What's In Your Wallet?

The typical man, eschewing as he does any bag or carrying case that could be mistaken for a purse, has a ton of crap in his wallet. Ask most guys to show you his wallet, and he'll pull from his pocket an inches-thick leather folder stuffed with old receipts, grocery store club cards, half-used gift cards, and the other detritus that wallets tend to collect. I'm no different, but recently I've been forced to re-evaluate the giant pile of paper and plastic I lug around in my pants pocket every day.

I should back up a bit and and give a little context, first. For the past several years I've been telling Juliette--at about one-month intervals--that I need a new wallet. My old wallet was too big, and I had never really intended to use it in the first place, it being merely a leftover that I put into service when the smaller front-pocket wallet it came with finally crapped out. Of course, inertia being so powerful, I continued to use that big crappy wallet for years, all the while annoying the bejesus out of my long-suffering wife.

Finally though, that wallet, like its predecessor, started to fall apart at the seams. Several months later, I bit the bullet and bought another one.

Picking out a new wallet, like picking out a new pair of glasses, is always difficult for me. This one is ugly, that one is the wrong color, this one is too big, that one doesn't have enough space in it. I nearly always find myself taking a turn through the wallet section when I'm in a department store, and I usually wind up throwing my hands up in frustration (and causing Juliette to roll her eyes).

This time, I decided to make a move to end this hassle once and for all. I've been eyeing the briefcases at Saddleback Leather for a while now, and it turns out that their wallets come with the same 100-year warranty as their bags. Problem solved! I'll just shell out thirty or forty bucks for one of those--not even that much more than a department store wallet--and never have to get another one ever again.

The new wallet arrived on Monday, and it's very nice looking and feels durable. I'm sure it will age as well as its manufacturer claims. But it did leave me with one problem: the new wallet only holds a fraction of what my old one did. What's more, since the leather is still new and stiff, the pockets haven't yet stretched to the point where they can accommodate even what the manufacturer claims.

Now, I know, this is practically the Platonic ideal of the First World Problem. Clearly, nobody is going to die or even be seriously inconvenienced--not even me--just because I can't carry around fourteen different loyalty cards anymore. But because I am ever-so-slightly eccentric (this is the polite way of saying I am completely obnoxious and a royal pain to live with), the thought of arriving at Boudin Bakery without my Boudin Frequent Buyer Card (and, thus, with no way to redeem my $5 Frequent Buyer Reward) makes me feel a little panicky.

And it's not just the possibility of missing out on discounts. For some reason, my collection of wallet flotsam seems like an extension of myself, as though I am at least in part defined by the stack of crap in my right pocket. It almost feels that by cutting out part of that stack, I'm cutting off part of my body. A small part, admittedly--one that I don't really need and hardly ever use. The appendix, perhaps.

I'm committed to the new wallet, though. This new wallet is going to be like my new best friend, the one that comes along with me on all of my adventures; through thick and through thin, come Hell or high water, my new wallet and I are sticking together.

So, after a long session spent winnowing down the mass of nonsense from my old wallet, this is what I'm left with:

  • My driver's license and auto insurance card
  • Medical and dental insurance cards
  • FSA debit card
  • AAA membership card
  • Two personal credit cards
  • Two personal debit cards
  • Business credit card
  • Business debit card
  • Costco membership card
  • Library card
  • Season passes to the San Diego Zoo, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and SeaWorld
  • A "what to do if your child is missing" info card with a recent picture of Jason
  • Four business cards
  • A sheet of first-class stamps
  • $65

I've abandoned all of the store loyalty cards. I won't be getting any more free popcorn at the movies, but that's OK. I came to terms with the fact that I wasn't actually going to spend the $1.17 left on the Macy's gift card I got for Christmas two years ago. The old receipts were trashed or filed. Or put in the pile of things waiting to be filed. My right pocket is lighter than it's been in years.

But even now, after all that, my wallet is still crowded and I'm still carrying around stuff I don't really need. Have I ever actually gone to the Science Center on the spur of the moment, without being able to grab my pass beforehand? And that second bank account has about $50 in it--when am I ever going to need to take money out of there without going home first?

These questions have been niggling in the back of my mind all week. If history is any guide, I'm sure I'll have them resolved before Jason goes off to college. Probably.



1. Thank you for realizing that I am "long-suffering". :)
2. You know you can use phone numbers for most of those club cards, right? I don't carry any of them around.
3. I love you.

Mike Sakasegawa:

I know you can use phone numbers, but I don't know what phone number is attached to most of those cards. I'm pretty sure our Vons card, for example, is registered under the number from one of our old apartments, maybe even from back in college.


Which wallet did you get? I've had one of their medium briefcases for 4 years now and it's pretty sweet. Although I'd probably get one of the laptop bag/thin briefcases if I were to get one now. Those styles didn't exist then but the regular briefcase is a big bag and I tend to keep too much in it. It does mean I can keep less in my wallet though.

Mike Sakasegawa:

The narrow bifold in carbon black. I like it a lot, but it definitely needs breaking in. Funny that you have the medium briefcase, that's the exact one I've been contemplating for the past year or so.


I still lug around a backpack with my crap in it. It seems to be preferred over briefcases up here, and CEO's and public officials are mostly seen with such packs as well.

I can't remember when I saw someone lugging a briefcase around.

Must be a Bay Area thing.

Mike Sakasegawa:

The one we're talking about is more of a shoulder bag than a classic, hard-sided briefcase. You've definitely seen lots of those in the Bay Area. Link:

Drakos :

The medium is nice if you need the space but if you don't you'll find yourself using the space anyways and it will get heavy. At least that's been my experience and judging by your costanza wallet I bet you'll see the same.

I haven't done it but there are some camera bag inserts that will fit in the medium briefcase. If yo do that it still leaves about half the bag for other stuff. But its not a light bag empty so that wouldn't be great if you're going to be walking a lot.

You might also want the extra space if you're carrying lots of stuff for the kids.


I haven't quite seen that one, but I want it.

Mike Sakasegawa:

This is exactly my dilemma: a large bag will be heavy and probably has more space than I need, but a small bag looks too much like a purse, especially since I'm more interested in a leather bag than a canvas one.


I think that the thin briefcase is a good compromise between not too heavy and not purse looking. At least in pictures. I haven't seen one in person.

Mine was also back when they were all suede lined which I guess is an option now. Based on pictures I like the suede lining more than the pigskin although it's supposedly not as tough. Mine has held up really well.

They were also less expensive then especially through their ebay store. They still weren't inexpensive though.

Mike Sakasegawa:

Yeah, the thin one is probably better functionally but I don't really like the hard angles.


I love that style of bag, but I would only use it as a carry on for traveling, I don't carry enough stuff on a day to day basis for one.

I carry a slim men's wallet made by a local leatherworker, that has a card pocket on the outside on each side and a wire moneyclip in the inside. I love it. Unfortunately, I carry too much shit in it and the pockets have stretched out, so if I try to downsize stuff falls out. It didn't come with a 100 year warranty, but I've had it for well over a decade and it shows barely any wear, so I'm fairly optimistic. I might see if I can't pick up a new one and try to keep it lighter, though. I think it was about $30, so it might be worth it. I can't stand purses, but have a small selection of the smallest ones I can find for when wearing clothes without pockets and it's too warm to wear a jacket and put everything in its pockets.


Tom's been seriously considering this app that consolidates your loyalty cards onto your phone:

Mike Sakasegawa:

That seems like a good idea, but I'm always kind of suspicious of anything that aggregates my information. It's probably overly paranoid of me, but I can't help it.