Do you remember George Costanza’s mammoth wallet?
It was so enormous, he had to stuff napkins in his other back pocket to keep himself balanced when sitting down. After causing back problems, it eventually exploded out onto a street, unleashing a torrent of receipts, coupons, and Irish money.
To avoid George Costanza’s fate, here’s how to radically slim down your wallet:
1. Get a smaller wallet
The first step to a super-slim wallet, is to simply get a smaller one. This forces you to ask:
- What do I absolutely need and use everyday?
- Why are there so many gum wrappers and receipts in my wallet?
- Should I really use my wallet as a photo album and a Rolodex?
- Do I really need 10+ credit and rewards cards?
If you think a smaller wallet can’t possibly work for you, remember Parkinson’s law: data expands to fill the available space. In other words, your wallet is never big enough, because we just can’t help fill it up until it breaks. That also goes for our homes, our closets, and our hard drives.
Instead of buying a bigger wallet to fit more, get a smaller wallet to fit less. Here’s a selection of super-slim wallets that purposely don’t hold a lot:
The choice of Silicon Valley tech-geeks, called “the wallet for people who hate wallets.”
Claims to be the “slimmest” wallet on earth.
The card holder
My personal wallet is a simple one-pocket leather card holder.
The binder clip
The most minimal of all. Cheap, durable, and versatile.
2. Use a trash can (or recycling bin)
Even after you switch to a smaller wallet, garbage can make its way into it. Because I have littering guilt, this happens to me a lot. I’ve had my wallet filled with everything from bus transfers to gum wrappers. These should obviously be thrown out, but there’s also another type of trash that can also bulk up your wallet: bits of paper that seem important but aren’t. These include:
- ATM receipts
- Movie stubs
- Restaurant receipts
- Past concert tickets
Sure, there’s a chance you might need these later, but more often than not, you won’t. The next time you’re at a trash can, go through your wallet and throw them out.
3. Leave your photos at home
There are some things you don’t want to throw out. Like photos of your friends, relatives and pets. We all want to remember our loved ones. But is sitting on them in a warm wallet underneath your butt the best way to cherish them? Probably not. Instead, use Flickr or any of the one million photo album sites to treasure and share your photos.
4. Stop using your wallet as a filing cabinet
Your wallet isn’t a photo album, and it shouldn’t be a filing cabinet either. Avoid using your wallet to permanently keep important notes like appointment reminders, revolutionary ideas, or the phone number of a hot date. Instead, enter this information in a smartphone or notebook you already carry.
5. Review your wallet regularly
Don’t have a smartphone or notebook to capture vital notes? Store them in your wallet–but only temporarily. When you get home, review your wallet and empty out everything except the most frequently used items. Process the rest into your trash can, calendar, address book, or filing cabinet. If you’re a GTD-addict, think of your wallet as an Inbox that must be reviewed everyday.
6. Stop using cash
Along with trash, photos, and notes, you should also rid your wallet of paper bills. Cash is dying a slow death, and for good reason. It clogs your wallet and if lost or stolen, is gone forever. You can ensure its death by simply using your check or debit card all the time. It lets you track your purchases online and has the convenience of a credit card, but without the finance charges. Best of all, most banks have fraud-protection, meaning you get your money back if your card gets stolen.
7. Use only one credit or debit card
Without cash, the allure of collecting more credit cards is nearly irresistible. But no matter how many cards you spread it out on, debt is still debt.
For a super-slim wallet and a healthier budget, stick to one credit card–or your debit card. For the other cards, you can:
- Cut them up, and pay off the debt slowly.
- Cut them up, and pay off the debt quickly.
- Cut them up, and consolidate all the debt into your primary card or low-interest loan.
I reluctantly cut up all of my credit cards last year, and it was the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. If you do the same, your wallet and your budget will thank you.
8. Consolidate your rewards cards
After getting rid of your credit cards, you’ll still have to deal with all the endless reward cards packed in your wallet. These proliferate because it feels special to be a member of anything, from bookstores to supermarkets to unicycle shops. Many of them do offer useful savings, so I wouldn’t recommend throwing them all out.
To ease your crowded wallet:
Punch a hole in the corner of each of your rewards card and gather them together with a carabiner. Keep them at home near your front door and take only the ones you need when you leave.
Use JustOneClubCard.com to create and print out the barcodes for each card and combine them all onto one card.
So there you have it. Eight strategies to get you on your way to an ultra-minimalist wallet. One final note: please respect your wallet.
Although George Costanza fondly called his wallet “an organizer, a secretary, and a friend,” he tortured his trusty helper until it got fed up and exploded.
Instead of abusing it like George, treat your wallet as a sacred vessel. Let it hold and protect your most frequently used items, but never give it more than it can handle. Trivial and vitally important items should never ever remain there permanently.