In terms of day-to-day life, there are few things more important than your purse or wallet. That’s because, assuming you have the necessary items, everything you need to function in school, work, and even your home life revolve around the contents of your wallet and purse. And now that you have your own, you’ll probably wonder what exactly to put inside it. Let’s dive in.
What to Keep in Your Wallet
Here are the most important things to keep in your wallet or purse and why! Check out our guide to money management for teens for more tips on financial education and keeping your money organized.
Your photo ID card is essential and becomes even more important as you get older and travel more. A photo ID for a teenager can be either a learner’s permit or a school ID. It’s essential to make sure you keep your ID renewed as an expired ID can’t be accepted, even if you look exactly the same. For example, you need an ID to open a bank account, but if the ID is expired, the bank system will automatically reject your membership. Plus, if you’re stopped by law enforcement and give them an expired ID, there’s a good chance it’ll complicate the situation. For ease, most wallets have a clear pocket to put your ID in. Purses will sometimes have an ID pocket as well.
This one’s a no-brainer. Your debit card should always be in your wallet. Preferably in one of the front pockets, so it’s easy for you to access. Remember to sign the back of your debit card and not to store it with the PIN. Fun fact: PINs can’t be hacked, which is to say, unless you tell someone your pin, write it down, or choose something easy to guess, like 1234 or your birthday, no one can access your PIN. Also, a debit card number is different from your account number. If something does happen to your debit card, a bank can quickly replace it with minimal damage to your finances.
A credit card has a place in your purse or wallet, but it’s more dependent on how exactly you tend to use the card. The most effective way to use a credit card is to put small charges on it that you pay off at the end of the month. That said, if you find yourself using your credit card for daily spending, it’s better to leave it out of the wallet and save it only for emergencies.
There are still tons of uses for cash—for example, snacks, tolls, fees, and cash-only businesses. Or in the event that your debit card is broken or expires. And while it’s true you can withdraw cash from an ATM, most ATMs will charge you pretty hefty fees to even look at your balance. And it’s not a guarantee that a store will offer cash back on purchases. Beyond that, it’s polite to tip cash in some places. We could devote an entire article to the buying power of cash but for now, just remember to keep paper money close by.
Membership cards, in some cases, also count as a second form of ID. It’s a good idea to keep yours close by in case you end up needing it. Most places offering membership can also find you by name or phone. But it’s faster if you have the card or their systems go down. It may seem like an impossible event until it happens to you. Carrying your membership card is a classic example of better to have and not need than to need and not have.
Contact info comes in handy if you happen to misplace your wallet and a good samaritan picks it up. Your address is on your ID, but when you move, it might be a while before you get a chance to update it. That said, all a contact card needs are your phone number, name, and email if you use it often.
If you have a medical condition, carry a medical card. It should list all of your severe allergies or symptoms in case of emergency.
What You Should Never Have in your Wallet
Certain things should never be in your wallet because they leave you vulnerable to all types of fraud. Here’s what you need to know.
Social Security Card
Your social security card is your single most important form of identity. Which also means you shouldn’t carry it around with you. In fact, most social security cards state it on the paper they come with. For one, you can only get ten social security card replacements in your lifetime, and it’s a long process every time you need a replacement. Plus, although some people do, you aren’t allowed to laminate a social security card which means they remain a fairly fragile item, especially as years go by.
Additionally, if your social security card falls into the wrong hands, someone can commit identity fraud and ruin your credit, empty your bank account, and even get you in trouble with the law. People who experience social security fraud spend years, in some cases, fixing it. With that in mind, keep your social security card in a safe place, like a locked drawer, a safety deposit box, or with a trusted family member.
Your birth certificate is your second most important proof of identity. And it’s tricky to replace, not as difficult as replacing your social security card, but it’s still quite the challenge. It contains essential information that can be used to commit identity theft.
Once upon a time, people took their checkbooks everywhere as it and cash were the primary form of payment. Now that we have debit cards, it’s a good idea to leave your checkbook at home. Checkbooks have your account and routing number on the bottom, and unlike a debit card number, an account number is a lot more complex to replace. If your account number is compromised, you’ll need to change your direct deposit and automatic payments, and you’ll be locked out of your account for at least a couple of days.
Large Amounts of Cash
Don’t carry large amounts of cash because if you lose cash, it won’t be replaced. For example, let’s say someone gets your debit card info and charges $20.00 to it. If you report the fraud quickly, your financial establishment will replace it. That said, if you lose or are frauded out of $20.00 cash, then there’s not much that a bank can do. So keep your cash amounts at $50.00 or less, and when you store cash in the wallet, it’s a good idea to keep it tucked in the back pocket, so it’s not easily visible.
Excess items pertain mainly to wallets and include anything that’s not on this list, like photos, coupons, scrap paper, etc. An excessively stuffed wallet makes it harder to access important items when you need them and can make the wallet a bit too wide to sit on. Your wallet is typically going to be in your back pocket, and if it’s too thick, it can throw off your spine alignment. That means back trouble in your future.
Now you’re ready to organize your first wallet or purse! Just remember to keep track of where you put it when you’re at home. Check out our other articles to learn more about money and life’s financial hurdles.