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

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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I changed to one on these about 10 months ago and haven’t looked back. It’s small stylish and holds just the cards I need everyday up front. The other couple cards I need once a week on the back of the front. And the few cards I need only once-in-a-while-but-must-still-carry-on-me in nice pocket under all that.

    You can’t tell from the pics but it’s about 70% of the size of a “normal” mans wallet. But still holds AUS bank notes nicely ($100’s not so well but who’s carrying those about everyday ?) The leather is premium quality as is the finish.

    Fits my pocket nicely and avoids the previous problem I had of this huge LUMP of STUFF. That was me in picture #2 above. When I changed wallets I found cards for restaurants in countries I visited 2-3-4 years ago !!! carrying them around with me everyday as if “Oh… I’m back in Rome again today… what was that place I ate at last time… ” That’s what EVERNOTE is for. Don’t take the info with you. Clip a picture to Evernote. Tag it and you can search/instant/find what you need.

    Having limited wallet space forces you to un-hoard things such as receipts or business cards you collect. You can still put them in there but you really need to get rid of them in a day or two otherwise they clutter it up.

  • Just did an audit on my wallet and discovered I have health insurance! Also an extra compartment i never knew about and a lot of sand that has probably been ruining several bank cards, good advice!

  • I’ve been a really big fan of Belroy wallets ever since a friend introduced them too me a few years ago. The leather is fantastic, the designs look simple but still manage to hold a decent amount of cards and cash.

    Started with the and ended up getting a which has been great every time I hit an airport, I don’t need to bother searching around for a pen or waiting for someone to finish filling in their customs form.

    Oh and they’re an Australian company, always good to support local designers

    • I bought a bellboy, made in India, designed in Australia. Quality varies a lot, I had to take mine back the day I got it as the stitching didn’t allow the cards to go in. Not very practical foreveryday use, and the dye is fading faster than I’d like.

      As a regular traveller I’d advise against having all your cards, passport and cash in one wallet that could easily be stolen. Great way to start a trip.

  • I bought a Big Skinny wallet 2 (?) years ago. It’s the best ‘gadget’ I’ve ever bought. I always laugh when my friends pull out their stupidly fat wallet and I then show them mine. It holds lots of my cards, a few notes, and a few receipts just fine. I never used to carry coins, so that’s never been an issue.

  • I use a money clip and a leather card-holder, that’s it. Anything else that I collect goes in a dedicated pocket which gets emptied and sorted / thrown out when I get home every day.

    I was taught when I was about 18 that it’s more sophisticated to carry your wallet in your inside jacket pocket. Apart from not ruining your trousers, it also ruins your back if you sit on a fat wallet.

  • I store barcode numbers for all of my loyalty cards in my phone. When I’m at the checkout I just tell them the number for them to enter manually.

  • I too just use a money clip. It permanently holds my Driver’s Licence, Medicare Card and Debit Mastercard. Obviously it also holds folding cash but not always permanently (!). I then scan a lot of membership cards (library, loyalty, ambulance etc) and keep them in a “group” on Evernote and I carry a fold out card wallet in my ‘man bag’ with all my other cards (student id, myki etc).

  • Another down-side for males with a too-fat wallet, is sitting on it while driving on long trips. A fat wallet causes pressure to build up on that side of your buttocks. This in turn can twist the pelvis, your spine becomes misaligned, and your shoulders slump. After all that it really starts to hurt! I found this out many years ago while constantly driving on long trips. Once I moved my wallet to a side pocket, my back problems diminished almost immediately.

  • I have managed to create a pretty awesome minimal pocket system.

    I use a Smartphone wallet case so my Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and wallet are now rolled into one. The wallet/phone combo is then attached to my belt using a chain with a clip on either end. On the other side of the chain are my house and work keys.

    The wallet case allows me to carry two bank cards, ID, another couple of buisness cards if needed, cash and even a tiny 2BG USB drive. I can easily un-clip the phone/wallet from one end of the chain, or unclip the other side to use my keys. however the chain is still long enough to be able to pull out and use my keys or phone/wallet while still being attached to my belt.

    Its perfect and impossible to loose any of it or be pick pocketed unless I somehow loose my pants….

  • Three quick tips –
    1/ Coins in the piggy bank.
    2/ Photos of receipts and anything else i can.
    3/ Loyalty numbers, etc as contacts in the phone.

    Also, there’s this page that helps too > – blatant plug for sure, as I work at Bellroy.  But I’d love to hear everyone’s feedback on it – maybe there’s area’s we’ve missed, can improve on, etc…

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