Rings vs Hobonichi – which is better?

I think I’ve now been in a Hobonichi for the same length of time that I was in rings (three years)

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I figure now is the perfect time to try to answer the question no one has been asking – which is better for planning?

There’s a bunch of different planners out there and I’d say there are five main types:

  1. Rings (brands like Filofax, Franklin Covey and Kikki K)
  2. Strings (also known as Traveler’s Notebooks with brands such as Midori and Foxy Fix creating beautiful covers)
  3. Coil (Erin Conren being the main brand of these)
  4. Discs (Happy Planner is the leader here)
  5. Bound (pretty much everything else; with Hobonichi probably being the most popular)

There’s also the world of Bullet Journalling, for the ultimate in flexible planning.

I’ve tried all of these throughout the years, but Rings and Hobonichis have been the main two that I’ve loved and used the most. As these are my favourite two I wanted to do a pros and cons of both. If you’re currently using one of these planners and are tempted to try the other, hopefully this little list will help with the decision.

Rings – Pros

The sizes available – from pocket all the way up to an A4 size, there’s ultimate flexibility. Need something that can double up as a purse? Pocket is probably the size for you. Want a planner that can live on your desk and store important documents too? A5 might be ideal. Complete layout freedom – with different sizes comes different layouts. You can either create your own, or purchase pages from Etsy*. As you’re not committing to a whole expensive planner every time you want to change something, you can try out lots of different ways of planning until you find what works. Move the pages around – you have the ultimate in flexibility. If you can’t fit all year in the rings because you need lots of project pages that’s not a problem. You can simply move things in and out as you need them.

Huge variety of colours and styles – you’ll be hard-pressed to not find a design you like. Leather, fabric, even cork*! Due to the wide range available, you can even change up your planner to suit the seasons. If you enjoy the decorative aspect of planning, setting up a new planner every quarter might be perfect for you. Great storage options – it’s very rare you’ll find some rings without additional storage in the cover. Between zip pockets and pen loops you’ll be able to carry what you need to plan on the go. You can also purchase plastic inserts to carry things, too.

Widely available – Filofaxes have been around for years. Lots of stationery shops now even do their own versions. Chances are you’ll be able to find one locally (or, on Amazon). Meaning you can probably get set up with a new planning solution pretty quickly.

Rings can do everything – because of the freedom of everything just mentioned above, a ringed planner can be whatever you want it to be. There’s very few other planners that can say that. Need something for pure weekly planning? A project planner with lots of note pages? A storage method for important household documents? A ringed planner can do all that.

Filofax – cons

Heavy – yes you can get different sizes but that ring mechanism isn’t light. If you need something like an A5 size, you’ll find this tricky to carry around all day every day.

Bulky – related to the weight, it’s also a bulky set up. Those rings add a fair amount of chunk to your planner. The rings – they’re actually pretty awkward to use. They generally get in the way when you’re trying to write on the pages in a location that’s close to the rings. You can also never fill the planner completely and make complete use of the rings because as soon as you do, you can no longer open the rings without losing lots of pages. If you’re planning on using your rings for a lot of stuff, you really need to take notice of the ring size provided. The ring size in most Filofaxes is just 23mm while in Kikki K’s it’s 28mm.

Creating your own pages isn’t easy – you’ll also need to purchase some equipment. You have complete flexibility to create whatever you want for your planner. However, to do that, you’ll need a computer programme that will create the pages, a printer, a method of cutting the pages and a hole punch. I only did it myself a few times before sticking to purchased inserts.

Hobonichi – Pros

Tomoe River paper – a massive plus for any fountain pen lover. This super thin paper takes fountain pens and watercolours like very few other planners.

Thin and light – the Tomoe River paper also means that the Hobonichi planners are super lightweight. The amount of stuff that the Cousin packs into such a small area (monthly, weekly AND daily planning pages) is pretty unbelievable.

Three sizes to choose from – I guess this could be a pro and a con. I consider this a pro as the three sizes all offer something different. The A6 gives you just monthly and daily pages. The Weeks gives you monthly and weekly pages (in a horizontal format) and notes pages. The Cousin gives you monthly, weekly (in a vertical format) and then daily pages too. There’s also now the ‘Day Free’ version that exists, as of 2020. This edition removes the daily pages in either the A6 or Cousin size.

Pages can be easily repurposed – the set up of the pages, and the light grey print makes altering these pages very easy. I frequently change up how I use the weekly and daily pages in my Cousin. Large amount of cover choices – just like with rings, you can pick and chose your cover depending on how you feel. There’s lots of official Hobonichi covers to choose from. In addition, in recent years lots of Etsy sellers* have started creating covers for these planners.

Hobonichi – Cons

Tricky to purchase – these aren’t that easy to find. Very few local stores (depending on your country) carry them, and they’re usually highly marked up in price. Which leads me on to…

Expensive – if you order from Hobonichi you’re looking at an expensive order. Alongside the cost of the product there are high delivery charges. If you’re in a country that has customs charges you’ll also be hit with that too. Resellers can be pricy too. The cheapest and easiest way to buy a Hobonichi is through Amazon Japan, but sadly they don’t carry the full range. If you want lots of accessories, you’re going to have to order from the Hobonichi store.

Thin pages – you might be querying how I can list this as a con after raving about it in the pros. The simple fact is I’m heavy-handed. Even now I frequently bend, dent or even rip pages just by flicking through them. They’re also quite unforgiving when it comes to applying washi. It’s so easy for the page to not stay flat when putting on washi causing it to wrinkle. It’s a minor gripe, but one I wasn’t aware of before I purchased my first Hobonichi.

Lack of flexibility – yes you can be creative with the pages, but ultimately these are mainly about pure planning. If you want a planner that can hold your life, this might not be it due to the finite amount of pages and ways to use them.

Very few sticker makers – for everything other than the Weeks, there’s really not that many people creating sticker kits for the Hobonichi. Japanese and English are the only options – and even then, the English options are limited. The grid size is also different on the English version.

So which is better?

On paper, the ringed planner is the better choice. In terms of complete flexibility there’s nothing better than a Filofax. Despite my three years in a Hobonichi Cousin, I still use a Filofax today. However, I only ever use this alongside my Cousin. It holds information that lasts longer than the year I’m in my Hobonichi. So why do I use the Hobonichi as my main planner and not the Filofax? Unfortunately, I hate the rings that much that using a Filofax daily is a bit of a nightmare. My handwriting isn’t all that great and I found trying to navigate the rings just made it worse. I also didn’t want to have to remove the pages whenever I wanted to do some planning. Thankfully my planning style suits the Hobonichi layouts. However, if it didn’t I know I’d still be searching for ‘planner peace’.

If you’ve used both types of planner I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you love rings and the flexibility it gives? Or is the Hobonichi planner peace for you too? Let me know your favourite planner in the comments below!