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The Mythical Thin Wallet

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A Costanza Wallet (with Rubber Band!)As a New Yorker and a product of television in the 90’s, I got a heavy dose of Seinfeld. If you watched any television in the 90’s, chances are you saw a fair amount of it too. Whether you were a fan or not, one of the show’s many topics leeched out of TV land and into normal society – the Costanza wallet. For those who don’t know what it was, it was the receipt-packed wallet that was so full, George Costanza had to even it out by sticking napkins in his other back pocket. If I didn’t clean out my wallet every once and a while, it would certainly grow to a size that rivaled Costanza’s. (by the way, if you need a rubber band to hold your wallet together, you have way too much stuff)

That being said, the holy grail of wallets now is that of a thin wallet. A wallet that doesn’t burst at the seams and carries only that which you absolutely need on a daily basis. Let’s be honest, you don’t really need to carry all those cards, receipts, and a fat stack of cash every day. Why not invest in a thin wallet?

Why You Need A Thinner Waller

By carrying less, you force yourself to plan. Thinking about going to lunch this Friday at your favorite restaurant? Better plan for it by putting that frequent diner card in your wallet. Need to buy a shower curtain at Bed Bath & Beyond? Snatch up one of those 20% off coupons. By thinking about what you’re carrying, you’re forcing yourself to plan your spending. By forcing yourself to plan, you reduce the number of impulse decisions. By not carrying everything, you give yourself an excuse to avoid making those impulse decisions. In the end, you save a little bit of money in the process.

Thin wallets might help your back. I’ve never had a wallet that was as wide as Costanza’s so I can’t claim that carrying a thin wallet will help it, but it’s certainly more comfortable. There are times when I feel like I’m sitting on a small book, so I take it out and stick it in my jacket. A thinner wallet really is more comfortable to sit on.

Thin wallets can fit in your front pocket, making them more secure. When we went to England, I pulled a lot of non-essentials out of my wallet. There’s no reason to bring extra credit cards (I brought the Capital One card I deemed the best international credit card and an American Express) or any of those frequent dining cards either. With a thinner wallet, I could easily put it in the front pocket of my jeans, a harder pocket to pick.

How To Slim Down Your Wallet

Have I convinced you? If so, here are some tips on how to slim down your overweight wallet:

  • Get a smaller wallet: This seems obvious but it’s often not the first thing people think of. The less space you have, the less stuff you can carry. You can always jam pack the billfold area with receipts but with fewer pockets, you carry fewer cards. Your former fat wallet may not take kindly to being thinner, much like rapid weight loss leaves a little extra, your wallet may have become irreparably stretched to the point that fewer cards means the ones that are left slip out.
  • Clean it out regularly, like every day: Whenever you get home, open your wallet and clean it out. By keeping it clean, you ensure it will have a nice long thin life. Once you get into a habit you won’t consider it a chore (it can’t take more than a few seconds).
  • Carry less cash: Carrying a lot of cash might make you feel powerful (it’s a proven psychological fact) but it’s riskier. If you lose cash, there’s no recourse. Credit cards offer protection (and cash back). They also take up less space.
  • Carry only those credit cards you need: You don’t need more than a couple credit cards, the rest is just a waste of space. This is where you need to decide if you prefer the maximum cash back, or a thinner wallet. This is also where you can do a little extra planning too.
  • Skip photos: I’m sentimental and keep a photo of my wife and I when we were “my girlfriend and I.” I still have it but you might consider removing the photos you have, how often do you look at them? This may be risky to admit, but I don’t look at it all that often.
  • Recycle receipts: If you reconcile your receipts, you should put them in a pile next to your computer and not leave them in your wallet.
  • Get keychain reward cards: A few years ago, stores began to put your reward or loyalty card’s barcode onto little tabs you can attach to your keychain. Use those instead of the card itself and save some extra room in your wallet.

The mythical thin wallet has many strong suits and very few weak ones, give it a try for a week and see how much better your back feels! 🙂

(Photo: shareski)

{ 22 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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22 Responses to “The Mythical Thin Wallet”

  1. My wallet does vary in volume and it is inevitably cash that does it to me – living in NYC, where many places don’t accept credit cards, I end up with a ridiculous number of small bills and I need to keep them around. Still haven’t figured out may way around this one yet, especially as a former front pocket guy who can’t manage it anymore.

    Sidenote: You ever notice that nobody worries about getting pickpocketed in their own major city (like NYC), but when they go abroad, they do the “change wallet pocket” trick?

  2. philip says:

    I have cut down to using a money clip. I carry about 5 things with me and that is it. Very nice to not worry about it.

  3. TStrump says:

    I now use a moneyclip, too – I only carry what I need and it forces me to clean out receipts daily.
    I keep my ‘big’ wallet at home and it carries all of my cards.

  4. Dave says:

    I’m glad to see there’s so many moneyclip people out there!! I always hated carrying a wallet in my back pocket, and a big “Costanza” wallet in the front pocket will get some funny looks.

    I switched a few years ago to a money clip for the sole purpose of forcing myself to carry less stuff. Now, all I carry is a minor amount of cash (maybe 2-3 $20s and any change I get), 1 credit card, 1 ATM card, my ID, my AAA card, and my insurance card.

  5. Aman says:

    money clip is the way to go for day-to-day. It all I use and have never looked back. Only times I have taken a wallet – thin one of course, is for business meetings or when I am traveling.

    and growing up in the ‘projects’ I sort of got into the habit of putting my wallet in my front pockets. So I cant really relate to George C and his back pain or anyone else that talks about it really.

  6. Burgr says:

    I can’t stand Costanza Wallet Syndrome! I tease everyone I see with a pudgy overstuffed wallet 🙂

    Even better than using keychain rewards cards is to use a web service like Input all your barcodes, and print out a consolidated list that is business card size.

  7. Craig says:

    For a thin wallet you can’t beat the All-Ett ( Made of sail cloth (they also have a slightly thicker leather version), mine is thinner with about 18 cards and cash in it than my old leather one was empty. Highly recommended and much flexible than a money clip.

  8. Steven says:

    Regarding the keychain club cards, I think they are the most annoying things ever invented! Instead, I consolidate all 8 of mine into one card using
    I got rid of my library card using the same system.

  9. Eric N. says:

    Again…master of timeliness (it’s almost freaky)…I just ordered the All-Ett “thinnest wallet” last week and got it today. Amazing little thing! I can fit in a dozen cards easily.

  10. emailaddressofmines says:

    Those with the All-Ett wallets, from the pics on the site it seems that each card pocket can fit multiple cards. What if you only have a few cards in the pocket rather than the max 10, will the cards slide out? Just asking because I don’t want to carry extra cards just to prevent cards from sliding around. Thanks in advance.

  11. Bill M says:

    I am so used to a big wallet that the days I am doing chores in my yard and I don’t have it with me, it seems something is missing from my body. I have tried those clip-ons and I haven’t found a way for them work yet.

  12. Eric N. says:


    I’ve only had it for a day but this is my initial impression. If you only carry a few cards and have minimal other items, getting a money clip would probably be best. The All-Etts do become loose if you only have one or two cards and they can slide out towards the middle.

  13. Broke MBA says:

    I just recently cleaned out my “overstuffed” wallet as well. I had too many gift cards to count, some had even expired! I experienced the ill effects of the “rapid weight loss” as all of my existing plastic completely fell out last night. @ Craig – Thanks for the info on All-Ett. I’m definitely considering this for my new wallet.

  14. Patrick says:

    I’ve used a thin wallet and money clip for the last few years and I love it. I hate having things in my back pocket, and the thin wallet fits nicely up front. I usually keep 2 credit cards (personal and business), and ATM card, driver’s license, library card and 2 club cards (gas & groceries). I didn’t know about so I will check that out. Fewer items makes me happy. 🙂

  15. Greg says:

    Wallet: A leather business card holder. Keeps my license and a couple credit cards.

    Cash is folded into quarters and placed in my front pocket (harder to pick) with the smallest bills on the outside.

    Cards such as Costco, library, etc. stay in my car; I grab them when I need them.

  16. Steve says:

    For those who feel the need to carry photos with them, another option is to move them out of the meatspace and into your phone / iPod / [insert ubiquitous electronic device here]

  17. Matt says:

    My wallet goes in my front pocket, and always has. The back pocket is where I put receipts. 🙂

    Interestingly, I just did a major wallet clean-out this past weekend, discarding or archiving old or infrequently-used items (such as the huge array of business cards I accumulated while planning our wedding, loyalty cards for grocery stores I rarely shop at anymore, credit cards that aren’t even valid anymore, etc).

  18. Jon says:

    2 words: Man Purse 😛

  19. AJ Kumar says:

    Since I’m a bit of a germa-phob, I had to get rid of my money clip. I’ve worked at the bank and one I’ve learned is that money is dirty! I do have a pretty skinny wallet. From my observations, people have these mondo wallets because of receipts. So like you said in the post, leave em at home!

  20. I use a ID card case to carry my cards and some cash. They sell them at Urban Outfitters for $15, and it’s the slimmest wallet that holds EVERYTHING (even small tokens) that I’ve ever had.

    It’s great. I just snap open the case pull out the card, and pay.

  21. Frugal Babe says:

    My husband created a “wallamaphone” a few years ago, and loves it to this day (don’t know what the “ma” in the middle stands for – I think it just sounds good that way). He took two thick rubber bands and wrapped them around his phone. He cut little peep holes in the fronts of the rubber bands, so that the numbers on the keypad show through. Then he put all of his wallet stuff in the rubber bands on the back of his phone. He carries his license, gym card, credit card, business credit card, health and auto insurance cards, and usually $20. That’s it – he only ever needs to grab his phone, and he’s ready to go.

    • jim says:

      That’s pretty clever! Do the rubber bands ever break? I’d be worried about that… and the friction the rubber has in my pocket, but clever all the same!

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