If you're carrying around a tattered old wallet that you can barely close because it is filled with crumpled receipts, credit cards, rewards cards, spare keys, lip gloss, and whatever else you can fit in it , some financial advisers say you shouldn't be surprised that you are having some trouble getting a handle on your finances.
"You should think about your wallet like you think about making a first impression with potential employer, client, or date. The way you treat the wallet and the money in your wallet is a direct message about what you're saying about yourself," says New York-based financial adviser Stacy Francis, founder of Savvy Ladies, a non-profit financial education organization geared toward empowering women. "If you pay more attention to your money and the way it's organized, you'll be more organized, more responsible and more on top of your finances."
Taking these five steps to get organized can help you take charge of your wallet and your finances:
Clean out the Clutter
Go through your wallet once a week - or at least once a month. Take the time to review your receipts and how you've been spending your money. Throw out receipts you don't need and organize what you do.
Francis puts receipts into a plastic file - organized by various expenses -- medical, transportation, big ticket items - and then purges that file every three months after she's had time to return items or check warranties, if needed.
Take Only the ID You Really Need
Limit the identification cards you carry to your driver's license (or photo ID), health insurance and other medical cards (blood or organ donor cards), and car insurance card. "Pay attention to see if car insurance cards will expire soon, it may be a good reminder to shop around for better rates," says financial planner Lazetta Braxton Rainey of Financial Fountains in Baltimore, Maryland.
Just Two or Three Pieces of Plastic
Keep only a debit card and one or two credit cards in your wallet. "If you have two cards, put the one on top that has the lowest interest and best rewards points or rebate system. That way when you go to grab that card it will be on top," Francis suggests. Get rid of store credit cards. The annual percentage rate on retail cards is over 23% on average, compared to 10% for the average low rate card and 15% for the average cash-back or rewards card, according to CreditCard.com.
Carry A Little Cash
In this day and age of cashless purchases, there are some items or stores that still require cash. If you don't have it and go to an ATM that's outside of your network, you could pay as much as $2.50 or $3 for each transaction.
Back It All Up
Make copies of your credit and debit card information, driver's license, and health insurance cards and keep them separate from your wallet. You can make paper copies to keep in a file for your personal finances. Or take photos of your IDs and receipts with your smartphone and email them to an email address that you set up specifically for your finances.
"My overall experience is that organized people rule the roost in saving money and time," says financial planner Carolyn McClanahan of Life Planning Partners in Jacksonville, Florida.