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The Mythical Thin Wallet

Posted By Jim On 12/16/2008 @ 12:05 pm In Personal Finance | 22 Comments

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 [3] 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 [4])

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