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Slimming your wallet

by , June 17, 2010


There is no excuse for a Costanza wallet. It gets in your way, it cramps your style, and it broadcasts an inability to control the details.

If you are suffering from a brick of a wallet, or know someone who does, we’ve collated the 5 key steps to losing the bulge. Please read on…

1. Start with the right wallet
The two wallets pictured in the header image are holding exactly the same number of cards and notes. It’s a radical difference, and if you’re starting with a huge wallet, you’ll find a way to fill it. We’ve rated some nice wallets here. And we’ve also listed the top 5 things to look for in a wallet. Go and treat yourself now, and then come back ready for point 2…

2. Choose your most frequently used cards
These are your top 2 or 3 cards, that get used every week. It’s usually a credit card or two, maybe a security card, an ID or perhaps your VIP card to that special club you frequent. You need to put these in your main access slots, ready for quick retrieval.

3. Choose your infrequent but important cards
These are things like an organ donor card, health-care cards, additional bank cards or business cards. These should be stacked in a more efficient way, usually together in a flat section of the wallet.

4. Collect all the other cards
Club and store cards, membership cards, frequent flyer cards and mementos. These are the ones you’re going to have to remove from the wallet. Any that are just numbers should be stored in your phone contacts (eg: Contact: Singapore Airlines, Number: 666 666 666). If you’re really fancy, take pictures of the cards and store the images in Evernote with appropriate tags.

5. Lose everything else
Photos belong in your phone. Receipts should either be processed and removed each night, or if you are feeling ready for it, read the appendix below. Notes are needed, but coins should stay out of your wallet because they add huge bulk and destroy cards. Coins can go in a regular pocket, in your coin pocket, in your bag, or just give a better tip and lose the schrapnel.

Shedding wallet bulk feels like cleaning your work desk. It frees your mind, and makes anything seem possible. You really should go and do it now…

Black belt receipt management: If you want a really good way to deal with receipts, Evernote is now making it possible. Every time I get a receipt I need to process, I take a photo of it with my phone, email it to a custom Evernote account email, and then throw away the receipt. I later go in and process all the receipts virtually, with easy tagging and word recognition for any quick retrieval. It works a treat.

  • http://scott.arbeitman.id.au/ Scott Arbeitman

    Best thing I ever did was accidentally put my wallet into the washing machine. All the business cards, old receipts and used public transport tickets disintegrated leaving my wallet nice and slim.

    Also, it smells like the morning dew.

    • Leather

      Ahhh, nothing like the fresh smell of Morning Dew to let you appreciate your wallet. Dare I ask, did you clothes end up covered in little lints of paper?! haha

  • Ando

    One of our anonymous readers has pointed us to another great article on slimming your wallet: http://www.lifeclever.com/the-secrets-of-a-super-slim-wallet/

    Nice stuff.

  • http://ibbers.net Jon Underwood

    Nice thanks for the article – hadn’t considered applying a decluttering / kiss approach to my wallet until i came across a reference to your blog via lifehacker.

    simple enough idea, when you think about it. my pocket is now home to a nice little slim Artex wallet only slightly larger then a credit card, and contains 1 credit card, license, uni ID, and work security swipe. 🙂

    everything else is stored electronically in my iphone or evernote account. at some point i’ll file all minor cards as photos in my iphone photo folder too, but having dumped them in a filing cabinet at home, have found i don’t really need them.

    if I find a quality Isaac Reina style cardholder over here in Oz i’d even be tempted to go slimmer, i suspect.

    • Ando

      Haha, yeah, the Isaac Reina wallets look pretty amazing.
      We hadn’t seen Artex before. They do indeed have some very slim holders. Nice work.

  • Andrew Garrett

    Losing coins is fine if you live in the US where the biggest coin is 25c. Less fine in Australia (where we have coins up to $2) or Europe (where our €2 coin is worth US$3 or so).

    • Ando

      I remember a time in the nineties when denim was not a staple, and we missed that classic coin pocket on our Stussy MC Hammer pants…

      But ever since then, I guess we’ve been able to wear denim in most environments, and that little pocket works a treat for keys and coins. If you wear a suit however, I feel for your coin carrying needs… let’s hope smart cards or phone payments do indeed take off soon.

    • http://johannahoerrmann.de Johanna Hörrmann

      This is exactly what I was thinking. I love the slim look of the wallets – but where do I put my coins? Here in Germany, the smallest Note is 5 €, which is nearly US $ 7. This means I end up with quite a lot of coins in one shopping day, which would really bother me if I just put them in my pocket. Too bad!

  • Leather

    Ooooo this is nice, the post got some link love over at Lifehacker. Bit more conversation happening over there re: slimming your wallet >> http://bit.ly/aCq2ks

  • http://www.reflectzyn.com Kendall

    Great post! I am about to emancipate my wallet in preparation for a new one.

    • Ando

      Good luck with it Kendall. Try looking for a wallet that is not bulging before you even get a card in it. And each extra card slot you have that is separated by leather adds thickness (there is then air space between the cards, where the leather has kept them apart).

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  • Kevin

    I’ve been using a CK slimfold for quite some time now, it is great. They usually have some fun colors in the stores too.


  • Pu

    I use a bisonte slim wallet. It’s great and small. And still manages to include a notes slot and 4 card slots. Having a small wallet means you can’t fit too much crap in it.

  • http://rdshft.com Ben

    I like using expensecloud for my receipts and…well, all my expenses and billing. It lets me take photos so I can ditch receipts immediately, instead of stuffing them in a pocket.

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  • james

    Below link is for Andy.


    I’d love to have a squizzy of that Jap BP zine !

    Would like to see a bit more info on technology & direction, did I miss it?

    • http://www.bellroy.com ando


      Drop by our new ‘Little Rock’ office sometime, and we’ll bring it in there (after I return next week). We also have a bunch of the monthly mags that the book draws from on a slow boat back from Japan. Can’t wait for those.

      And the thoughts on more tech and direction are great. We had really strong feedback about our ‘5 Best Things Happening in Bags Right Now’ guest post, so we’ll start thinking about some good ways to play more in those directions.

      Thanks JC, good calls!

      • james

        Appreciate the offer, will drop in sometime soon. I hope to get to Little R soon, I love Arkansas.

        Checked 5 Best, good article. I personally think new fabrications and light weight direction, which Nike is leading the charge in, maybe should have rated in there somehow ?

        Waist bags, Bumbags, Fanny packs – Stop it ! Dane Reynolds rocks one, so they must be cool, but I personally think they’re about as relevant and down as when the Japanese thought it was trendy to run a Barbers bag……. Naff !

        Keep keepin it real Carryology, love your work.


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  • geoff

    what’s that wallet with the blue stitching in the picture? I didn’t see anything like it in the roundup.

  • http://www.vicfryzel.com/ Vic

    I’m surprised the Saddleback Wallet Sleeve hasn’t been mentioned here. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made, and slimmer than my super slim smartphone:


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  • Justin

    Best thing I ever did was dump my old wallet and transfer the important items to an inexpensive all-black Buxton business card holder.

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  • http://www.sidonieyang.com Shawn @SIDONIEYANG

    All excellent tips for keeping your wallet thin and light.

    If anyone looking to slim their wallet simply follows your five easy steps, they’ll be able to say good-bye to butt-bulge forever!

    I know you didn’t say it here… but, putting your thin wallet in your front pocket is also a really excellent choice.

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  • Vernon

    All the methods of achieving a super slim wallet are great.

    But the best way is to begin with …….is with a super slim wallet.

    I highly recommend :- Big Skinny


    I first own their “Compact Sports Wallet” & then the revised “Multi-Pocket Bi-fold Wallet” when they added a divider compartment to separate the cash from the receipts, after i emailed them that they should have this divider.

    Its washable & i had it like more than a year & its still in great shape.

  • Rebecca

    I notice you are all guys posting here. I’d love to slim down my wallet, but I’m a mom of two and I carry 9 – count ’em – medical/insurance/hosptial cards just for me and the kids. Plus the credit card and debit card for my Dad, whose finances I manage. Luckily he keeps his health cards with him. That’s 11 and I haven’t started my own finances – and I don’t carry affinity cards. What I need is a wallet that allows me to carry all these cards efficiently and as flat as possible. I have a hard time finding one.

    • http://www.carryology.com/ ando

      a couple of thoughts…

      Lots of health cards just need the number or a barcode rather than the actual card. It’s worth scoping that out first.

      But then if you really do need them all, consider a second wallet that lives in your bag. This wallet would just be all about those sort of cards, which if you’re heading out for some fun, you don’t need to bring. It simplifies your daily wallet, and let’s you streamline that.

      Our recommendation for that sort of card wallet is one focused on storage efficiency rather than access efficiency. That means you want all the cards stored right against each other, rather than spread out with air and leather between each card.

      We’re biased (some of us work for them), but perhaps something like the Bellroy Very Small wallet (which can store 15 cards in a ‘very small’ space): http://bellroy.com/wallets/very-small-wallet. Or any other small purse that keeps all your cards right against each other would work.

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  • Andrew

    Like all decluttering … it’s about what matters most

    I love the Parkinson’s Law approach as well

    Oh and Tax Receipt Log is my receipt app of choice that you email to whoever at the end of each month, no third party stuff required

  • Claire

    Question in regards to photo store of receipt in Evernote – good idea – I just wonder, have you ever needed to return a purchase with one of the store receipts and did the store accept the photoed copy? My work accepts photoed taxi receipts I can claim but do not think I could try it in a store.



    • R

      Most stores will either accept it or can look up the original from the information and reprint it. I wouldn’t do business with people who wouldn’t accept that receipt.

  • http://paulgailey.com Paul Gailey

    I used Expensify for receipt tracking – they’d love this if they haven’t seen it already.

    A peach of a service btw and no, i am no stooge.

  • Brian

    In response to those who worry of what t do with coins, Id worry more about the initial reaction of even feeling compelled to listen to advice just becuse its written in a random article, haha! Honestly. That being said, most of these things should be gotten rid of. I always make perfect change every time I spend money, because that is what change is for, if you have too much it’s likely a sign of lazily handing over bills all day, which is a sign of un-conscious spending. And a second point: slim wallets arent automatically better. Wallets are like pocket size backpacks, they are menat for organization. If my wallet is slim its because im not taking advantage of a highly efficient storage system. Whats better, in my wallet, or loose in my pocket? do you keep your mini flashlight on or off your keychain? if you brought a water bottle, is it in your backpack or are you holding it by hand all day? dont throw the baby out with the bathwater, or the old receipts in this case.

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  • Rich S.

    Here’s an article I could relate to–having gone through a similar experience. It had been suggested to me not to carry my wallet in my back right pocket. I’ve decided I will gladly endure occasional slight discomfort rather than the repeated feeling of panic and even loss of the wallet–by keeping my wallet nestled under my right butt cheek, too! I feel naked without it there, too! (For me, the back discomfort near my wallet lessened by adding more stretching to my workout routine.) Here is the article:


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