Keep your wallet slim and your bank account fat

All wallets are beautiful, in their own special, unique way. And I’m certainly not trying to body shame your billfold. But if your preferred money holder has lost some of its more angular features in favor of a slightly more…how do I say this?...rounded appearance, then it may be time for your wallet to lose a little weight.

It’s perfectly natural for wallets to start carrying a little more weight over time. Things accumulate. We tend to add and forget to subtract. The trouble is that an overly plump wallet is rarely a sign of robust finances. In fact, that fat wallet is probably doing more harm than good.

So now’s your chance to slim down your cash-carrying companion. Let’s first consider all the things you really shouldn’t be carrying in your wallet.

Remove immediately

Social Security card

You already knew that one. Protect your identity by leaving your Social Security card at home. (You’ve probably already memorized the number by now, anyway.) While you’re at it, don’t carry your birth certificate around either. Or your passport. Or basically any form of ID that isn’t necessary on a day-to-day basis (like your driver’s license, state ID, or work ID cards).


If you have a hard time memorizing your passwords or your ATM PIN, for the love of information security, don’t write them down and keep them in your wallet. Getting your purse or wallet stolen goes from bad to much, much worse when you leave vital passcodes out where any mildly competent thief can find them. Better option (besides memorizing them, which is the best option) – put a passcode on your phone and store the information there.

Gift cards

Gift cards are basically cash – anyone can use them and no one really asks where they came from. From a security standpoint, they aren’t protected in the least. So the safest thing to do is to keep them some place secure in your home until you’re ready to make your purchase.

Aside from security concerns, however, gift cards have a tendency to promote less than ideal shopping behaviors. Because we think of gift cards as “free money” we’re often less thoughtful about how we spend them. Where you normally might wait for an item to come on sale, with a gift card you may be more inclined to just buy it right away, regardless of the price. Remember when you were a kid, and every dollar literally felt like it was burning a hole in your pocket, itching to be spent? Gift cards are like that. So leave them at home and be more strategic with your shopping.


Pull receipts out of your wallet at the end of every day. The longer they live in your wallet, the less likely it is that you’ll do what you saved them for in the first place. Also, receipts are another thing you don’t want thieves getting a hold of, especially if they include a signature or credit card information.

Carry always

Emergency cash

Despite living in a highly digital age, you are still going to run into moments where plastic won’t get you anywhere. Because of that, you should always have a small amount of cash on hand, just in case.

If you prefer paying with cash (and if you struggle to keep your credit usage in check, that’s a good way to avoid overspending), you should still limit the amount of cash you keep on hand. Carry only enough to make your necessary purchases.

Limited number of credit cards

On a day-to-day basis, you shouldn’t have more than two credit cards (one primary, one back-up) and one debit card in your wallet. The more credit cards in your wallet, the more damage a thief can do to your finances and your credit history. Keep store cards at home. If nothing else, it could help wean you off of those spur-of-the-moment shopping trips and ensure that you’re always shopping with a plan.

Valid ID

Invalid ID just won’t get the job done. But remember – only carry the essentials.

Well, it depends…

Health insurance cards

Some experts say you should always carry your health insurance cards, and some say you should never carry them. Ultimately it comes down to personal security. Review your cards – if they don’t include your Social Security number, or any other potentially sensitive information, feel free to carry them. If they do have potentially sensitive information, you might be better off leaving them at home, as it’s very unlikely you’ll be denied care in an emergency situation. Knowing your provider should be enough until someone can retrieve your policy number.

List of current medications

It may not be a bad idea to keep a list of your current medications on hand, in the event that you need to receive care and are unable to provide this information to whoever is attending to you.

Rewards program cards

Rewards programs can be beneficial, under the right circumstances. You should always keep in mind, however, that these programs are designed to promote sales, not savings. Rewards programs are only helpful when they save you money on things you need or were already inclined to purchase. Once these programs start changing the way you shop, you’re no longer benefiting.

As for the actual cards themselves, in many cases stores can access your card through your phone number. If you don’t need the card, leave it behind.

Punch cards

The punch card is the rewards card's old, analog cousin. Buy nine and the tenth one is free. Most of the time, these cards just become part of the clutter. And like the rewards card, they should supplement positive spending habits, not create new habits altogether. In other words, only keep punch cards if that good or service is one you’d be purchasing repeatedly anyway. Otherwise, toss it.

A slim wallet is a healthy wallet

By keeping the contents of your wallet down to only the bare essentials, you greatly reduce your potential security risks, promote strategic spending, and have a nice, clean wallet to boot. So get that change purse into shape and you’ll both be happier and (financially) healthier for it.

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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