Ask LH: How Can I Downsize My Ridiculously Large Wallet?

Dear Lifehacker, Dear Lifehacker, My wallet bulges with junk. I’d like to downsize it as much as possible, but I’m not even sure where to start. How can I get this wallet down to a reasonable size? Sincerely, Leaning Left

Picture: Shutterstock

Dear LL,

A bulging wallet is no joke. Fortunately, a quick audit of everything in there and some digitising makes it easy to ditch that bulky lump and move onto something smaller. Here’s how to do it.

Audit Your Wallet

The first thing you need to do is empty out your wallet and give everything you have in there a good once over. Over time, you accumulate a lot of junk — receipts, business cards, sticky notes with random phone numbers, a strange collection of to-dos from 2008. Throw away everything you absolutely will never need.

Now, you probably still have a few things in front of you. Maybe a couple of business cards you need to keep, a few loyalty cards for retail stores, credit cards, your ID, membership cards, that free sandwich card you’ve had for a year and (hopefully) some cash. A lot of this stuff can be stored on your smartphone. If you’re not sure what you really need to keep on hand all the time, financial blog Dumb Little Man recommends sticking to the 1-2-2 rule:

Credit and debit cards are a little easier. If you have more than 2 cards in your wallet you may need to rethink your credit and spending habits. Just carry the two credit or debit cards with the lowest rate on them. You’ll be forced to save money if you don’t have a plethora of cards to choose from…

The idea here is to take a look at the contents of your wallet and think about the last time you used a card. Do you really need that private health insurance card in your wallet all the time when you only use it once or twice a year? Probably not, and you can store that elsewhere for the bulk of the year. Obviously your exact needs might change (that sandwich card isn’t going anywhere until it’s used), but if you slim everything down to just what you need paper copies of, everything else can be stored on a smartphone. Picture: Charles Kremenak/Flickr

Digitise and Combine All Your Extra Cards

We walked you through the process of replacing you wallet with your phone a couple of years ago, but things have changed a bit since then, and a lot of great options now exist depending on what you need.

For the security minded, we like LastPass Wallet on iOS (no Android version yet, but Pocket offers a nice secure system for storing the same info). You can securely store info like credit cards, bank accounts and even your driver’s licence. You can also add in notes so you’re not carrying out a slip of paper with your PIN number on it.

If you’re the type of person who piles up lots of business cards in your wallet, then Evernote Hello is worth a look. All you need to do is snap a picture and Hello adds all the important info directly to your Evernote account so you don’t need to carry around those 50 business cards you got at the last conference you attended.

For everything else, Lemon (Android/iOS/Windows Phone) can handle lots of the stuff you would usually store in your wallet. You can take a picture of membership cards, credit cards, rewards cards, and even your receipts. When you do, you’re offered up a clean, easy-to-use interface that makes it easy to access what you need right away. If you’re an iOS user, you can also add all your info into Passbook. I’ve used Lemon for a while, and while it might look a little weird scanning your phone at the supermarket, it works just fine.

Keep Your Wallet from Getting Too Big With a Slimmer Alternative

If you want to keep you wallet slimmed down in the future, you’re going to need to ditch your fat old one. For one, everything’s probably falling out now that it’s stretched out, but if you want to keep up your new habit, you want a wallet that can’t hold that much.

You have a lot of options here: you can make something yourself with a strip of elastic or a binder clip. Otherwise, a simple money clip or any slim billfold will work. The less you can pack into it, the better.


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