Ten things you should never carry in a purse or wallet

Ladies and gentleman, I’ve done the unthinkable. I’ve done the one thing that weakens women and mortifies men. No, I’m not talking about public speaking. I’ve unclutched my handbag and unwrapped my wallet. Yes, I’ve gone and dumped the contents of my purse for all to see.

I suppose this bold move is inspired by purging my 80s crap from my parents home the other day. Perhaps I just feel the need for some serious public scrutiny. In all honesty, I think I just need to shame myself into facing a common reality – we humans carry a lot of crap with us everyday. I am human, I have way too much crap in my purse.

wallet_mess2.JPG

My turfed tote-bag tally is mind boggling. On any given day, I carry a wad of paid bills, another wad of unpaid bills, a menagerie of makeup, a pack of tampons, Advil pain pills, receipts, coupons, expired coupons, way too many loyalty program plastic cards, tangled pony tail elastics, a bevy of barrettes, a pen, a check book, some chocolate, and dental floss. Shrug.

I suppose I carry the Advil to help with the shoulder pain I suffer from hoisting all this s$it daily. Perhaps I need 5 lip glosses to kiss my sanity goodbye when rummaging through unfurled tampons. Perhaps I just enjoy chomping at the bit when teething for some needed dental floss. I dunno. For whatever reason, I seem to have accumulated a lot of junk in my trunk and need to lighten the load with some serious consideration. Are there things we should never carry in our purse or wallet? Certainly, bringing bags of bills along with me every day is silly. But seriously, could a cluttered purse or wallet cost you if lost or stolen?

Here are ten things you should never carry in your purse or wallet:

1. Social Insurance Number or Social Security Card:

I know sooo many people who carry this vital bit of information with them. Please reconsider. With identity theft running rampant the last thing you want to lose is the one card which identifies every aspect of your financial and personal life. I keep my card in a safety deposit box at my local bank. In the rare instance I need it for a new employer I just make the trip to my financial institution. I actually memorized these vital digits years ago since I learned how much financial, governmental, and personal information is stored within the code. Your Social Insurance Number (SIN) or Social Security Card can easily be considered just a piece of plastic, but in the hands of an identity thief this plastic card is golden.

2. Passport and Birth Certificate:

You probably already carry your driver’s license with you. So why bring a birth certificate and passport along for the ride? If your wallet or purse is snatched, you’re going to lose all pieces of personal identification at the same time. Putting too many eggs in one basket puts you at risk for loosing all official identifying items. Diversify your holdings by bringing just a driver’s license with you, and leaving everything else in a safety deposit box or at home.

3. Checkbook:

I am so guilty of this one. But seriously, don’t carry your checkbook unless you absolutely need too. Checks are dangerous pieces of documentation since they list your name, address, bank account number, bank routing number, and bank name. All of this information is key for thieves to tap into online transfers and electronically move money from your account to theirs. Besides, how often do you need to write a check anyways?

4. Keys:

I stopped carrying keys in my purse about a year ago after learning of the nightmare my friend Sandra went through. When Sandra’s purse was stolen at work, not only did she lose all her identification and banking cards, but she couldn’t drive her car home and was unable to get inside her house. If she had kept her keys in her pocket (like guys do) then she could have minimized the trauma of having her purse plucked. On a safety note, keeping your house keys with your home address is a recipe for disaster, especially if you live alone. When Sandra lost her keys, she lived in fear of being robbed or attacked for the first few nights until her locks could be changed. Be safe, keep your house and car keys outta your purse.

5. Numerous Credit Cards:

Stop carrying numerous credit cards and limit your purse or wallet to just one or two plastic pieces. Carrying fewer credit cards helps limit the amount of financial damage from a charging thief. How many credit cards do you need anyways? Try toting just one or two cards from only the major cardholders (Visa and Mastercard).

6. Business Cards:

Do you really want a tricky thief to know where you work too? Business cards are calling cards for letting people know your title, occupation, and place of employment. The last thing you need is to be identified as high net worth individual by telling thieves you are Senior Vice President of X, Y, or Z. If you must market yourself with business cards, try keeping them in a special case in your pocket.

7. Glasses:

Do you want to see the expression on your face after losing your clutch? Then better keep your specs safe by keeping your peepers outta your purse. Many people carry a spare pair in case they need to ditch their contacts. If you’re one of these people, then consider hauling an older pair. Losing your best specs will leave you sight unseen if you need to replace them quickly.

8. Mega Moolah:

Do you carry stashes of cash? Like to wallet wads of wealth? Well, kiss your cash goodbye cause carrying much moolah means it’s gone for good. It’s easier to get credit card transactions canceled than it is to recover stolen money. Consider carrying as much cash as you can stand to lose. Even though cash is king, there are very few things a credit or debit card can’t buy.

9. Flash or USB Drive:

I love to carry my little USB Drive with me. There’s no better place to save my blog stories when I’m on the go. The problem is, if my purse is pilfered, then I am stuck without a post to share. So keep all crucial information saved on a USB Drive in your pocket. Your blog readers just might thank you. ;)

10. Condoms:

Stop being a good boy scout by storing a sheath in your wallet. Being prepared is badge worthy, but the consequences may leave you unsafe. Condoms can degrade when placed in a warm wallet. The added pressure of sitting on a prophylactic can also break down your trusty barrier. Keep yourself safe by storing your condoms in your partner’s purse or in a jacket pocket. Protecting oneself is the best financial decision ever, scouts honor!

Indeed, carrying too much of the wrong stuff can really cost you. Do you tote too much stuff? Is your bag bursting at the seams? What’s in your wallet?

Keeping your wallet or purse safe (series):

Your two cents:

  1. Sarah April 8th, 2008

    LOL! You’ve got a great sense of humor. Thanks for this important info. I never thought about my checkbook being sensitive material like that. I figured the thief would want to write a check and then be denied with out a DL, but that is true, they could go take your routing/account # and totally SCREW you! AHH!

    ;o)

  2. fox April 8th, 2008

    Sarah: You’re welcome! Yeah, checkbooks are bad news if lost or stolen! On the humor…my “better half” laughs at me everyday…some days he just heckles… ;)

  3. Finance Girl April 9th, 2008

    Gosh, I hate it when I see people pull Social Security Cards out of their wallet! What is the point of having it in there? We had to memorize our SSNs in middle school because it was required for all the forms we had to fill out in each of our seven classes.

  4. telly April 14th, 2008

    Sounds like now all you’re lugging around is a handbag full of tampons! ;)

    Great blog – glad I found you. :)

  5. fox April 14th, 2008

    telly: I’ve been lugging around lots of silly stuff. ;)

  6. Mike April 21st, 2008

    Why was I carrying my social security card around with me? Thanks for the wake-up call.

  7. fox April 21st, 2008

    Mike: You are most welcome. :) I don’t know why I carry any of that stuff around with me. I still can’t believe I dumped my purse for all to see.

  8. MzTravelDiva April 21st, 2008

    Informative article! Wow…I am so guilty of #3-6. I’ve learned the hard way about business cards. These definitely should not be given out to everybody just because you have a box full of them. Thanks for sharing the inside of your purse with us. You are not alone…believe me.

  9. fox April 21st, 2008

    MzTravelDiva: I wish I was guilty of #8. ;)

  10. Funny about Money April 21st, 2008

    What a great post! and so, so true!

    Breathes there a one of us who doesn’t carry at least some of this junk around with us? Wow.

    I have a spare pair of glasses in my car. When I don’t have my contacts on, I need three pairs of glasses, so it’s not practical to carry them anyplace OTHER than in my purse. But on the off-chance that the purse gets lost or stolen, an old pair of still usable glasses is at least where I can find them.

    And I’ve taken to keeping my keys in a pocket. This is a trick, since so many women’s clothes have no pockets. Luckily, unless I have to get dressed up for a (rare!) meeting, I can wear slacks or even jeans to work. Also have been clipping my flash drive to the key fob, which keeps that on my person, too. I can unclip it in the office and then put it back on before leaving.

    Have you noticed that when you empty all that stuff out of your purse, you no longer list to one side or the other when you have your bag slung over your shoulder? ;-)

  11. Pam April 22nd, 2008

    I’ve long espoused the theory that women were “kept in their place” via high heels and lack of pockets. Well, I wear high heels rarely now, but doubt I’ll ever find an outfit with enough pockets!

  12. Ed Darrell April 24th, 2008

    And then, just where does a lady carry her check book?

    Seriously. How many different kinds of totes is a person supposed to have?

  13. Dwindle April 25th, 2008

    3 days to change locks? 24 hour locksmiths are availible… well… around the clock. As for USB keys, ditch them in favor of uploading to a site, emailing them (gmail can be used as an ftp server in Firefox), or encrypt them if you worry about the content. Easiest thing, get one you can use as a keychain.

  14. Kerry April 25th, 2008

    Dwindle: I agree, waiting 3 days to get her locks changed is scary. She was hopeful her stuff would be found or returned. She was also resistant to change in a “who moved my cheese” sort of way. I too use a USB on a key chain.

    Ed Darrell: I recommend against carrying a check book not as a way to “declutter” your purse, but rather as a security measure.

    Pam: Well said!

  15. centsprout May 3rd, 2008

    so true on the keys thing! i lost my purse one fateful new years a few years ago but thank goodness my keys were in my (coat) pocket and i was still able to sleep in my own bed that night!

  16. Nicole May 21st, 2008

    Daaaaang, how much lip gloss do you need to carry in your purse? (looking @ the pic)

  17. Kerry May 21st, 2008

    centsprout: Keeping keys in a purse is killer. The tricky bit is finding a pocket. ;)

    Nicole: The lip gloss is indeed laughable. So are the tampons (you wouldn’t believe the email I get about tampons). Anyhoo, since the gloss was all buried under my bills, I had no idea it was there. Also, most of lippy containers are empty. I bet I’m not the only gal with gloss issues though. ;)

  18. anon due to content- sorry! July 23rd, 2008

    I haven’t carried a purse (except formal dress occasions) since I got done toting those heavy diaper bags around 25 years ago… Luckily, my jobs have all allowed dress black jeans – so my fav’s are Lee’s 5 pocket women’s jeans.
    I know it made seem “odd” for a woman to not have a purse, but seriously, they are a pain to lug around. I recommend putting your wallet in a front pocket – less likely to get stolen (at least from my tight jeans) and won’t hurt your posture/back as much by sitting on it in a back pocket.

    My 5 pocket jeans carry enough – wallet, comb, lipstick and gloss on a stick, keys, small tape measure (house under going construction for past year), and pocket knife. Also occasional other items as needed. All the ‘extras’ I carry in the car – spare glasses, meds, etc.

  19. Frugal Vet Tech July 26th, 2008

    No purse here…just a small wallet. I wear jeans pretty much all the time, so I can carry my wallet in my pocket. I also carry chapstick and a hair binder. My keys get clipped to my jeans. On the rare occasion where I need to wear a dress or dressy pants that don’t have pockets I either carry a purse or put my driver’s license in my husband’s wallet. My backpack, well, that’s another story…I only carry that around because I’m in school now and am usually hauling homework around with me.

  20. Nadia August 26th, 2008

    I had my purse stolen in San Diego area last Thursday, I wish I read this before, but I have to deal with it now. DL gone, cash, Credit Cards and I think my son’s Social Security. Do you have a good advice what to do in this case?

  21. Kerry August 26th, 2008

    @Nadia I’m so sorry to hear about your stolen purse. I too have been through this and it’s not fun. The second half of this article: How to Survive Losing Your Purse may help you out. Hugs.

  22. Mili January 25th, 2009

    That was really interesting, and I was glad to see it written down by someone because it feels like I’ve been telling people this stuff for a while, then people look at me and you can tell they’re thinking, ‘how paranoid can you be?’ lol

    I think I’d add a number 11: don’t carry personal pictures (especially not in your wallet, where anybody can get a good long look whenever you pull it out in a line to pay). The goal is to keep the private information you share inadvertently to a minimum. So if you absolutely need to have pictures of kids/spouse/whoever with you, I think it may be smarter safety-wise to keep them in one of those ‘brag-book’ thingies or a separate envelope, where you can easily pull them out to look at or show off whenever you like :-)–without giving out the information that you have kids, that you’re attached, etc. Or there’s the modern options like using the picture-storing capabilities of an electronic gadget such as some cellphones and PDAs or many music players. Neither solution helps in case you lose your purse or get it stolen, but at least you skip the next-person-inline scenario!

    Also: carry a small purse! It makes it much easier to hold onto it at all times if it’s small and light, as well as it being harder to get stolen off of you. If you have a really regular routine (ie you work at a specific place with stable hours, use your car everyday, etc), you’re in luck, because you only need to carry the very basics; no need to tote makeup and food and all the rest of it, ’cause you can just leave these items in the car/work drawer and use them before leaving! (It’s if you’re very mobile that you need to carry more items, but there’s still a lot of ways to keep the bag real small without sacrificing your creature comforts!)

    Nice blog!

  23. Lupin May 19th, 2009

    Brilliant blog! I am definitely going to reconsider my keys and SSN card. I can memorize my number easily, and I don’t lose things in my pockets that often.

    Haha, but it seems that I have a lot more stuff than most people! I have pens, pencils, a highlighter, an eraser, my wallet, cellphone, a bottle of lotion, an extra handkerchief, a pill bottle, pocketknife, cough drops, hand sanitizer, and usually a book of at least 150 pages. And sometimes a CD player as well. I wonder why my shoulders don’t hurt!

  24. pocketknifeguide July 14th, 2009

    Your blog is so informative keep up the good work!!!!

  25. me July 28th, 2009

    should i not carry me license either that also has my name and address

  26. Jenna Forstrom March 25th, 2010

    The only thing I would argue here is the passport. If you live out of state (say for college) you need your passport to get into a lot of East Coast bars. Plus if you travel a lot keeping it in your purse guarantees it will be there the next time you travel. “Where did I put it so I could find it next time.” Won’t happen.

  27. Judy April 14th, 2010

    Another place NOT to carry driver’s license is the glove box of your car! I was been shocked to see the license, insurance proof, AND the ownership certificate, ALL in my friend’s car!

    A car thief would love her if I hadn’t made a couple of suggestions . . . rather loudly. (We’ve known each other for 73 years so ‘loudly’ is allowed)

  28. Paul Nagelkerke May 24th, 2010

    If you a visitor to the U.S. (and most other countries) you MUST carry proof of legal immigration status at all times. This usually means your passport with work/visit visa. A driver’s license is good as ID only, not proof of immigration status.

    Arizona’s new immigration check law just highlights the situation. Even a walk around the block requires ID.

  29. Shona June 1st, 2010

    This woman doesn’t even own a purse. But, I am in possession of a few pairs of rather functional cargo shorts and cargo pants.

    People think I’m crazy, but my cash goes in 1 pocket, phone in another, keys in another, and a small compact camera in the final one. Sometimes, a gps graces the pocket with its presence as well!

    This way, I never have to leave my belongings unattended anywhere, and I know that they are far safer than if they are all lumped together in a purse or handbag :-)

  30. ID Card Supply June 15th, 2010

    I lost my wallet last week. You are so correct never keep all the credit cards together its very risky. Not only I lost all my credit cards but keys to my apartment as well. It was the saddest day in my life.

  31. Rob August 8th, 2010

    @paul nagelkerke

    That may be the “law” but as a legal immigrant (admittedly white and a native English speaker) I lived and here in the USA for 17 years without anyone ever asking my citizenship. Just like they don’t now that I’m a US citizen.

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