Can I Pull Off a Minimalist Wallet? It Is Time to Find Out

Wallet cash pocket

I got my first wallet when I was a child. It was a gift. I don't remember it well because I was young, and it didn't last long. It was a bi-fold made of nylon, and it had a Velcro closure. I hated this because it seemed to announce to the room that I was opening my wallet. I lost the wallet about the time the Velcro wore out. There wasn't anything of value in it, and losing it was kind of a relief.

My second wallet was also a gift. It was a cheap leather bi-fold. I liked it much better. No more loud ripping sound to turn heads when I opened it. I treated this one to heavier use, and it was less durable. Unimpressed with the duct tape I was using to hold it together, my family decided I needed a replacement. This was when the trouble began.

Time for a Man's Wallet

It was time for a real wallet, a wallet like Dad's. Unfortunately for my back, that meant a leather tri-fold. That was what he'd always carried, and it made sense for him. He had enough cards to fill it up, and he liked to carry cash. He also liked the organization because it meant he could find whatever he needed.

A tri-fold was overkill for me. I put everything I had into it but couldn't fill it up. This led me to carry things in it that I didn't need to carry at all. I carried unnecessary photos, spare checks, receipts, coupons, to-do lists, and phone numbers. I used it throughout high school. I suppose the upside was that I never had to look for anything because it was always in my wallet.

My tri-fold was still going strong when I started college. I rarely removed items from it because I didn't see any reason to do so. I never ran out of space. There was something reassuring in knowing I always had whatever I might need with me. The wallet became bulkier and less comfortable to sit on.

Lessons from Costanza

And then, Seinfeld provided the wake-up call I needed. The infamous episode involving George Costanza's wallet struck a nerve. That was my wallet! I too had been sitting at an angle.

I emptied my wallet and discovered that I needed less than half of what I'd been carrying in it. Despite showing wear, the wallet was still in decent shape. Tossing it seemed wasteful. My solution was to remove most of what I didn't need and carry on.

My slimmed-down Costanza wallet graduated from college with me, but I was now in need of a replacement. The stitching was beginning to separate, and the leather had seen better days. I needed a new wallet but wasn't sure where to start. I had moved to a new area, and most of the stores were unfamiliar to me.

I ended up at a large outlet mall on the outskirts of town. The number of wallets was overwhelming. Most of what I found was expensive, ugly, or both. I've never been a fan of leather, but that was the only option I could find at the time.

I settled on an affordable leather bi-fold. It was not a slim design, but it was slimmer than my trifold. It fit everything I needed but didn't have the extra space that would invite me to overstuff it. It was a step in the right direction. It got me through grad school and into my subsequent job.

Getting Slim

By the time I was ready to replace my leather bi-fold, I had heard of a new trend: slim wallets. These were not the minimalist wallets that are so popular today. Most of the slim wallets had a similar form factor to traditional wallets (e.g., bi-folds and even tri-folds). Some were leather, but many used other materials to aid in their thinness. Having developed some low back pain, I figured I'd give one a try.

I selected this Big Skinny bifold. I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered it, but it would become my favorite wallet to date. It wasn't much to look at, and I was never crazy about the logo. The utilitarian appearance won't be for everyone, but it suited me well. Best of all, it managed to hold more than my previous bi-fold while being about half the thickness. Sitting on it was much more comfortable and something I noticed right away.

I bought my Big Skinny wallet in 2018, and I still have it. It was my daily wallet until a few weeks ago, and it has held up well. I decided to try something else out of curiosity about minimalist front-pocket wallets. As thin as the Big Skinny is, sitting on it for long periods of time isn't ideal. A front-pocket wallet would solve that problem.

Going Minimalist?

I'm not sure I can pull off a minimalist wallet. I almost never use cash, but it seems smart to have some with me in case I'm in a situation where cards aren't an option. I don't need to carry all the cards I've been carrying. I could get down to 4-8 without much difficulty. It seems worth a try.

I picked up a Woven Dyneema Matrix Card Holder from CountyComm about two weeks ago. It appears to be similar to the Flowfold Recycled Sailcloth Minimalist Card Holder available from Amazon. The Flowfold version also has more color options. My early impressions are positive. It weighs next to nothing and disappears in my front pocket. I've only used it for cards so far because I'm still working out how few I can get away with for a typical daily carry. Once I've figured that out, I'll add cash.

I'm still getting used to the minimalist approach, and I plan to try a few other options to see how they compare, including:

I could see myself rotating through a few different wallets. The one I take to work might not be the same one I carry on the weekend, especially during the summer months. The other thing I plan to try is moving all those membership or rewards cards to my car. That way, I'll have them when I need them but won't carry them around until I do.

As for whether I can adjust to using a front-pocket minimalist wallet, time will tell. So far, I don't miss having a larger wallet in my back pocket.

How about you? Have you found your perfect wallet yet? If so, is it one you'd recommend to others?

Updates After Testing

Update #1: I liked the Woven Dyneema Matrix Card Holder from CountyComm. It disappeared in my front pocket to the point where I found myself wondering if I'd remembered it. It can easily take 4-5 cards in each of the two pockets or 4-5 cards in one pocket and cash in the other. The main thing I didn't like was how it handled cash. It required folding bills into thirds. That's not the end of the world, but it isn't ideal either. Since I can get by with 4-5 cards and 2-3 bills, I can make it work as a summer wallet when I want something as small as possible.

I've started testing the Travelambo, and I am not liking it so far. I have four cards and 2 bills in it at the moment. It is supposed to be able to take at least another card or two and a couple more bills. But it is so stiff that I'm worried that it will bend what I have in there now. I've also noticed that it doesn't smell anything like the leather it claims to be. I do like how it holds bills folded once, and I like how flat it is. But it feels like I have a plastic coaster in my pocket. It has no flex and jabs me occasionally. I'm going to keep using it for at least another week to see if it breaks in. It is an interesting minimalist design, and I suspect it would work in a better quality material.

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Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay