What’s In Your Wallet? How I Organize The Finances In My Pocket

Every time I see a CapitalOne commercial chirping their promotional “What’s in your wallet?” line, I actually think of my own wallet and what’s inside of it. So, in the interest of openness (and because there are a few interesting things going on), here’s what I keep in my wallet.

Minimal identification The only photo ID I keep is my driver’s license; everything else stays at home. I know people who keep their voter registration card, their Social Security card, and so on in their wallet “just in case,” but I see no good reason to carry that stuff most of the time and if your wallet gets stolen, you’re pretty much guaranteed a war with identity theft.

Credit cards I keep one credit card in my wallet, period. That way, if my wallet gets stolen, I have only one card to report missing. This card has a substantial credit limit, so it could be used in most emergency situations.

No ATM cards I do not actively keep an ATM/check card in my wallet. There is very little fraud protection on these cards, plus they are temptations to withdraw cash that I don’t really need to withdraw. I do pack it when traveling, but when I’m local, I don’t carry one.

Lots of membership cards I sign up for any free buyer rewards program if I think there’s any chance I will return to the store. I have a special email address I use for these buyer reward mailings, which I check every once in a while. One example of a stellar free buyer rewards program is the one offered at Borders, which I discussed earlier.

Cash However, I do keep a minimum of $30 in cash in my wallet, though I generally try to avoid using it. I save it for events where cash is really the only feasible option for payment, such as at a farmer’s market or a tip or at one particular wonderful local diner.

Coupons I generally have a small number of coupons in my wallet, because I’ll cut out things I see in flyers and such. I merge these in with my other coupons when I prepare my grocery list and coupons for shopping on Friday or Saturday.

Receipts I immediately place all receipts into my wallet and clean these out two or three evenings a week so I can keep careful track of my expenditures. Thus, these are temporary inclusions in my wallet that rotate rapidly.

Three laminated photographs Rather than having a “photo packet” like some have, I keep three laminated photos in my wallet that meet my needs for showing others who want to see my child and giving me something to look at for homesickness purposes when on long trips.

Basically, the items in my wallet focus on security and saving money, but not necessarily convenience, because I only carry one credit card and minimize my personal info. It can be a very interesting exercise to dig through your wallet and ask yourself why those items are in there.

Trent Hamm

Founder & Columnist

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 and still writes a daily column on personal finance. He’s the author of three books published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press, has contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and his financial advice has been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.