There's an old Seinfeld episode featuring George's wallet that resonates with me to this day. His wallet is packed so full that, when it's tucked into his back pocket, he sits at a pronounced tilt. The wallet finally explodes, spraying several years' worth of receipts all over the street.
Like George, I tend to stuff my wallet and am finally forced to clean it out every few months when I cannot get the zipper to close. I tend to be a fairly organized person, but my wallet is an all too convenient spot to store all the receipts, gift cards, loyalty cards and coupons that accumulate from daily living and spending.
For those who feel ready to streamline their wallets, there are some tips available from LearnVest, a new personal finance site for women. Alexa von Tobel, personal finance expert and CEO of LearnVest, gives a checklist of the 10 essential wallet items as well as a warning about what should never be in there.
Top 10 Wallet Essentials
1. Your main credit card - only. While it is important to have at least two credit cards in your name, you should only keep one in your wallet. The one in your wallet is for your everyday spending, while the second one should be hidden away as an emergency credit card. That way, "you won't be stranded if your wallet gets lost or stolen."
2. $25 to $50 in cash. The trick is to strike the right balance of cash in your wallet. "The goal is to keep little enough that we won't, say, have trouble paying rent if we lose our wallet, but enough to split a restaurant bill with friends," Ms. von Tobel says.
3. Debit card. My debit card is easily the most-used card in my wallet - I tend to walk around with much less cash than I should, depending on my debit card to be my virtual cash machine. Even if you carry cash, though, it's important to always have access to your chequing account, in case you need extra cash on the go.
4. Driver's licence. For most people, this is not only essential for driving, but becomes your key piece of personal ID.
5. Cards for both health and auto insurance. Ms. von Tobel recommends keeping any cards for medical insurance on hand as well as your auto insurance card in case you get into a fender bender.
6. Transportation card, such as an unlimited rail pass. If you use public transportation to commute to work and have a pass, that card should clearly go in your wallet as well. If you drive to work every day and are an auto club member, Ms. von Tobel recommends holding on to that card at all times as well.
7. Rewards cards for stores you visit frequently (grocery, drug store, etc.). Reward cards alone are probably responsible for doubling the girth of my wallet. So many stores offer loyalty points and I tend to become a member of all the programs I can find. This category includes those promotional tenth-coffee-free cards.
8. Gift cards. They are the ubiquitous choice for birthdays and holidays and you should keep them handy. There is nothing worse than being in a store and paying for an item you could have had for free with a swipe of your gift card.
9. Membership cards. This includes things that have already been paid for, like a gym membership card, or to clubs you belong to (think Costco).
10. Airline cards. This is optional according to Ms. von Tobel, but recommended. She carries around her airline cards so that she never forgets to use her frequent flyer number whenever she travels.
As for what not to put in your wallet, think about those things you would never want to end up in someone else's hands. Your social insurance card is at the top of this list, along with personal information such as your bank account numbers and PINs. The only identifying information in there, Ms. von Tobel says, should be your name and the best way to reach you if your wallet is found.
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