut the paper to the size of your planner's pages and drill holes in the correct places.

I found a 2006 2 days-to-a-page A4 diary in a discount bin late last year and ended up with 366 journal pages for $5.20. 20 cents for the diary and $5 for the 2 minute cut and drill job.