Whilst discussing my recently-completed Inspired Stories Daily Planner, I have alluded to a previous occasion when I had a daily planner which never really gelled with me. This was the 100-Day bound planner from The Happiness Planner, which I ordered back in August 2017. At that point, I felt that daily planning might help me to make sense of the reduction in free time I had as a result of a relocation of my workplace. Either that, or I simply deserved a nice treat to make up for the faffing about the relocation was imposing on my life. I soon found, though, that the weekly overview and daily pages format didn’t suit me (nor did the new location of the job) and I didn’t use the planner much at all. Since then, I have kept an eye on the Happiness Planner website, mostly because their products are rather pretty. In particular, I’ve always liked the look of their A5 ringbound planner.

Recently, a photograph on Instagram prompted me to go and look at the website again, and I found they had a number of items on sale with a 50% reduction, including the A5 ringbound planners, and I didn’t hesitate for a moment to pop through an order for the pale blue model. It cost me £11.00 and my reasoning was that, even if I didn’t use it for anything but storage, it would still pay its way. The details pointed out that the planner would arrive with out of date inserts, but I didn’t care – I don’t much like the inserts anyway and they sell current inserts separately if I did want to use them.

I’ve got to say, I’m impressed with what £11.00 bought me on this occasion. The planner arrived with pleasing alacrity. I ordered it on the 15th of December, I got an e-mail advising it had shipped around 5.00pm on the 17th of December, and it was with me at 8.15am on the 18th of December. Post and packing was a very reasonable £3.00. The planner was sealed in a sturdy pale blue gift/storage box which contained a decorative postcard thanking me for my purchase and wishing me great happiness, health and success in 2018. Next up were a set of A4 goal-planning sheets, the same as the ones which I had received with the old 100-day planner; these are printed on a shiny coated paper which makes them incompatible with fountain pens and each sheet arrives folded in half. The sheets are:

  • 2017 Reflections (one sheet for highs, one sheet for lows)
  • 2018 Vision Board
  • “In 2018 I will…..” sheet for what I want to achieve
  • Undated New Year’s Resolutions
  • Undated bucket list
  • Undated “Change a Habit in 30 Days” sheet
  • Undated goals sheet

The planner pages for July-December 2018 were packaged in a plastic sleeve, ready to insert after archiving used pages from the binder. Also included in the box were three standard 1″ paperclips, two foldback clips, and an ultra-slim metal ballpoint pen, all silver-coloured. The binder itself was wrapped in a sheet of tissue and sealed with label bearing The Happiness Planner’s logo. I would have been impressed if I had received this box as a gift, especially back in 2018!!

The first thing I have to point out is that the binder is plastic with stiffeners built in and a foam padding, so this isn’t your high-end, luxury, floppy-leather kind of product. On the website, it is described as “faux leather” exactly once, and as “leather” several times; I knew it wouldn’t be leather and I wouldn’t expect leather for a full price of only £22, but it does annoy me a little when I see products which are clearly plastic described as “leather” because they’re not. In fact, I don’t like the name “faux leather” either; leather-look, or, better still, PU/PVC or whatever the material actually is would be preferable. Anyway, that is a minor niggle in a generally very positive review.

The binder has a tri-fold design with the asymmetric right-hand flap closing magnetically to keep everything neat and tidy. The flap has a silver-coloured metal trim which looks very nice with the very pale blue of the PU material on the outside; this material has a cross-hatch “Saffiano” texture to it. The stitching throughout is tidy and regular and the thread used matches the outside of the binder very well; there is no branding at all on the outside. The lining on the inside is smooth and in a shade that is slightly more of a sky-blue with the barest hint of turquoise to it – you can see that it contrasts with the Saffiano material and brings out the slightly greyer quality of the blue used for the outside. You can see the areas of stiffening very clearly from the inside as the lining is stuck onto them and this does make the binder look like it’s been produced to a budget. On initial opening, it didn’t lay flat, but a quick flexing of the two “joints” on the cover soon sorted that out. Inside, there is a secretarial flap on the left-hand side with two card pockets and a deeper square pocket; this area is formed using the exterior Saffiano material with plain black plastic linings and bears the only branding on the binder in the form of the company’s logo printed in silver. The single, elasticated pen loop is situated at the opening edge of this front cover and it is narrow to the point of only being useable with the skinny metal ballpoint included. The ring mechanism is silver-coloured, rivetted in position, and the rings seem well-aligned with an internal diameter of 30mm? Overall, the binder puts me in mind of the Kikki K planners I’ve had in the past, although they were actually leather.

The binder is pre-packed with the following pages, all of which measure 210mm x 140mm (standard A5 would be 210mm x 150mm):

  • Glossy card cover sheet with a pink and green floral motif and “the happiness planner” in fancy gold (?) lettering, all lower case
  • Page with space for the owner’s name on the front and copyright details on the back – the planner is designed in the USA and printed in China
  • Page with introductory “letter” from Mo Seetubtim, founder/writer/designer, and giving the company’s contact details on the reverse
  • 16 pages of exercises to determine strengths, weaknesses, goals etc (click for photo)
  • 2018 & 2019 year to a page calendars
  • A “rate how you feel” page to complete before you start the planner
  • Each month (note – these are dated for 2018) then has:
    • Dated month on two pages calendar
    • 1 page to set goals for the month ahead (click for photo)
    • 1 day per page dated diary with full pages for Saturday and Sunday (bonus points there!); each day has a quote
    • 1 page to reflect on the month just completed
  • 5 pages of decorative stickers plus 1 page of month labels (click for photo)
  • 12 shiny silver card dividers, unlabelled.
The daily planning pages

As I mentioned previously, half of the year is pre-loaded in the binder and the other half is supplied in a separate packet inside the gift box. Their format differs a little from the old 100-day planner I had previously in that the bound book had a weekly overview page followed by seven daily pages; I can’t remember if it also had monthly pages.

The paper is smooth and white and the layout is quite nice and spacious, although the lettering on the pages is rather small and has the feel of having been designed at, say, A4 size and then reduced to the A5 size. I would like to see the dates given more prominence, although this is of no consequence at all in a planner that’s way out of date – if anything, it’s an advantage as it makes them easier to cover up.

Ink test page

The thing that I am most interested in is how does the paper hold up to my fountain pens? Surprisingly well, it turns out. I tested out the four pens I currently have inked and the only bleed-through was one tiny speck on the Cross washable blue ink. More impressively, ghosting or show-through is very low on the reverse of the paper and I would be more than happy writing on both sides. If I’m being picky, I would say that the coating on the paper makes the inks look a little dull, which is especially noticable with the Cross ink, but I prefer that to show-through any day of the week.

Reverse of the ink test page

All in all, I would say this is an attractive and useable planner at an incredibly reasonable price. I like the tri-fold design which makes the binder seem nice and solid, and the stiffened covers and minimal interior pockets are fine by me. The paper quality of the main planner is most acceptable and there’s certainly plenty of guidance in the prepration section to set you up for a year.

The big question, though, is am I actually going to use it or is it just an interesting artefact to peruse? Well you may ask. When I placed the order, I was fairly sure that I would use the binder for storage and either recycle, or pass on the planner pages if anyone else wanted them. Whilst I was awaiting its arrival I started to reassess how I want to arrange my general notes for the coming year, with one option being to use a ring-bound system in some way. And now? Well, my friends, that is a story which is yet to be written.

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