Minimalism and Daily Carry: What to Bring in Your Wallet and Pockets

Minimalism and Daily Carry: What to Bring in Your Wallet and Pockets

Take a look at your wallet. Is it packed full of cash, credit cards, business cards, I.D. cards, pictures and more? Do you have a dozen or more items on your key chain? Are your pockets stuffed when you head out for the day?

I cannot stand the feeling of reaching into my pockets and not being able to pull something out with ease. It’s cumbersome, and it makes me feel like I’m lugging around much more than I need to. Because of this, a few years back, I went through everything I was carrying with me on a daily basis and really thought about if I actually needed it, or if it had just found a home in the stuff that I throw in my pockets each morning. Eventually my wallet went from a tri-fold to a bi-fold to a sleeve, and my keychain went from fourteen items to a mere five, of which I’m currently considering dropping down to two.

What to Carry in Your Wallet

Besides your well, literal keys, the wallet is the key to the rest of the world. You use it to prove your age at a bar, pay for goods and services, and to carry around any other meaningful private things with you. A stolen wallet is terrifying; it can be life ruining if you don’t act quickly. It’s important to strike a balance between utility and security when deciding what to carry with you.

The Important Stuff: Medical and ID

First off, you should definitely have your I.D. and insurance information in your wallet at all times. If you have one, a prescription card can be helpful, as well. It’s not fun to think about, but in the event of an emergency that kind of information is crucial for finding your emergency contact and getting you safe if you’re alone and hurt. If you have any allergies or pre-existing conditions,  write that down on a small card along with your blood type and other medical info (as you feel comfortable writing) to help in the event that you are unable to provide that information.

The Evil Stuff: Cash and Cards

Money – the source of all evil, right? Well, it’s also the source of food, water and shelter in most cases. As such, you should probably pack something to help you make transactions. Personally, I carry a credit card as my main card (which I religiously pay as if it were a check card), a debit card as a backup and for getting out cash, and some cash itself. Cash is controversial in this space, because some people are of the mindset that if you’re trying to be minimal, cash is clutter. I teeter on this edge sometimes, but cash is nice to use for a few reasons:

  1. Seeing the transaction. It can be easy to swipe a card and be done with it. Cash makes you see the money you’re forking over.
  2. Generally more versatile. Not every place takes card, and sometimes they have a $5.00 or so minimum. Nobody likes to throw in that pack of gum to hit the minimum.
  3. Vendor fees. This isn’t so much on you, but vendors do have to pay fees, sometimes on every credit card transaction they make. Paying cash is a nice way to pay for things at smaller, local shops that you really want to give support to. (You can read more about merchant fees here)

What to Bench

Seems like a short list above, but that’s all you really will need. Let’s take a look at what you probably don’t need to be carrying around in your wallet every day.

Membership Cards

These cards build up over time and almost never really come into play. I personally have a few membership cards, including REI and a local bottle shop I patron, and 9 times out of 10 I can just give my name and phone number for their systems to look up, so I tend to leave those at home. I also have a Costco membership, which you do actually need to flash to get in, but I keep that in my car, which I use to get to Costco in the first place, so I’ve got it when I get there. Look through your membership and rewards cards and think about if you really need them with you all the time. You might find that you can bench some of them to free up space in your wallet.

Social Security Card

NO. Your social security number is effectively a password for access to a bunch of government entities and personal documents. As I mentioned above, losing a wallet can be a really bad thing. Losing a wallet that contains your social security number? That is a slam dunk for identity theft. The Identity Theft Resource Center lists it as the first item on what not to carry around. Do yourself a favor and leave this little guy at home in a safe, secure place.

Credit Card 2, 3 and 4

You probably don’t need to have three levels of redundancy for payments in your wallet. Really, you probably don’t need it, period. I understand that everyone has a different financial situation, but it’s always healthy to review your credit card and banking situation to see if it still makes sense. I did this last year and closed down a couple of bank accounts and credit cards. Consolidating my finances has been very freeing and has cut down on time spent wondering which card I should be using. I just use the one card. And I pay it off. Then I go on vacation with my mad reward points. Nice.

Do You Need All Those Keys?

This is going to vary more person-to-person, but the idea remains the same. For me, when I took a look at what I had on my keys vs what I use on a daily basis, I found a pretty big split. I walk to work, and Ms. RW takes public transit, so our car sits in our building’s parking garage most of the time. For that reason, I realized I was able to remove my car keys and put them on their own carabiner. We have a shelf with hooks in our entryway that we can drop our keys on. The car keys hang out here until we need them, at which time we can just clip them on with ease.

Car keys attached to main keyring
One *clip* and we’re good to go


I have my keychain down to five items:

  1. Home key
  2. Home fob (apartment building requires it for entry)
  3. Mail key
  4. Work fob
  5. Work restroom key

As I mentioned earlier, I’d like to take this down even further. All I truly need to carry with me on a day-to-day basis is my home key and fob. I take a bag with me to work that I could keep my work keys in, and I could put the mail key with our car keys, since I don’t really need it on me. I almost never check the mail unless we’re expecting something. The junk mail is real, especially at an apartment where you get the previous three tenant’s spam as well.

Take a gander at your daily set of keys. Is there anything that can be removed? Do you absolutely need that usb drive on your keyring? Do you need those mini membership tags? The keychain trinket? Purging that kind of stuff from my pockets made for a nicer time being out and about in a small but impacting way.

And Everything Else

Just about everyone carries their phone. People probably more often carry their phone than their wallet. I definitely do. A phone is a huge multitool, it has immense value-by-space. The phone takes up the final slot for me personally, completing the triforce of my daily carry.

Some people like to carry pocket knives with them everywhere. I used to do that for a while, even into places where they were disallowed. Truthfully, I did enjoy having the knife around at the time, though more from a utility standpoint than a safety one. I worked doing a lot of construction at a theater for a while, and it came in handy both inside of my work and out. Opening packaging, an ad-hoc screwdriver, or just whittling down a stick for fun. Years ago, I misplaced my knife one day, and found that I didn’t quite miss it as much as I thought I would. Since then, it’s been out of my pockets, no longer getting caught on my keys when I reach for them.

Finally, I’ll sometimes carry a handkerchief, especially if it’s hot or raining. They are small, they can look very nice, and they have myriad uses. Most people think of a handkerchief as a cloth tissue for blowing your nose and shoving back into your pocket with a nice *squish*, but it’s much more than that. Wipe your brow from sweat while hiking. Get a grip on something covered in condensation. Clean up an accidental spill. Make yourself an ad-hoc placemat at a BBQ. You’ll be nice and prepared for all kinds of niche situations, and if someone else needs a hand, you’ll be ready for action!

Keys hanging on our key hooks
Our entryway key hooks

Your Carry Reflects You

Obviously my experience isn’t a solution for everyone. Not everyone can just leave their car keys behind or only carry one credit card. What you carry depends on what you do each day. My suggestion to you, however, is to review what you throw into your pockets or your purse. Stuff can find its way in there that just (literally) weighs you down and gets in the way of the important things you’re looking for. Just like you do spring cleaning, you should clean out your pockets every now and then.

~Mr. RW

7 thoughts on “Minimalism and Daily Carry: What to Bring in Your Wallet and Pockets

  1. We had the issue of carrying around too many membership cards and find the app “Keyring” to be helpful. You can load on as many membership cards and gift cards as you have. Though I still like to keep the original gift cards (just in case!) everything else can be tucked away.

    1. I always forget there’s so many apps for gift cards and loyalty cards! That’s a great way to slim down your wallet but still use those memberships.

  2. I am constantly carrying all manner of nonsense — I don’t think this is something that I have ever thought about! I pretty much have George Costanza’s wallet – bursting at the seams. So I usually end up just taking my phone with me which is in a case with my license, metro card, debit card and credit card. Clearly that is all I must actually need, so why do I have an entire archive in my wallet?!

    1. We hear you! Ms. RW has all sorts of junk in her wallet, like gift cards with $1.00 on them and expired coupons. Even with a small wallet, it’s easy to fill it with unnecessary extras. We’re slowly try to get rid of excess stuff, but little things like wallets and purses still creep up on us!

  3. You’re idea of putting your Costco card in your car is a great idea. I carry around with me various discount cards for restaurants and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to have them available and out of my wallet. Since J. and I always eat out together and take the same car, I’ll just throw it in there. Thanks!

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