Wallet Minimalism.
July 8, 2010 8:04 AM   Subscribe

My wallet is bloated, stretched, and dying. I'm looking for something more slim and functional. Any recommendations?

Somewhere in the past, I switched from a butt-pocket three-fold wallet to a bifold model with a money clip in the middle. I carry my wallet in my front pocket, and while this wallet was perfect (at first), overfilling it has caused it to bulge and stretch. Now, even if I try to empty it out, my cards all out in a shower because the card pockets are stretched out way too much.

I prefer something minimalist. I carry too much in my wallet, and I will continue to do so if given the option. I need to be able to carry some cash and a few credit cards/ID. I'd like it to not bulge in my front pocket (I'm not wearing tight pants, but the giant thing just sticks out).

Am I basically looking for a fancy money clip? A stack of credit cards with a rubber band around it? If you have similar needs to mine, how do you get by?
posted by SNWidget to Shopping (52 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
I have one of these (the "world wallet" so it can hold bills other than USD) and it is thin and wonderful. Doesn't stretch out, either.
posted by Grither at 8:06 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

I had the same problem, and solved it by going the fancy money clip route. Now, I have my ID, 2 credit cards, a CTA card and cash in the money clip.

One piece of advice --- don't change the number of cards that you keep in the money clip. It will eventually stretch out to fit the cards, so if you decrease the number of cards, everything will fall out.
posted by dgc at 8:08 AM on July 8, 2010

I don't personally have anything from this company, but I've heard nothing but *glowing* praise for SaddleBack Leather and they have a very nice, small wallet that I've been very tempted by lately.
posted by alaijmw at 8:10 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've been carrying one of these for a long time, and it's worked flawlessly. It's intended use is for business cards, but I find that it's perfect for credit cards and an ID. I'm carrying 7 plastic cards and a business card in it right now, to give you an idea.

The best thing is that it's hard plastic, and so doesn't expand. It's smaller than most wallets and maintains its shape through the worst of it (and it can get wet, just don't ask me how I know). The one thing you can't really do with it is keep cash in it, but I don't tend to use a lot of cash anyway. The cash I do carry goes in the same pocket as the wallet, and I've never had a problem with that. (I used to carry a bifold wallet in my front pocket like you do, the transition was pretty simple.
posted by ASoze at 8:19 AM on July 8, 2010

I've seen various fancy combo keychain plus coin pouchs and/or money clips with support for credit card and identification, possibly unintentional.

I purchase these items for for my mother whenever I see one, as she has similar issues. Currently, she's using a tiny leather hybrid, keychain, money clip, and coin pouch that I found her in Andorra. I've employed another similar device that I found at REI while minimizing risks from pickpockets when living in Taksim in Istanbul.

All these devices are cheaper than normal wallets, so just buy & try. REI will definitely carry one or two suitable keychain zippy pouch deals for minimalist hikers, maybe like $5.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:22 AM on July 8, 2010

I rarely carry cash, and never carry change, so I need only something to keep track of my cards, with the lowest profile possible.

Solution? I cut a Tyvek FedEx envelope to the exact dimensions of the stack of cards I carry (4-5 credit cards, driver's license, insurance card, transit pass) and wrapped it in discrete black gaffer's tape. All told, it weighs nothing, and is really no bigger than the cards themselves.

Although I am a fancy lad generally (particularly by Metafilter standards), I just can't see spending good money on a wallet that is hidden from sight 99% of its useful life, is not precisely tailored to my needs, and, in all likelihood, is cheap and apt to fall apart. Mine cost maybe $0.25 (the envelope is "free," so it's just the cost of the tape), it took 5 minutes to make, and I expect it to last a couple of years. I am totally delighted with it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

The The JIMI plastic wallet/money clip (very minimalist)

Ragged Edge Gear Carbon Fiber/Sailcloth wallets (won't stretch out, very thin, light and strong, many designs and types available)
posted by Diplodocus at 8:24 AM on July 8, 2010

I use the "stack of credit cards with a rubber band around it" plus a money clip for the bills. Money clip works well, credit cards with a rubber band, not so much. My driver's license is taking a beating from so much bare-pocket exposure (I could use something like the tiny wallet ASoze posted).

And since I can't resist, relevant Seinfeld clip.
posted by cac at 8:25 AM on July 8, 2010

I've been carrying a Slimmy for about three years now. It's perfect - holds a reasonable amount of cash in the front, three cards (credit/debit/ID) in the center, and a bit of miscellaneous stuff (transit card, a couple of business cards) in the back. It never leaves my front pocket.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:28 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Mr. Q&A wanted a slim wallet as well and I bought him one of these several years ago. It's lasted well, and not overstuffed.
posted by questionsandanchors at 8:28 AM on July 8, 2010

I've been carrying a super slim front pocket wallet for several years now. I've always been a bit of a minimalist in this regard though. I switched from a J Fold "Flat Carrier" to a MyWalit "Slim Credit Card Holder" when I saw the latter in a shop window in Brisbane earlier this year. The MyWalit is much better made, and satisfies my sense of whimsy, too.
posted by FlamingBore at 8:29 AM on July 8, 2010

Seconding the Slimmy. It's tiny, easy to deal with, and looks nice.
posted by zazerr at 8:35 AM on July 8, 2010

Narwhal wallets made from recycled ties are minimal in size, though not in the external patterns. They are well constructed and distinctive.
posted by ads at 8:36 AM on July 8, 2010

I don't think wallets get any thinner than these. I have had one for some years (maybe four or five?) and it is barely showing signs of wear. If it wears out I'll buy another.
posted by Forktine at 8:48 AM on July 8, 2010

Funny, my All-Ett wallet is very sad looking after only a year and a half. I wouldn't buy another since it wasn't that inexpensive.
posted by smackfu at 8:53 AM on July 8, 2010

I love my Mighty Wallet. It has almost no thickness on its own, and is holding up better than any wallet I've had in the past (which tended to be cheap and bulky).
posted by Emanuel at 8:54 AM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second Forktine's recommendation for the All-ett. I've had mine for at least 5 years, and it looks like new.
posted by JaneL at 8:55 AM on July 8, 2010

Funny, my All-Ett wallet is very sad looking after only a year and a half.

Weird. The pictures on the website look identical to the one I have, and they are still using the same material. Maybe you got a dud one, or perhaps you are just a lot tougher on your wallets than I am?
posted by Forktine at 8:59 AM on July 8, 2010

You'll see several key chain plus money, card, and/or coin deals here, mostly under $10.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:01 AM on July 8, 2010

Thanks for all the suggestions so far - I'll go through them and mark best answers once I have a chance to see which ones work the best for me.

After having just finishing pulling everything out of my wallet, I realized that I was more in need of this than I thought.

The Autopsy
posted by SNWidget at 9:02 AM on July 8, 2010

I want a Bandit.

I've also used the thick rubber bands that sometimes wrap celery.
posted by tayknight at 9:05 AM on July 8, 2010

Thirding the Slimmy. Really well made, I've had mine for at least 5 years. Looks great, functional, and I can't imagine going back to the traditional wallet that you end up sitting on.
posted by ehamiter at 9:10 AM on July 8, 2010

I use a clip I took from our office supplies: http://www.dankelzahn.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2005/01/bindersclipn00004.jpg

Good way to determine if a money clip is right for you at no cost. It works well enough for me that I never bothered upgrading.
posted by xammerboy at 9:17 AM on July 8, 2010

word of caution about the Jimi wallets -- they don't seem to be durable enough for me. I really liked the form, and the plastic made slipping it in and out of pockets super easy and kept wallet contents well protected. But the flip top broke on me, and again on a second one. Im now using a Slimmy, which I don't like as much but is definitely going to last longer
posted by cubby at 9:39 AM on July 8, 2010

I just went through this myself and have the same tendencies as you, and frankly have not found a perfect solution. I needed to replace my "Super Skinny" Big Skinny wallet, which was great at first (it's very thin but can hold a lot). Like with your wallet, though, the pockets stretched out and my cards kept falling out if I wasn't careful. I'm currently using a MyWalit wallet, which I like, but it's not as thin as the Big Skinny.

However, I just went back to the Big Skinny website and saw that they now have a version of the Super Skinny with pockets facing toward the fold instead of the top of the wallet; this configuration might work better with respect to preventing the cards from falling out.

Also, can you be disciplined about being minimalist? I've bought many smaller wallets (e.g., the Slimmy) in many attempts to be more minimalist, but have always ended up going back to larger wallets.
posted by odin53 at 9:41 AM on July 8, 2010

Someone above mentioned Saddleback. I don't have their wallet, but I do have two of their bags (duffle and briefcase). They're fantastic. Were I in the market for a wallet, I'd not hesitate to purchase one of theirs.

I will go out of my way to NOT recommend a company called Billykirk. I had a terrible experience with their products about a month ago and they were not at all sympathetic in their responses to my queries about getting a refund. Terrible business people / customer service.
posted by dobbs at 9:42 AM on July 8, 2010

Seconding Emanual's recommendation of the Mighty Wallet. I have one and it's the best wallet I've ever had. I have unfolded it as best possible and used it as a pattern to make my own out of big sheets of Tyvek (not out of those free Tyvek envelopes you can get at the US Post Office, only an asshole would take those and use them to make a wallet, yes sir) and everyone loves them.

Plus Dynomighty has some terrific customer service, and they treat their customers very well. I have had great experiences with the company and the product. Hell, I'll send you a homemade wallet if you want one and if you like it you can promise to buy one from Dynomighty when and if the one I send you wears out.
posted by komara at 9:45 AM on July 8, 2010

OMG SNWidget - that was all in your wallet? That makes me shudder a bit.

Downsize, my friend, downsize. I know a LOT of people will tell you that you need to carry XY and Z in your wallet, but you know what? You don't. I have been all over the world with nothing more than what fits in my tiny little wallet. Two debit cards, a credit card, license and insurance card(s) when I'm in a city where I need a transit card I have a spare slot for that too. This is especially true if you have an iPhone and carry keys (put your club cards in your iPhone or on your keyring). I don't even bother with those. Almost everywhere I have a club card will allow a look up via phone number.

Seriously. Downsize. You'll never miss 95% of that stuff.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:48 AM on July 8, 2010

I'm thirding the Might Wallet. I love mine.
posted by wittgenstein at 10:03 AM on July 8, 2010

I really like my Smart Money Clip. It forces me to only carry 4 cards (I'm embarrassed to say I even carry that many) and holds any amount of cash flawlessly. It'll force you to simplify. Frequent flyer cards and other credit card sized things are not necessary - just carry the numbers with you.
posted by Tehhund at 10:19 AM on July 8, 2010

I have one of these. Again intended for business cards, but works perfectly to keep my wallet at bay. You can buy them from Venue in Seattle. I'm sure they'll let you call in an order -- if not, memail me and I'll pick one up for you.
posted by negative1 at 10:48 AM on July 8, 2010

I've carried a Duct Tape Wallet for about seven or so years now. Very cheap to make and easily customizable. Takes about 20 minutes to make one wallet (once you get some basic construction techniques down.)

I taught myself to make duct tape wallets while I was watching footbal playoffs in 2003. I needed something to do with the other 90% of my brain while watching football. So if I could teach myself, any relatively intelligent person could do it too. But there are guides out there too.

Once you learn the basics, you can adjust size and shape. Used to I would carry a bifold wallet with a small "go wallet" insert. My "Go Wallet" was just a two pocket, no fold wallet just big enough to carry my cards, IDs, and folded cash (with 1/2 of one side of each pocket not connected) and one of the sides made of transparent tape. My ID would face out on the transparent side, a debit card behind that, and folded cash in the other, top-loading pocket. Then that would "dock" in the larger wallet when needed. but often I'd just put the "Go Wallet" in my pocket and leave the Base Wallet in my car or bag.

Nowadays I carry a "Dad Wallet" which is the guy version of a "Mom Purse." I have mine adapted to carry small scissors, toothpicks, wetnaps, emergency doses of kids' meds, etc along with my stuff. Same basic techniques, just adjusted with some imagination.

So with a roll of good duct tape, some optional transparent tape, a pair of scissors, and some imagination, you can have the wallet of your dreams.
posted by cross_impact at 11:17 AM on July 8, 2010

I swear by my Storus Money Clip. I never carry more than a few cards and there's a nice place for some folding money. Minimalism at it's finest. You can even get it engraved.
posted by willmize at 12:04 PM on July 8, 2010

I used a rubber band, binder clip, Jimi and a few different purpose-built money clips. They all let me down in one way or another.

I have a Dopp Regatta 88 Series Front Getaway Pocket wallet now and it's great. It holds my 6 everyday-use cards, cash, receipts and business cards in a neat, tidy, thin and secure way. It has an ID pocket and doesn't get sweaty the way most leather does.
posted by KevCed at 12:09 PM on July 8, 2010

This may not be the most relavent idea, but thinking outside the box, you can keep your big wallet but stop carrying it your pocket.
I switched over to a "man purse" a few months ago, and now I keep nothing in my pockets throughout the day. My wallet goes in one pocket, cell in another, keys in another. I can keep my ipod in there, and even a book. I love having a place for everything.
YMMV on this definately, but if anyone hassles you about it, you can tell them it's a satchel, and Indiana Jones carries one.
posted by reburn at 12:11 PM on July 8, 2010

I currently have an All-Ett, they are super thin but a bit overpriced. Get the sports wallet, it holds <>
I have also made a few wallets using the instructions from this Instructable: Paper Wallet out of Tyvek and they're 80% of the All-Ett. They don't look very good after a couple months though, but I think that's part of the charm. Plus they are nearly free if you have access to a big Tyvek sheet used for construction.

The Dopp Front Pocket Wallet is pretty good but I liked having my paper money unfolded.

I had a Big Slimmy and returned it - it's not minimalist at all compared to the All-Ett.
posted by meowzilla at 12:33 PM on July 8, 2010

Err, the All-Ett sports wallet holds up to 10 cards and cash only. This should be plenty if you are a minimalist.
posted by meowzilla at 12:34 PM on July 8, 2010

I wrap my cash (like Kramer, with the big bills--$5--out front) around my cards and recently upgraded from a rubber band to the much-sturdier hair elastic. Both of which are eminently replaceable and have never failed me. To me, the big advantage here is the extra hand you have that's NOT holding on to a traditional leather wallet.
posted by eggman at 1:09 PM on July 8, 2010

nthing All-Ett. 4 years of hard use, and it looks exactly the same (though for first month or so it crackled). It is currently holding 5 bills, 2 receipts, 8 plastic cards/IDs, 5 paper IDs, and 12 thick Moo.com photo business cards. Folded, that comes to a teeeny bit over 1/2" total. From experience, 4 more plastic cards would max it out. In theory, it can hold a lot more cash, but around 6-7 bills it starts to unfold itself.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 1:14 PM on July 8, 2010

I tried the rubber band thing for a while, and it didn't work so well. Having both cards and cash in the same clip doesn't work well either. The problem is that when you are paying for things, you have to be very careful to make sure that your cards and cash don't fall everywhere when you remove one or the other from the clip. It is actually a pain in the ass.

For a while I was using this Tumi card case: http://www.tumi.com/meridian/folding-card-case-100748/SEORewrite.aspx

It holds 3-4 cards on each side of the flap. I used a money clip for cash.

I have since moved back to using a bifold wallet, because it is more convenient. I only have 6 cards in it and it is quite slim.

In my experience, the combination card cases/money clips are just as thick as bifolds, and less comfortable in the pocket because of the clip. If you get one with a magnetic clip, they can be much heavier than a bifold as well.
posted by twblalock at 1:22 PM on July 8, 2010

I carry the bare minimum (six basic cards) in this card holder, which I keep in my pocket. On the rare occasion that I'm carrying cash, that gets tucked in the same pocket. Every other card goes in this larger card holder, which I stow in my work bag. I almost never need the rest of that stuff, and I bet you don't either.
posted by limeonaire at 5:15 PM on July 8, 2010

I was in your shoes just a few months back. Had a big, bulky wallet and decided that I wanted to slim down. Here are some things that helped:
  • Identify things you really shouldn't be carrying around in the first place(!)
  • Figure out what things you can stop carrying because they have been replaced by apps on your iPhone (or whatever mobile device you carry around). [For example: I had a little creditcard sized periodic table in my wallet just 'cause. Replaced it with a (much better) iPhone app!] [Another example: as soon as Wegman's let me put in my phone number instead of scanning my "loyalty card", that card got left at home (granted, I was just carrying the little keychain one to begin with...)]
  • Determine what cards you want to carry, but won't be used terribly often. These cards should be stacked together and shoved into a single pocket. Having all of those individual pockets requires much more leather which makes for a thicker wallet!
Using these principles, I went hunting for a wallet and found this gem at Macy's. (More pictures showing the contents: 1 & 2. When the new one is full, it's as big as my old wallet empty!)

So, yeah: definitely figure out what exactly you want to carry with you, go to some stores, find some wallets you like, and try putting your stuff in it!
posted by StarmanDXE at 5:25 PM on July 8, 2010

Oops! Forgot a bit I wanted to add to the 2nd bullet point: figure out which physical cards you don't need to carry around and either take a picture/scan them and keep the images in your phone, or just keep the important numbers listed in some notes file in your phone.
posted by StarmanDXE at 6:03 PM on July 8, 2010

I just got another All-Ett after the first one I purchased several years ago started to fall apart. I got the "Eco-Thin" recycled one, which is just as thin, and feels durable as all get-out. But generally, I swear by my All-Ett. It fits in my skinniest jeans without incident, and holds everything in the world.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 7:04 PM on July 8, 2010

Nthing the Slimmy. I love it.

I've had my black Slimmy for at least 5 years and it still looks almost new - I expect it to continue to do so for many many years. I love having a front pocket wallet, and would never go back. Works with jeans and a nice suit equally well. I have absolutely no regrets about getting one, and recommend it to people every chance I get.

Do it!
posted by joshuaconner at 11:09 PM on July 8, 2010

I have brown version of the midnight wallet from Troika which I love.
posted by arcticseal at 5:59 AM on July 9, 2010

Weird. The pictures on the website look identical to the one I have, and they are still using the same material. Maybe you got a dud one, or perhaps you are just a lot tougher on your wallets than I am?

Here's what mine looks like after a year and a half. I think the problem is that I still put too many cards in it, so it puts pressure on the stitches and they can't handle it. Proof that just changing wallets can't change your habits, I suppose.
posted by smackfu at 6:56 AM on July 9, 2010

Funny, my All-Ett wallet is very sad looking after only a year and a half.

Weird. The pictures on the website look identical to the one I have, and they are still using the same material. Maybe you got a dud one, or perhaps you are just a lot tougher on your wallets than I am?

Mine started to fray after about six months, so I must've really gotten a dud.
posted by salvia at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2010

I keep mine in my front pocket, and don't keep many cards in it. I can see how stuffing it full and sitting on it every day wouldn't work out so well.
posted by Forktine at 8:59 AM on July 9, 2010

Komara has sent me a Tyvek wallet, and I have to admit, after using it for 24 hours, I think I'm in love. It holds exactly what I need it to, and it looks good in my pants (if I only I did, but that's another ask).

Thanks so much for the advice, everyone.
posted by SNWidget at 2:09 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Glad you liked it then - how's it holding up for you now? Figured I'd come back and see if you still enjoyed it, or if you were researching an alternative.
posted by komara at 1:27 PM on July 26, 2010

Holding up very well. Paired with a general trimming of wallet contents, it's turned out to be perfect. Having to explain to people why I have a mailing envelope as a wallet is part of the fun. Thanks again!

I figure that if, at some point, I need something a little more formal looking, I'll get the black Mighty Wallet, but otherwise, I'm a convert.
posted by SNWidget at 10:16 AM on July 27, 2010

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