A Poor Person’s Plotter

After falling in love with the Plotter ring-binder system, I started wondering if there were any more budget-friendly options available. There’s lots to love about the Plotter but there are a couple big cons: they are VERY pricey, they are only available with leather covers and the rings are extremely small at just 0.375″.

I found a vendor on Etsy who makes a slightly less expensive Plotter alternative but its not what I would consider “budget-priced” (prices start a $83.99)  called Wuhzi Studio. They also make leather covers so it doesn’t solve for the cons listed above.  I dug deeper until I found Personal and A5- sized translucent plastic binders which were less than $5 a piece. The binders ship from China and took about two weeks to reach me.

I think $5 each is definitely budget-priced. The binders are plastic which isn’t ideal but its not leather so it checks the second box on the cons. Finally, the rings measure about 0.75″ which is larger than the Plotter which can be a plus or minus depending on your preference.

For your $5 investment, the binder comes with a sheet of plain white diecut stickers to put on the exterior of your binder and two additional elastics in red and brown. The binder shipped with the black elastic pre-installed.

Go ahead, tease me about the tab divider that says “You’re so pretty!” It makes me laugh every time I see it. Does you planner dividers make you smile? Maybe you need a “You’re so pretty!” sticker too.

I hesitated testing this binder because I was concerned that the plastic cover would not lay flat. But lo and behold, it does lay flat! I’m stunned!

I found all my pre-existing papers and tab fit into the binder without issue, even my Plotter paper refills.

With a similar volume of paper in the translucent binder as my Plotter, there is still plenty of room to add additional paper.

When compared to the Plotter on the left, above and a traditional Filofax Original in Personal size on the right, the translucent binder is definitely in-between. It’s a bit larger overall than the Plotter but its not as bulky as the Original which is actually one of the slimmer Filofax binders.

When stacked, you can see the size differences based on the ring sizes and the material thickness. The thin covers help to keep the overall bulk of the translucent binder. The absence of any pockets or slots inside the translucent cover also helps keep the cover slim as well. It’s also comparable to the Plotter which eschewed any built-in pockets or slots so if you need anything to hold ephemera, pens or business cards, you’ll have to purchase additional components.

I purchased the A5 sized translucent binder (also about $5) as well but could not figure out what to use it for right now. I have been using the A5 Filofax Domino to store notes and research and it absolutely requires the oversized 1.25″ sized rings. Like the Personal sized (AKA Bible Size), the binder shipped with extra elastics and a page of stickers.

I think I might end up using both of these binders to hold my extra refills and/or completed pages through the end of the year.

I am not going to give up my Plotter for these budget binders but I like knowing there are some other options.

Are you convinced to try a ring binder system yet?


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7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Amazon is loaded with 6-ring binder systems of all types. I have an old one that is at least 15 years old now. There are different types of binders of different sizes, with or without closures, filler paper, tabs, pocket pages, business card pages, etc. No need to spend all that money for the same dang thing!

    1. I was going to write the same thing, theare are plenty of cheap an d easily obtainable alternatives around. There’s also Filofax, Atoma, Williamson Hannah and other name brands if you want something a bit more luxurious.

  2. The small ring size is the primary reason I purchased a Plotter. I like the convenience of rings but dislike the bulk.

  3. I went from plotter to Filofax to a Moterm, with 30mm rings, which is still leather but much cheaper than Filofax and has better pocket layouts. I use an A6 size and make all my inserts, which is fun but also a chore. With A6 I can store everything I need and have a decent amount of writing space on paper of my choice.

  4. I used a GTD planner with rings as well as a Day Timer back in the day. I don’t see much difference between those and the Plotter systems, and I imagine I’d have the same problem with Plotter that I did with the other ring binders–the ring. As a right-handed person with big handwriting, those rings make the left-hand side of the paper all but unusable for me. That’s why I loved the Bullet Journal system so much when I discovered it, because I could do it in a lay-flat notebook. This year I’ve actually switched to a Passion Planner for my daily-use planner, and make BuJo collections in the blank pages at the end.

    Is the Plotter really that different from Daytimer or Filofax?

    1. I remember the griping about the cost of Filofax and others. Plotter pricing makes that seem like silly talk.

      I would say that owning a Plotter will get you into Stationary Heaven. If you took the Plotter name off and replaced it with Filofax or made it part of the Martha Stewart Felon Collection it wouldn’t be the same. Having said that if you can afford Plotter then fine.

      There are those who really want a disc or ring binder. Fine. If a disc or ring binder doesn’t work for you. Fine.

      I really enjoy using Plotter paper and that is really different from other systems. It works as is and I have no interest in the binder or someone else’s binder. This shouldn’t be interpreted as being anti-binder. Use what works for you.

      Someone may say that’s all well and good but I want to use this paper with that binder or that binding. Yes that could be costly to say put Plotter paper in a Hobonichi or some other binding.

    2. The rings on the plotter are minuscule which removes the challenge of writing on both sides of the binder. It does limit how much you can carry in the binder at any one time though.

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