How to choose a Filofax

A few posts ago, I told you I am a Filofax user.

Why Filofax?

I started using a Filofax because I tried the digital solution and it didn’t work for me.

Plus, a Filofax:

  1. doesn’t need to be charged;
  2. doesn’t need to be synced;
  3. is very flexible, I can change my insert in a few seconds;
  4. is easy to use, you can open the binder, write something down, close it (no scrolling down, tapping this and that);
  5. is beautiful to look at and you can personalise it. I put family photos, favourite stamps and bookmarks in it;
  6. will not attract muggers! (I have been attacked twice by people who want to take my iPhone, I don’t answer phone calls on the street anymore, but I will have no problem taking my Filofax out..haha!)

After reading that post, a friend of mine is ‘converted’ and wants to get a Filofax.

But there are so many to choose from! So she suggested that I write a post about what one needs to consider before buying a Filofax. I think it’s a good idea!

Personally, if you read my post about how I bought my Filofax, you will know I didn’t actually do much research. I got lucky and the only one available in the shop that fits my criteria is the one I ended up loving very very much. But you might not be as lucky, sorry, so I think it is a good idea that you do some planning.

How to?

So now you’ve decided you need to buy a Filofax, but hold back you must.

It’s so easy to be tempted to just go out and get one. But you must first understand your own need before you buy one. If not, you will end up having one that you might not be 100% in love with and you might end up not using it. (That’s what happened to my first two Filofax. I got one in university and another when I first started working full time. I only used them for a few days before giving up..)

And that is a big problem, because the idea of a Filofax is, it shall become your brain and your arm. I refer to my Filofax at least once every hour. Imagine if I don’t love it, it will be a bit of a problem. So you need to calm down, and take one step back…

Before you buy a Filofax, you need to know what your organisational need is.

Do you have a lot of appointments every day?
Do you have a lot of ‘tasks’ per day but not time specific?
Do you have a lot of ‘tasks’ per week but not even day specific?
Or do you just have a long list of stuff that you need to accomplish and you just need some form of a tracking system to make sure the ball is rolling?
And so on…

These are all very important, because that determines what kind of insert you will need. If you have a lot of appointments, then you will need Day On One Page or even Day On Two Page. If you have a lot of tasks per week but not day specific, you might want to use Week On One Page or Week On Two Page so that the accomplishments of the week can be viewed at a glance.

You might wonder, ‘hey, why do I need to think about the inserts before I even decide on the binder itself?’

Good question.

I notice a lot of people, when they talk about how to choose a Filofax, they first start talking about sizing, leather vs non-leather, price range, etc. But I think if you don’t know how much information and inserts you are likely to be bringing with you on a daily basis, you might end up with a binder of the wrong size and wrong make. So I would take one step back. Decide on the insert first!

You might even want to do a ‘mock up’ using plain sheets of paper or print out some inserts from Philofaxy (the must-read blog for any Filofax user, I will get to that in a minute), so that you can carry an imaginary Filofax for a week.

You can start putting your appointments in, then you will soon find out what works and what doesn’t; what you like and what you don’t like. For example, do you write big? If you write big, you might only be able to write one line per day on a Personal size Week On One Page insert! Or do you prefer to see your week in a column format so you can see ‘blocks’ of free time?

Also, lifestyle matters too! Do you live in a country or city where public transport, walking and cycling are the main means of transport? Or do you live in a car-oriented country or city? That will affect how much you can carry on a daily basis. I don’t drive so I don’t think I can carry an A5 easily. It’s do-able but I prefer not to.

Do you carry a big bag? If you are a backpack kind of person, an A5 might work for you. If you are someone like my husband, who won’t use anything that can’t fit into his trouser pocket, then you will need a Mini (and write very small).

You see? You need to know yourself. Only you know what works for you.

After a week of mock up, you should get a fairly good idea what your needs are and how you tend to organise yourself. You should be able to decide on sizing.

1. Sizing

Filofax come in five different sizes – Mini, Pocket, Personal, A5, and A4.

Mini – I have no experience with Mini, so I can’t tell you very much about it. I can imagine it will be handy for someone to put in a pocket to take quick notes. Grocery lists come to mind.

Pocket – I have only used them for a few days in university and later on at work, so I can’t really say I can give much opinion on them either. But I think if I don’t have an appointment-based business to run, I might be able to get away with a pocket. Another advantage with a Pocket is, there are a lot of cute patterns to choose from, if that’s what you are into.

Personal – I am currently using Personal size as an ‘Everyday Carry’. It’s small enough to fit in most woman’s handbag, while big enough to provide enough writing space. Personal is the most popular size among Filofax users. Some people do complain about not having enough space in a Personal. It’s probably a matter of style. I managed to run a business that has up to 10 appointments a day, my housework, my baby and my personal matters on a Personal size. But then, I don’t write very big.

A5 – I use an A5 size to manage my writing. This is probably the second most popular size. It feels spacious to write in. However, the downside of this is, it can be a little bit heavy at times. It works for me because I don’t need to carry it with me in my bag. I only refer to it when I am writing, which is mostly done at home.

A4 – I have never used an A4. The idea of an A4 is tempting, because you can just fit just about any A4 documents you have around you. But I have handled one in the local stationery store. I immediately put it back. It was HEAVY! I imagine an A4 can only be used in a desk-bound situation. And even then, it depends on how big your desk is! I imagine the binder being open when in use will probably take up A LOT of space.

2. Ring size

Depending on the model, ring size varies. For example, most Personals will have 23cm rings, but some are equipped with 30cm rings. A5s generally have 25cm or 30cm rings. That is why it matters to know what kind of inserts you will be carrying before you buy the binders! If you were to carry 6 months of Day On One Page insert, you will need a decent ring size, because that’s 90 leaves of insert to carry. But if Week On One Page is your insert of choice, then you will only need to carry 26 leaves of insert. See? A big difference.

That will also take us to the discussion of another two Filofax ranges – Compact and Slimline. Both Compact and Slimline take the same size of insert as Personal, but they have smaller rings – 16cm and 11-13cm (depending on model) respectively.

You see? You need to know how many leaves you will be carrying to decide on ring size.

3. Material

Filofax are made with a variety of different materials, depending on the model.

There are full leather Filofax where both the inside and outside are made with leather. There are half leather Filofax where only the outside or part of the outside are made with leather. And there are non-leather Filofax where the binders are made with PU material or canvas. Again, you need to ask yourself if you prefer a leather binder or a non-leather binder. Leather probably is more hardwearing but it will be more expensive.

Another tip that not a lot of people are aware of is – you need to ask yourself where are you doing your writing? Will you be writing on the go a lot? Or will you be doing most of the writing on your lap when you are on your commute? Or you will be writing at home most of the time? All these matter. For example, if you write on the go a lot, you might want to choose a Filofax made with harder material, so that it gives you a good writing surface. But some models with harder leather might not lay flat very well on the desk when open, and it can drive you mad if the Filofax keeps closing by itself. I know it’s little details, but it can be a deal-breaker for some people.

4. Closure

Do you prefer a clasp closure or zipper? Or do you prefer an elastic closure?

Some people love the sense of security a zipper closure provides. You ‘zip’ and go. You know everything is inside. Some people prefer clasp closure as it is quicker to close the binder then having to zip allllll arrrround the binder. It might only make 3 seconds of difference, but it bothers some people.

5. Layout 

Will you need your Filofax to have zipped pockets? Or will you need your Filofax to have a lot of card slots?

I have a Finchley where there are 8 card slots on the front. It’s more than enough for me. I also enjoy the mash zipped pocket on the back where I can put things that I don’t use very often but are important to me, e.g. prescription.

Do you use a notepad a lot? If you do, you might need to have a notepad slot on the back of the binder. Or do you prefer your binder to be more slimline? Then you might not want to have any pocket or slot at all! You might want to go with one that’s made with just a piece of smooth leather.

6. Colour, style, etc.

Gone are the days when Filofax were only made with limited ‘formal’ colours. There are now a rainbow of colours to choose from.

Would you prefer something with solid colour? Or would you prefer to use something with a cute pattern on it?
Do you work in a formal environment? You might need to go with solid colour. Or do you want in an artistic environment? You might want to buy a colour canvas one with a bird on it…

You need to know what your preference is. We have already established that you will look at your Filofax A LOT down the line…

7. Inserts

Filofax makes a wide range of inserts.

However, I have to admit I don’t use their inserts much. I am picky and I want my organisation to be EXACTLY the way I want it to be (hence, I really can’t do digital!) so I make most of my own inserts.

If you have listened to my advice earlier, you should know what inserts work for you by now.

8. Accessories (card inserts, maps, pens, etc)

There is a huge variety of accessories for your Filofax – made both by Filofax itself and by other companies. Plus, you can even ‘hack’ your own!

If you use a Personal size Filofax, accessories for Paperchase binder will fit right in. If you live in the U.S., DayTimer and DayRunner accessories will fit into Filofax as well.

There is also a lot of information online about ‘Filofax Hack’ where people make their own accessories, like this one, this one and this one.  You will also need to know what kind and how many accessories you want to go into your Filofax. I have 3 business card holders, 4 maps, 2 top-opening envelopes, 1 multifunction envelope and 1 folder (from Day Runner) in my Filofax. I carry 2 Bic4 pens for colour coding. Entries are made with different colours for work, husband, son, my personal matters, household, important and study.

Where to buy?

If you live in Dublin, here are a few tips on where you can purchase your Filofax.

Easons – I got my Personal Finchley at the local stationery store Easons by chance. If you live in Ireland, Easons is probably a very reliable stockist for you. However, their selection can be a bit poor at times…

Paperchase – I have never purchased anything Filofax-related from Paperchase, but I noticed they do stock Filofax. Again, not a great selection.

The Pen Corner – The Pen Corner is a lovely shop that stock Filofax. I have only ever got business card holder inserts from them. They put their Filofax behind the counter, some might find it a bit intimidating to have to go ‘old-school’ and wait to be served formally…

Amazon – I am all for supporting local business. However, living in Ireland, we all know it can be difficult to find what you need locally at times. I purchased my writing Filofax, an A5 Finsbury from Amazon. Quite happy with the price and the speed of delivery.

Filofax – You can also purchase directly from Filofax itself! They have a great 28 day returns policy. You can return the binder, no questions asked, within 28 days. So if you don’t have access to any Filofax stockist locally, you might want to do that. In case you really don’t like what you get, you can return it.

eBay – If you are into vintage Filofax (some argue their quality is better), eBay is your best bet. However, you have to be careful with eBay. Most of the sellers on eBay don’t usually know much about Filofax. So they tend not to be able to answer much of your questions. But if you know a particular model really well and you see it second hand on eBay at a good price, you might want to pounce. You don’t have to worry too much about counterfeiting as it is not yet a problem in the Filofax market.

What else do I need to know?

If you are buying your Filofax in a shop, it’s a good idea to take the binder out to inspect the ring mechanism to make sure it works ok. More importantly, make sure it closes well! A gaping ring can happen during stock transportation, being tossed around a bit when stocking the shelves, or being handled in a rough manner by a lot of shoppers. So make sure you check that before you go to the cashier.

If you buy online, you can’t inspect the item before purchase unfortunately. But if you notice a gaping ring, you might want to contact your seller for an exchange or return, because there is nothing more annoying than the papers being caught in the ring EVERY.SINGLE.TIME you turn a page. Gaping ring usually get worse with time.

Further reading!

This post is only the beginning of your Filofax journey.

If you are considering buying a Filofax, you cannot afford not to have a look at Philofaxy. It is by far the most comprehensive website on all things Filofax. A wide range of FREE inserts are also available to be downloaded there.

There are probably hundreds of Filofax-related blogs and YouTube channels out there, Google is your friend…

Are you a Filofax user? If you are a Filofax user and you have other suggestions for the newbies, please leave a comment below. I will add your suggestion on this post. 

Are you considering buying a Filofax? Do you have any questions? Leave a comment below and I will answer the best I can or point you in the right direction to find the answer. 


3 thoughts on “How to choose a Filofax

  1. Hello! Thank you for this great clear post. I am considering buying a Filofax for a few months now. But I’d like to ask for advice. The thing is, I don’t like beeing organised. I mean mostly planning my days/weeks/months.
    I would love to turn my Filofax in an art journal. Is it actually done by anyone? Which size would you advice then? I thought of A5. What also worries me is that I am going to start working in a local school so I suppose I’d need some planning and taking notes.


    • Hi Toffy! Thanks for your comment. I am glad that you enjoy my post! I really enjoy writing it too!
      To answer your questions, yes there are quite a lot of people using Filofax as art journal. You will see lots of example on Pinterest.
      About sizing, I think everyone feels differently about what’s ‘too big’, what’s ‘too small’. Also everyone lifestyle is different. Do you drive or walk to go to work? Do you carry a big bag? Are you a tote person or backpack person? All these factors will affect if Personal size is more suitable or A5.
      Do you have possibility to see Filofax in shops in your location? Holding one on hand usually can give you an idea which size suits you best. If you don’t have stockist in your area, the alternative is to print out some insert and make a dummy Filofax. Carry that for a week or two. You will then have a better idea.
      Hope that helps and any other question, don’t hesitate to ask!


      • Thank you! Yes indeed, unfortunately there are no Filofaxes in stock at the moment in the store, so perhaps printing the inserts is a good idea, I will try. Thank you once again for your answer!


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