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How to downsize your wallet – 6 easy steps

We talked about in "What is everyday carry (EDC)?" about how important it is to evaluate your everyday carry fundamentals. One of these fundamentals is a wallet (or, something to hold identification, money etc.). But, have you been intentional about what you carry in your wallet? We walk through an Option Gray team member's process and solution to downsizing their wallet.
wallet and cards

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wallet with stack of cards
A newly organized wallet (the Maxpedition Micro Wallet) with the cards and change no longer carried.

By taking a look at what you currently carry and asking yourself why you carry every item, you can optimize your Primary EDC and take the first steps of making it useful.

Is your wallet overstuffed and full of expired credit cards and punch cards that are never used? Do you prefer to keep your cash loose in your pocket or contained in a money clip? Is your key chain full of keys you hardly use? Could you benefit from a better key setup?

We had a team member (who is choosing to remain nameless) recently walk us through how he downsized his wallet. What’s left is six tips on how to make the same change:

1. Pair down credit and debit cards

various debit cards and credit cards
Between personal accounts, work accounts, store accounts, the number of debit and credit cards can add up.

Found in the old wallet:

  • Personal debit card
  • Personal credit card
  • Work credit card
  • Store credit card

Solution

  1. Cancel the store credit card: The interest rate was really high compared to the personal credit card (almost double). The “extras” that came as a benefit with a store card were canceled out if a balance was carried for just one month due to the higher interest rate
  2. Move the work credit card to the work bag: Since it’s only used sparingly (work trips and well-planned purchases) carrying this every single day didn’t make sense. Alternately, if you use your work credit card often (for example, to pay for gas for your work car), then it would definitely be a keeper
  3. Use a mobile payment system: For the ultimate lightweight experience, consolidate with Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Coin or Plastic

2. Use gift cards

assorted gift cards
You always have the intent to spend them, but years go by …

Did you know that since 2008, there is a whopping $44 BILLION in gift cards that have never been used in the United States? The U.S. Congress passed a law in 2009 which essentially protected gift cards from expiring (varies slightly state by state) which just makes this number of unspent gift cards grow even larger. 

We’re not necessarily helping the problem.

The old wallet had an embarrassing 12 gift cards, some with less than $2.00 on them, with an estimated combined value of around $125. 

Solution:

  1. Move any applicable cards to an App: Two Starbucks gift cards were found and those were easily added to the Starbucks App (you have to sign up for a Starbucks Reward account) and tossed. Domino’s Pizza and other companies also allow you to add and save gift card balances to your account, so check
  2. Keep remaining gift cards in a separate wallet in the car console: Yes we know–out of sight, out of mind. But, considering so many of these sat in a wallet for years, it really can’t get any worse. You still have them with you in case you feel the random urge to go to Outback Steakhouse, but you’re not having to carry it in your wallet
  3. Be intentional about using them: Probably the most important part of this tip, as recognizing you have the gift card, making plans to use it, and then actually using it is the way to handle these

3. Dump loyalty cards

flying fish loyalty cards
Even though we end up carrying two loyalty cards from the same place, we love frequenting the Flying Fish in Fort Worth.

It’s always exciting when you get a new loyalty card with a fresh new stamp . . . until you forget about it and get a brand new one the next time you visit. 

Solution:

  1. Keep membership cards in a separate wallet in the car console: A great way to keep your gift cards company is to add your loyalty cards. Just remember to take it with you when you get there
  2. Sign up for loyalty programs that run on your phone or credit card: Or that even use your cell phone number to track points

If you go to that ONE place often enough, it’s likely worth it for you to carry the extra paper around, but for most people, it’s an easy way to cut bulk.

4. Dump store membership cards

store membership cards
Grocery stores, pet stores, beauty stores, and more offer deep discounts when scanned at checkout.

We’re hoping these are going by the wayside with the introduction of the automatic rewards programs mentioned above in #3, but they still make their way into many of the big box stores or grocery stores we frequent. You get significant price reductions when scanned at checkout, but you have to carry around yet another card.

Solution

  1. Move any you can to an App: There are a ton of apps out there that save your membership number and with a simple tap a barcode is generated that the clerk can then scan
  2. Look it up via your phone number: Most stores will allow you to look up your account with your phone number. Just make sure you give them a number you actually remember (not that we’ve ever given a fake number . . .)

5. Be intentional with cash and change

Maxpedition micro wallet with cards
The Maxpedition Micro Wallet is flexible and holds our basics well. It doesn’t have a place to store change, so these coins are headed to our pocket.

As we move more and more into a digital age, we are carrying less and less cash. When everything is up and running, using an app or credit card works great, but cash is still king, especially in an emergency.

Don’t be caught without cash and change, but be smart about carrying it.

Solution:

  1. Carry change in your pocket: No need for a wallet with a change pocket, just carry what you need loose in your pockets
  2. Dump any change not needed: At the end of the day, dump your change into a valet, basket, or makeshift money jar and take just what you need the next day. Be intentional about leaving change you don’t need behind
  3. Find the right amount of change for you: Optimize how much you should carry depending on your daily habits. If you find yourself rarely using it, $0.50 in mixed coins should do the trick. If you go go go throughout the day or live in an urban center, you may need more

6. Scan receipts (and other paperwork) as you go

Receipts, coupons, business cards or, any other paper items you carry can quickly become cumbersome.

Solution:

  1. Dump what you don’t need at the end of the day: You want to prevent any personal information ending up in public trash cans. If you throw that receipt in your wallet or pocket, make sure you evaluate and trash anything you don’t need anymore in a safe and secure manner
  2. Scan paperwork in an App: There are countless apps which allow you to take a picture of a receipt or business card

stacks of ID's, debit cards, credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards, etc.
Updated carry on the left with all the dumped cards on the right.

Through the process we were able to get our wallet from 25+ cards to only 4 and even fit it in a slim  Maxpedition Micro Wallet:

  1. Drivers Licence
  2. Insurance Card
  3. Personal Debit Card
  4. Personal Credit Card

We’ve learned that as with anything, you have to make the decision to be intentional with what you carry. Carrying a bulky wallet can put a lot of stress on your hip joints and lower back, and it takes up room that can be used for other things. With your pockets being at the core of your Primary EDC, downsizing your wallet is a great place to start being intentional.

When was the last time you cleaned out your wallet? Do you disagree with any of the cuts we made?

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