Some Lessons From My Wallet

by golbguru on June 27, 2007

Recently, The Mint Blog published an interview with me in which they asked for a picture of my wallet.

Here is that wretched piece of leather.

My wallet and the stuff it carries

Now, I am not a neatness freak by any measure, but the stuff that I pulled out of my wallet before taking the picture almost made me recoil in horror - people probably experience that kind of feeling when they *suddenly* realize that they are deep in debt.

I have intended to clean it up many times in the past few years, but those intentions never materialized. It must have started with just a single receipt (or perhaps a business card) which I did not dispose off in a timely manner - and since then, receipt by receipt, it has grown into this huge nonsensical mass of paper. Why did things come to this point? I think it’s just because of one single, transcendental, cliched reason - procrastination. It’s the result of not getting things done on time.

This brings me to a couple of interesting analogies:

  • Some people gain weight everyday by a fraction of a pound - if they procrastinate and don’t exercise (or do anything about it) at the right time, they *suddenly* find themselves overweight or obese after a few years.
  • Some people pile up their debt everyday by a few dollars - if they procrastinate and don’t pay it off regularly, they are bound to *suddenly* find themselves overwhelmed by a huge debt after a few years.

Makes me wonder if procrastination might be at the root of most misery. In the past I have written about the positive side of procrastination, but I guess that works only in moderation [ironically, the title of the post was "Procrastination is Good for Your Wallet" - my wallet will tend to disagree with that]. Too much procrastination, with things that really matter, is definitely going to cause problems.

Fortunately for me, it was just the wallet; but I can appreciate how this can easily happen to people in other, more crucial aspects of life.

Anyways, going back to the topic of the interview, here are some of my responses:

Current Financial Strategy:

Save-Save-Save. I try to keep my financial life simple. Generally, most financial transactions are a “returns vs. headache” deals for me and at times, I tend to minimize headache rather than maximize returns. I used to budget our finances to the penny, but of late, I have realized that such micromanagement tends to harm productivity (at least in my case) so I don’t do that any more.

Of course, I spend less than I earn. But that’s not a strategy, it’s a way of life.

Now, some people will disagree with the headache part because I use credit cards 99% of the time (notice that there is not a hint of cash anywhere in that wallet picture above; that’s how it is most of the year) - but for me that’s what is more peaceful than having to keep track of cash.

Best Financial Tip:

Keep an open mind towards financial ideas. Don’t bias against (or in favor of) a certain idea without thoroughly analyzing it. Always take financial advice with a grain of salt…whether it comes from the guy next door or the latest financial guru.

Head over to The Mint Blog to read the rest of it.

Meanwhile, do feel free to share what’s in your wallet.

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Super Saver 06.27.07 at 4:05 pm


You must a be a physics major. That amount of paper can’t possibly fit into a wallet of apparently lower volume, unless you are somehow warping time and space:-)

2 Sharon 06.27.07 at 5:44 pm

With all that paper in your wallet, I hope you don’t get pick up lines such as “Is that your wallet, or are you just happy to see me”….

Ooops, it’s that crazy stupid brain of mine taking control of my typing fingers.

3 golbguru 06.27.07 at 5:48 pm

Super Saver: ..and hence the term “recoiled with horror” :) In fact it seemed like a can of worms thing - as long as the worms were in the can things looked fine, the moment I got them out, it was seemingly impossible to put them back in the same amount of space.

OK, technically, when you start piling folded receipts, you can gather a lot of them in a small space - if you loosen them out separately, they will take up much more space - and that’s what is seen in the picture. You can actually see a contour on the wallet that’s present because of over-stuffing it with crap.

Btw, I have been reading some Michio Kaku material on warping space and time - so your hypothesis wasn’t totally off the track. :)

4 sfordinarygirl 06.27.07 at 10:18 pm

I’m slightly ashamed my wallet sort of looks like that. I carry way too many credit cards - two United mileage plus (personal/business), Citi Diamond, BofA MBNA card, HSBC ATM, BofA ATM and tons of gift cards … which is a bad idea and how I lost my $75 Banana Republic one. I keep the gift cards in case I”m at the particular store and see a bargain and want to buy it with the GC instead of CC because I’ll forget.

But yeah procrastination - i’ve been doing that with my wallet and need it organize it so it’s manageable.

5 golbguru 06.28.07 at 11:50 am

Sharon: Point taken - however, I keep my wallet in my hip pocket - don’t know what’s the pick up line for that one now. :)

sfordninarygirl: lost a $75 card? Are you reminding me of the “rummage lady” in one of the Dilbert comic strips - it is said that she rummaged so deep to find her stuff that she ran across some wild coyotes in her purse. ;)

There is nothing to be ashamed of; we all need something to remind us to get organized from time to time.

6 Steve Austin 06.28.07 at 4:17 pm

You gave a profoundly profitable financial tip there.

Regarding wallets, I don’t want this to come across as gloating, but I cannot resist sharing with you the nature of my wallet: I do not have one! Nothingness is a beautiful thing. Like any other storage device, you will fill it because it is there. The less storage space one has, the fewer things one will have. The fewer things one has, the even lesser storage space one will need.

I’m an all-cash user, so all I ever have in my front pockets is some US currency folded in half and less than 1 USD in coinage. You might be surprised about how infrequently one needs to identify oneself when one only uses cash. The other paper in my pocket will be several receipts, at most one day’s worth of purchases. That paper will be processed with software (Quicken, spreadsheet, et. al.) when I empty my pockets at dayend. And the cash balance sitting on my side table waiting to go into my pocket the next day is verified against the balance as reported by my software. The less you spend, the easier it is to keep track of. The easier it is to track one’s expenses, the more one can control one’s expenditures (ideally with the goal of spending less).

A lesson from the Tao Te Ching:

“In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.”

7 Steve Austin 06.28.07 at 4:42 pm

From the full Mint Blog article, I wanted to offer an idea re: taxes.

Write yourself a spreadsheet that tracks your current state of taxation. Each time you have income (whether earned, investment, or other), enter it into the spreadsheet which is nothing more than your estimate of what Form 1040 will have you calculate early next year. Some figures change each year, such as the amount of the personal exemption, the amount of the standard deduction, etc., but the IRS also is decent about publishing what the figures will be for the current tax year. Tracking things to the dollar (or the cent, if you’d like) allows you to know exactly what your current tax liability is, as well as project what it will be at yearend. This allows you to make estimated tax payments only when you need, and only in the amount that you need.

Here is one that I like:

I downloaded it a couple of years ago. He hides his formulas, so I had to reverse engineer some things. You can go back to his downloads from the mid-90s to see some of his formulas (I guess he didn’t hide everything back then). Or I could just share my simplified version with you. Just keep in mind that I don’t track earned income, because I don’t have any right now. But I do track investment income (interest, dividends, capital gains), as well as how close I am to triggering the AMT, etc.

8 golbguru 06.29.07 at 12:08 pm

Steve: Thanks for the occasional inspiration from the “Tao Te Ching”. :)

I can see the beauty of not having a wallet at all - but honestly, except that crap that I have collected, I have no problems with the accounting stuff. With credit cards, it’s automatically done for me through Yodlee (and at times an end-of-the-month Excel sheet).

Thanks for the tax tip. I will check out the worksheet.

9 The Digerati Life 07.03.07 at 11:39 pm

The funny or is it SCARY(?) thing is that my wallet looks just like your wallet. My bag is a huge mess of old, crumpled up receipts and who knows what! LOL!

10 Linda Neal 07.04.07 at 8:41 am

This simple new wallet design seems to keep me organized. I filed a patent-pending, and it carries your cell phone on your waist. So my conclusion is that the best way to deal with difficult things is to make them really simple.

11 MoneyNing 07.04.07 at 9:59 pm

Everything is better when it’s simplied. Less is always better. Any junk just end up wasting your time since you use time looking through it everytime you are trying to find what you are looking for.

12 Allison 02.18.08 at 12:16 am

My husband has a wallet much like yours. I notice that his pants wear out quickly in the back pocket area, where he stores his wallet. This requires buying new pants more frequently, which is costly. Surely, it would be easier and less expensive to clean out the wallet?

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My friend is a chiropractor and he loves people with such purses, they become his clients in a few years, you are sitting wrong with your back from you to put on pants in the morning and you get back pain and need to visit a chiropractor.

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Some Lessons From My Wallet — Money, Matter, and More Musings

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