guest post: how paying attention to your wallet can improve your financial outlook

The following guest post is from a commentator here at brip blap, Sheila.  She doesn’t have her own blog, so I can’t refer you to her site, but she’s got a nice bit of advice here!

Have you ever noticed that often the same topic will come up in casual conversations and on different websites? I have noticed this happening quite a bit lately in my life: coworkers, friends, and a few writers on the web have been touching on the same topics, within the span of a few days. When this sort of synchronicity happens, I take it as a big hint that I should be paying attention to those very things in my own life.

The most recent synchronicity involves an object that each of us carries: a wallet. I was looking my wallet, which was frayed and overstuffed and was ready to be replaced. I mentioned to my fiancé that I would need to go shopping for a new wallet, and I asked him if he needed a new one as well. As it turns out, he is quite pleased with the wallet I gave to him, and it is working well for him.

wallet As I was talking to my fiance about my wallet in particular and about how I was doing with my budget, it occurred to me that I had been feeling frayed and overwhelmed by my finances and all the things I was doing to get my financial house in order. In a strange way, my wallet seemed to be a reflection of what I was experiencing.

To be sure, I have been taking steps in the right direction: 0% balance transfer for my credit card debt, opening a high-interest savings account, increasing contributions to my retirement plan, creating a plan to get out of debt, and reading books and blogs about financial planning. I had accomplished quite a bit within a short period of time, but I was still feeling a bit overwhelmed because I had been doing so much and yet I knew I still had a long way to go. I longed for the day when life would be simpler, when I would have less to do and would be better organized.

Within the next few days, two blog postings appeared in my inbox that spoke to my situation. The first, in a posting at unclutterer called “Trim Your Wallet," addressed the problem of carrying too much stuff in a wallet and the benefits of changing to a slimmer wallet.

After reading that post, I pulled everything out of my wallet and was amazed to see how much stuff was in it that I did not use on a daily basis or even on a weekly basis. I put back into my wallet only those things that were necessary for me to carry (driver’s license, car insurance card, and health insurance card) or that I would use on a daily basis (cash, one credit card, and two small “keyring cards” for discounts at the grocery and the pharmacy). Everything else I set aside.

The next day, a posting appeared at the healthy living lounge by Carole Fogarty, who points out, “Most of us have a strong energetic connection to our wallets whether we realize it or not. It’s either healthy or it’s toxic.”  Entitled “The tao of a happy full wallet," the post explains how to do a bit of feng shui with the wallet: eliminating clutter and simplifying, paying attention to the senses through the use of essential oils and through the choice of a particular color for your wallet, and by avoiding negative thinking when using your wallet.

I thought about the kind of wallet that would be just enough to hold the things I used daily (or at least a couple of times each week), and I ended up buying a slim wallet made of recycled plastic from koyono called a “Jimi.”

I used all the suggestions mentioned in both the blog postings, and I have been pleasantly surprised by the results. My wallet and my mood are lighter, and I no longer have to waste time digging through my wallet to find what I need. My wallet now has only the essentials and it is easy to use. And I find that becoming more organized now, with something as small as a wallet, is helping me to experience the simplicity I have been seeking.

I highly recommend a thorough cleanout of your wallet over the holidays and ask that you consider giving yourself the gift of a new wallet. It will give you a fresh start for the new year and will bring a bit of simplicity to your financial life.

(photo of the Jimi from koyono – link above)

6 comments

  • This is a great idea, but where do I keep business cards from my network? I have so many business cards in my wallet and I constantly find myself giving others copies of or numbers from business cards in my wallet. Any suggestions?

  • @Dollarfrugal : That is a really good point! My minimalist Jimi would certainly not be a good choice for you, as it does not have space for business cards.

    I used to carry a small business card folder with clear plastic sheets to fit three or four cards on each side of the page. I have also seen ones that are wallet sized, that hold up to about 40 or 50 cards. These styles, plus a good selection of others, can be found at:

    http://www.giftsforprofessionals.com/small-leather-goods-business-card-cases—holders.html?pageNum=5

    It may take a while to find a wallet (and possibly another type of organizer) that is a good fit for you and that allows you to carry what the things you use every day. In my case, the search was well worth the effort.

  • This might defeat the point, but I like the idea of the Jimi, but I need a little more. For instance, I need to carry two credit cards (one for 5% cash back on gas and grocery stores, and another for 3% at restaurants), ATM , Health Insurance military Id, driver’s license. I’d also like to have AAA, but I guess I could keep that in the car. Costco would be nice to have as well. Safeway is a must as they don’t have a key chain version. You get the idea.

    I think I could really use a Jimi with space for 6-7 cards – just a little bigger.

  • @ Lazy Man: The Jimi works great for me, because I do not need to carry much, but it won’t work for everyone.

    But even larger wallets are great — so long as they are organized and you end up carrying only what you really need. It’s the excess that bogs you down and creates clutter.

    A woman ahead of me in line at the grocery line the other day was having trouble finding her discount card, and her wallet was not huge — it was just very disorganized and had lots of slips of paper in it (not money or cards). She appeared to be very stressed because she could not find the card and she knew she was holding up the line. When it was my turn to check out, I was able to locate my discount card quite easily, and I was out the door in a flash.

    But it isn’t just the ease of use that I have noticed. Thinking back on my old wallet, I was a bit depressed looking at it because of the clutter and junk in it. When I look at my new wallet, I smile. What a difference!

  • Great topic.
    Just 1 more helpful thought: might be smart to photocopy the important contents of your wallet and put in a safe place at home in case it gets stolen or lost and you have to make calls to cancel cards, etc.

  • Carol, that is a really good point!

    Jane Bryant Quinn recommends a “master file” folder for a summary of accounts and location of assets as part of a filing system in her book “Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People.” A photocopy of wallet contents would be a good addition to this file, that way you would be able to know exactly what else you have lost, aside from the wallet and cash.