If you’ve decided on paper, but you can’t decide if you’d be better off with a nice leather binder ( Filofax, Dayrunner or similar) or with Moleskine notebooks, you’ve probably figured that the cost of the Filofax option is pretty offputting compared to a Moleskine.
You may also have realised that the cost of Moleskines builds up as you keep buying them. So – which works out cheaper in the long run?
Lets start with a few assumptions – if you would do things differently, you’ll need to modify costs to fit…
- We’re going to use DIY Planner for our pages in the Filofax, so there’s no big costs with buying new forms and calendars each year.
- We’re going to look at A5 binders, so the cost of paper is fairly low, and can be handled by most desktop printers. Elsewhere in the world, availability may vary, but A5 is about the easiest to get and print in the UK (well, A4 is easier and cheaper, but it makes for a big binder).
- For the Moleskines, I’m looking at large sized ones – pocket ones are cheaper, but don’t give as much space for writing. Knock a bit off the cost of each notebook if you’d prefer the pocket versions, though.
- Costs are in UK pounds. If you’re elsewhere, the comparison should still work pretty well. Roughly double the numbers to get US Dollars or Euros, but prices probably vary too. They’re only estimates anyway, though, so don’t worry about it.
- To make ongoing usage costs, we have to make a guess at how many pages we’ll get through each month. I’m basing this on 100 pages a month, which is pretty heavy usage. If you’d use half as much, you could just double the times to get similar results – two years instead of the first year, for example.
- I’m assuming that you’d use both sides of a sheet in the Moleskine, but would only use one side in the Filofax. For me, the rings would get in the way for using the back of each sheet, so I wouldn’t, and if printing DIY Planner forms, using just one side saves you the hassle of printing on two sides. Using both sides of the paper in the Filofax would make relatively little difference (the cost of paper is minimal), but if you would only use one side of the Moleskine pages, you’d double the costs for Moleskines, which would make a big difference.
OK – let’s cost them up…
- One Moleskine Notebook – £10.
Actually, they’re a little more at list price, but it’s not far off (currently £11.50 at Mojo London). All you need to get started is a single notebook.
- Binder – various, starting from around £30 up to £100 or more. Let’s assume you’re going for something reasonably nice, and estimate this at £50
- Paper – we’re doing this the cheapskates way, with a ream of A5 plain paper – we’ll print our own templates to get the system we really want, rather than whatever Filofax packaged. £5.
- Hole Punch – this is a bit of a shock – £30.
The hole punch is actually £32 directly from Filofax.
So at this point, the Moleskine route is well ahead.
- Moleskine – £10
- Filofax – £85
I should note at this point that the initial cost of the Filofax system could be trimmed a bit. There are binders for less than Â£50, and you don’t have to buy the hole punch straight away. It will let you use cheap plain paper, though, which brings the costs down in the long run – keep reading…
First Six Months
To work out usage costs, we have to estimate how many pages we’re going to get through. That’s tricky, and it will vary a lot. As I mentioned, I’m working on 100 pages per month here. That’s fairly heavy use – you may well get through a lot less.
- 600 Pages needed – so you’ll need three notebooks – £30. This includes the initial costs.
The large Moleskines have 240 pages, so three of them is 720 pages – well over the 600 we need for six months of use.
- 1 Ream of paper – £5.
We’ve finished our first 500-sheet ream, and just bought another. Unfortunately, we’ve not included the inital costs of £85.
- Initial costs plus six months of supplies – £90
At the end of six months, our Moleskines have cost us £30, and the Filofax has cost us £90. Those notebooks are way ahead.
Another Six Months on…
- 2 Moleskine Notebooks – £20.
We had 120 pages left from the first half of the year, so we only needed two more notebooks this time.
- Running total for Moleskines – £50.
- 1 ream of paper – £5.
We had 400 pages left, so we’re just 200 pages into our next ream.
- Running total for Filofax – £95.
The Moleskines are starting to cost us now, whilst the Filofax is pretty cheap in ongoing costs. Good job we’re using DIY Planner, or the paper would be costing us a fortune.
We’ll just jump right ahead and add a second year…
- Five Notebooks – £50.
We ended the year out of pages, so we’ve had to buy a full year’s supply.
- Running Total for Two Years – £100.
- 2 reams of paper – £10.
We had 300 pages left, so we needed another 900 – two reams.
- Running total for Two Years – £105.
Give or take a little (and these are only estimates at costs, remember) we’ve just about broken even after two years. From here on, the Moleskines will keep costing us £50 a year, and the Filofax around £10 or £15 a year.
Long Term Savings
So for long term savings, the Filofax will work out cheaper, but the up-front costs are higher. We’re hoping here that the binder and hole punch will last for more than two years, but that shouldn’t be a problem – they’re pretty well made things.
Even with heavy use, though, it still took over two years for the binder to start saving us money. That’s a fairly long term ‘investment’.
I think what this proves in the end is that the cost differences are pretty much negligible – you’re probably better off choosing what you prefer.
So what’s the difference without worrying about the costs? Well, they both have their advantages…
- Smaller to carry. Even the large notebooks are smaller and lighter than an A5 binder.
- Archiving is good – just line them up on a shelf, and they look good. With the Filofax, you’ll have boxes of old notes on loose sheets of paper.
- Easy to switch sizes and styles. If you decide after a few months that a smaller size would be better, or you’d prefer a reporter-style notebook, just start buying the new type. With the Filofax, you’d have to replace an expensive binder, and all of your inserts.
- Hipster Credibility. Creative types everywhere will recognise your Moleskine and respect you.
- Back Pocket – the folder bit in the back won’t hold a lot, but it will keep a few receipts, and maybe some money and cards.
- Removable sheets – some designs of Moleskines have some perforated sheets in the back, but you can take out all of the sheets in your Filofax.
- Re-orderable – you can pop sheets out of one section, and move them elsewhere to keep them organised, making it much easier to keep project notes together.
- Use lots of types of forms – you can download all sorts of forms from DIY Planner, and print what you need. Need something different? Make it yourself.
- Quality feel. There’s something about a good quality leather binder that really feels good. Maybe a bit more traditional than hipster, but nice.
- Easy removal of mess. Messed up a couple of pages? Remove them and bin them. Much easier than with a Moleskine.
- No rewriting when finished – because you never reach the end of a Filofax, you never need to rewrite notes from one to another. You might need to rewrite lists when running out of space on a sheet, but with a Moleskine, you could have a lot of notes to copy over when you run out of space.
The costs are, well, inconclusive. In the long run, the Filofax will probably be a bit cheaper, but there’s a big cost up front. The Moleskines are cheaper to start with, and don’t cost much more in the long run. So your choice is probably going to be based on other things. If you are making notes of the sake of thinking, the Moleskine will be just fine, but if it’s lists of things you need to keep handy, the Filofax may be more practical.
I think it comes down to a question of simplicity against capability. If you value the simplicity more, the Moleskine is the way to go. If you prefer capability, those moveable sheets and range of forms will be something no notebook could match.
Either way, pick one and go with it – now you can spend weeks trying to find the ideal pen.