Maybe your mom or dad told you never to leave the house without a few bucks in your pocket. Sage wisdom — but beyond a few bucks, your keys and a fully charged phone, what else is important to keep with you when you leave the house?
"When it comes to your wallet, less junk means more control," Rachel Cruze co-author of Smart Money Smart Kids told Mic by email. "Be strategic about what you keep in your wallet, especially in the off chance that it is stolen or misplaced."
Let's start with what you should leave at home: your Social Security card, passwords, spare keys, blank checks, passport, your full pile of credit cards, birth certificate and old receipts. But what should you keep in your wallet?
1. $50 in cash
Even though we live in a cashless society, carrying a little money is still important to cover unexpected emergencies. The main reason to keep cash on hand is because you can't always use your phone or plastic to make a purchase. You may also need it for a tip, donation or to split a bill with friends.
Paying cash can also help you budget. "Using cash instead of plastic will make you spend less, and it can keep you from purchasing impulse items," Cruze said. "If you can't pay cash for something, then you can't afford it."
How much should you keep? You should probably have no more than $50 on you at all times, both to keep you from making any large cash purchases and also just in case your wallet gets stolen.
2. A driver's license or ID card
Keep your driver's license or state identification card in your wallet so you can purchase things like airline tickets, alcohol, certain over-the-counter meds — and so, if you needed to, you could cash a check, as radio personality and money guru Dave Ramsey suggests on his blog.
While a state ID card or driver's license is a good idea, carrying your passport or Social Security card is not, ABC News notes, because both are harder to replace in case they get nabbed and can be easily used to steal your identity.
3. A debit card
You need a debit card in order to get cash on the fly, even if it's not the main piece of plastic you use to buy things. (Tip: That should be your cashback or points credit card.) Shop around for a checking account that reimburses you if you use out-of-network ATMs.
Just remember that it's riskier to use (and lose) your debit card because the protections aren't as strong as they are with credit cards and a debit card is directly linked to your bank account. So if someone steals your debit card and charges $1,000 before your rent check clears, that check may bounce even if you are eventually reimbursed for the fraudulent transaction.
Finally, try to keep only one debit card in your wallet; stash the rest at home. "If you have debit cards for certain savings accounts, like your emergency fund, you can keep those in your safe at home in order to save some room in your wallet, and to avoid using it to make purchases," Cruze said.
4. A credit card (or two)
Aside from limiting your purchasing power, keeping just one credit card in your wallet reduces your theft vulnerability on multiple cards. If your wallet is stolen and you keep eight credit cards in that wallet, you will have to cancel all eight cards, Michael Bruemmer, Experian's vice president of consumer protection told GoBankingRates.
But you could alternatively carry two credit cards and keep one as a backup, in case a store or restaurant doesn't accept your first card. "I always keep an American Express and a Visa so if the retailer doesn't take one of the cards I have the other one as backup," Kathi Grace, certified financial planner and managing director of United Capital told Mic by phone.
5. Emergency contact information
From losing your wallet to being in an accident, having emergency contact information stored in your wallet can help during unexpected situations. Select a reliable family member or friend to be your emergency contact person and include their name and phone numbers on your contact card. The American Red Cross provides a PDF with wallet-sized cards you can print.
You could also populate the medical identification section on your phone with emergency contact information. "However I still keep a card in my wallet in the event my phone is destroyed or lost," Grace added.
6. Health insurance card
In case of an emergency or a rushed appointment with your physician, keeping your insurance card in your wallet will help you avoid any hassles. If you have a separate card for prescriptions, you may need to bring that too.
Ok so by now you're thinking, "wait, why do I need the these cards if I have all that info saved on my phone already?" Because your phone battery might die — and in an emergency, it's better to have physical proof of your insurance immediately available to healthcare providers. Trust us on this one.
7. An inspirational note to yourself
Do you have life goals you hope to reach and want to keep them in the forefront of your mind? Don't roll your eyes!
"Carry your most important goal in your wallet," Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series says. The power of suggestion can help you achieve goals that are always with you but take time to reach.
No goal is too big or too small to keep in your wallet, whether it's "own a house by the time I'm 30" or "buy oranges, not Nutella". Or just write down a favorite quote to help keep you calm and centered, like "Wealth is the ability to fully experience life," by Henry David Thoreau or "Never spend your money before you have earned it," by Thomas Jefferson.
Need ideas for life goals? Here are 30 secrets to success to help inspire you.
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