There is a very big difference between being frugal and being cheap. Cheap people want to spend nothing, ever, even if they need it. Frugal people spend money that they need to spend, and look for ways to save while they’re spending. For example, let’s say you have a cheap person and you have a frugal person both throwing a dinner party. Both are looking at filet mignon to serve their guests. The cheap person decides that he’s not even going to throw the party because it seems like a complete waste of money to spend on people who could just go home and feed themselves.
The frugal person doesn’t love the idea of spending $10 or more per person for a small cut of filet, but she looks for a way to cut down the costs, such as comparing prices on the filet at different stores to see if she can get a discount. She then uses coupons to further reduce the cost to her. She’s not forgoing what she wants to do, she’s merely looking for a way to make it more affordable for her. A frugal person has a million dollars in the bank and looks for coupons to use at the supermarket. The cheap person has a million dollars in the bank and rations Ramen Noodles to avoid spending even a dime on anything else to eat.
So, you see, there is a big difference. Does that surprise you? Perhaps you thought that the big difference would like somewhere else, perhaps between big spenders and frugal people? Of course, they have differences, too; we all have differences and that’s what makes us awesome. However, you might be surprised just how many similarities frugal people and big spenders share with one another. For instance, would you safely assume that a frugal person and someone with a lot more money and a lot more freedom to spend would have the same items in their wallet?
While not everyone has the same things in their wallet, even frugal people and everyone in between need to carry a few of the same things – and we need to make sure we are not carrying a few things. What we have for you today is a comprehensive list of the things that everyone needs in their wallet, the things that frugal people should have in their wallet on top of everything else, and the things no one should ever carry in their wallets – ever, under any circumstances.
Cash – It’s for Everyone
It’s a good rule of thumb, even if you are not a frugal person by nature, to keep cash with you. This is true for several reasons. For one, there is always going to be that one time you go into the store and their card readers are down, or the time you go into the store and your card does not work. I know; it sounds like a situation that would never happen. Whatever.
It was November. I was headed to get my hair done during my monthly appointment when I decided to stop for dinner first at my favorite deli since my appointment was a later one and I was hungry. I stopped, spent all of $16 in the store and went to the salon. When it was time to pay, I handed over my card and my $130 purchase was declined. Knowing full well there was plenty of money in that account, I asked her to run it again. It didn’t work. I did not have cash on me. I had to write a check to get my hair done – because I also did not have a backup card on me.
I called my husband, my banker, and he looked into the situation for me. Turns out, the bank decided to hot card my card because they believed my purchases to be fraudulent, so they immediately deactivated it.
Lack of questioning phone call aside before deactivating my debit card, the bank decided that because I’d purchased something online that day from Disney World in Orlando (our annual passes were up for renewal that day and we had a trip planned that weekend) and less than two hours later made a purchase at a local store and then attempted to make a purchase at a salon, I’d been robbed. Their calculations make no sense to me, and I’m not even trying to pretend I understand them.
Furious, I had my husband get my card reactivated. I wanted to speak to the person in charge of this stuff, but he refused to give me that person’s name on account of my furiousness and potential attitude problem and the fact that this is his place of business. Again, whatever.
The following morning, I had to return a pair of shoes I bought my daughter that were too big. I purchased her another pair in exchange as well as a few new pair of Under Armour leggings and tops for gymnastics and cheerleading. When I went to pay, my card was declined.
You have got to be kidding me.
You do not even want to hear the call I made to my husband at that point; or the apology I had to issue him after the store realized that their debit card reader was down and that they were only able to run my card as credit, and all we well.
See? This is why we need cash on us.
Another reason to carry cash is that it allows you to be far more frugal and less spendy. When you are using cash, you have only so much on you and cannot exceed that amount. When you are using debit or credit, you can spend whatever you want and not worry about picking up extras here and there and buying things you do not need.
Cash works because it allows you to keep your spending in check by literally being unable to pay for extras. How’s that for frugal living?
A $100 Bill
There is a scientific study out there somewhere that states people are far more likely to spend their cash when they have small denominations. A large bill such a $100 makes it a bit more difficult for you to do that. For example, on Fridays I take my kids to get frozen yogurt after school as a treat. On days when it’s raining or cold or we are on a tight schedule to get home for date night or some other event, I’ll just run them through the McDonalds drive-thru and grab them M&M McFlurry’s since they love those, too.
In the window, there is a sign that states that the cashier has nothing more than $50 in various bills in her drawer and is unable to make change for anything bigger than that. So, I’m not likely to take my $100 bill and head to any fast food restaurants and waste money on any given day if it’s all I’ve got in my wallet for the week. I might eventually cave for something like lunch with friends, but I’m not going to waste money on a coffee with only a $100 to break.
On that note, be careful with that one. You might fall into the trap of thinking, “Well, I need to get some smaller bills, so I’ll just go ahead and stop for that new $50 dipped Yeti in pink since I already have the silver and the Tiffany Blue and I want options and change,” and spend more to get smaller bills.
That may or may not be a true story.
Many people that like to live a frugal lifestyle live by the cash envelope system, and it works well for some people. I don’t hate it; I don’t use it, but I’m also kind of lazy, so that’s an issue. This is a system many frugal people use to do everything throughout the week or month or whatever timeframe you choose. You put your ‘allowance’ in the envelopes for each category in your life and you spend it until it’s gone. When you go to reach in the envelope for entertainment, for example, and there is nothing left, you cannot spend anything else in that category until the next time you get paid and can reimburse that fund.
It works for many because it allows them not to deprive themselves, but it also allows them to spend on what they want without overspending on what they want. If you want to live a frugal lifestyle, it’s probably not a bad idea to keep this kind of envelope cash system in your wallet. I use this system, kind of, for one thing. I stop every morning and spend $2.10 at Dunkin Donuts on my way out of the house. I have my husband (my banker) bring me a $10 every week (we have no ATMs near us for our bank) and that’s what I use for that. It helps me stop myself from ordering a bunch of other things I will most certainly regret later on in the day; and it keeps me on track to spending next to nothing each morning and that always feels a bit like an accomplishment of sorts.
One Credit Card
You shouldn’t carry around a half dozen credit cards, even if you have them all. I realize that there are people out there who pretty much make a business of using as many cards as possible to earn miles and points but since we are discussing everyday people, I’m telling you to pick one credit card with an excellent reward system that works well with your lifestyle and keep it with you.
Whether it’s a reward card that offers miles for your favorite airline, cash back or points that you can redeem at hotels, pick the one that works best for you. I cannot tell you which card that is, and I’m not even going to try. The point is that you need to pick one and keep it with you. It’s a little counterintuitive to the cash method we spoke of earlier, but it’s not a bad idea. Some credit cards offer you rewards when you shop, and that’s how you earn points and miles.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to have this card on you so that you can pay for emergency situations, such as that emergency service you require to repair a flat tire or anything of that nature. Life doesn’t always work as you wish, so be prepared for the unexpected.
A Debit Card
Your bank account is tied to your debit card, so carry it with you in case you need it. It’s a good idea to have a back-up method of payment in case you need it, and it’s a good idea to ensure you are able to pay for your purchases when it’s time to make them. Additionally, you might find that you would rather use your debit card to pay for emergency situations than you would your credit card, and that’s all right. Or perhaps you have a bank account that is designated for very specific purposes, such as gas. That makes is possible to keep this card handy every day so that you can purchase your gas or whatever it is you need to purchase with this particular card.
Store Loyalty and Rewards Cards
You hear people all the time asking if you have your rewards or loyalty card at check out, and I was always the person who said no. Then one day, I was in the Walgreens liquor store (classy, I know) buying a bottle of Bacardi to stick in a gift bag and some peppermint schnapps to put in some hot chocolate when the cashier overcharged me by almost $10 for my items.
It turns out, you only get the low price that’s advertised there if you have a Walgreens’ loyaty card. If you don’t, they charge you something like $5 extra per item. It was really excessive. I signed up right then and there, to the dismay of the people behind me who clearly weren’t shopping for their liquor in advance and wanted it now.
Store loyalty cards are more savings-friendly than many like to give them credit for, and they’re worth keeping in your wallet. Unless, of course, you can simply enter your phone number at checkout and use it that way. In that case, go ahead and forgo the hard card and make more room in your wallet.
If you’re frugal, you know that it’s important to use coupons. It’s a good idea to have them on you at all times so that you’re able to use then when it’s appropriate, too. For instance, you never know when your girlfriends might call and ask you to meet them for drinks and appetizers somewhere after work, and wouldn’t you much rather have that coupon for a free appetizer with you in your bag than at home where you either have to make a trip to get it or spend money you could have saved by leaving it at home?
I know that it must be a pain taking coupons with you everywhere you go, so check for something like an app that organizes coupons for you and use that to keep them on hand. One of my favorite apps is my Publix app. That’s our grocery store of choice here in the dirty south (okay, okay, Florida) and they have an app that allows us to organize our coupons there on our phone.
They offer what they call virtual coupons. We ‘clip’ them when they come through, they go into our account and we simply provide our phone number when we check out so that we can see if any of our coupons work with our purchases. If they do, our total amount due is lowered. If they don’t, it’s not. Either way, we have the benefit of using coupons without the hassle of carrying them around with us in our wallet all the time and digging through them when it’s time to check out and move on.
Your Health Insurance Card
Here’s a thought; you have a health emergency and have to go to the hospital or the doctor. You have no idea where your card is, and the doctor tells you that they’ll just bill you for the service now and you can call them later with your health insurance information.
That means you’re paying out of pocket right now for something you probably are not required to pay for. It’s not the end of the world in an emergency situation, but it’s not easy to secure a refund for overpayment by an insurance company or even a doctor’s office. I once did this, and it was an expensive moment in my life that ended up costing me $600 that day. It took more than six months to receive my $550 refund after my insurance was processed and it was determined that I only owed a $50 co-payment for that service.
It’s always a good idea to have this card in your wallet at all times. It’s not even frugal, it’s necessary. This is not just for the frugal, either. It’s for everyone. This is a rule that applies to all people who are looking to carry health insurance. You need it at all times. Hopefully you actually don’t need it, but you never know so it’s better to just have it on you than it is to have it elsewhere.
Medical Information Card
All right, friends; this is for everyone, not just the frugal. However, if you are frugal, it is my best guess that you are looking for ways to ensure you are able to save your life as well as your money. That says to me that you look for ways to ensure you are actually, you know, alive.
If you have a medical ailment or situation in your life that requires you take care of something very specific, such as severe allergies, a health condition or even some type of medical emergency; have that information handy in your wallet at all times. You never know when something might happen and someone has to go through your wallet for your information and will come across this. For example, if you are allergic to penicillin, it’s probably better that doctors are aware of this prior to treating you. They’ll go through your personal effects to find out who you are if you are unresponsive, which is why it’s imperative this information is on you at all times.
It’s far better to be prepared in a situation such as this. You’re working hard to save money, so go ahead and also work hard to ensure you are able to save your own life.
Important Numbers and Contacts
Frugal or not, you need to have a few numbers in your wallet at all times. One is your spouse. Note on a card that this is your spouse’s contact information and name. Write down your doctor’s name and number, your insurance information, and other important numbers you might need in a situation that is not ideal, such as a car accident. You should have your car insurance card on you, but not everyone does have this on them at all times.
Keeping these numbers easily accessible in your wallet makes it far easier for you to handle emergency situations, and it makes it easier for others to handle them for you. What happens if you’re pregnant and you go into labor in the middle of a store and you are unable to get out the information you need to get out before the pain is so unbearable you can no longer speak (I’ve had four kids and never experienced anything of this nature, but you know what I’m saying for the sake of emergencies). This information is vital and not an optional thing.
What to Leave Out of Your Wallet
Additionally, there are a few things you should never keep in your wallet. For various reasons, it’s considered unsafe as well as unwise to keep specific items placed here where anyone might have access to them should your bag go unnoticed, removed from its location for even a few seconds or even stolen.
Identity thieves, con artists and just general thieves not looking for anything other than cash might get into your wallet and find information they could use to financially ruin you, as well as make your life miserable in at least a half dozen other manners. With that in mind, here’s what you need to get out of your wallet right now.
- Your social security number – Your card, your number written down in any location or anything that has this information on it needs to be removed from your wallet right now. Additionally, do not keep the social security numbers of your kids in your wallet, either. Thieves can easily use this information to take over your life.
- Birth Certificates – With a birth certificate, anyone can obtain an ID with your name on it and their face. What this means is that you are going to see an increased risk in identify theft providing this particular information to con artists and thieves.
- Passwords – We all do it, and it’s because we’re told not to use the same password for every account. So, we forget them easily and write them down as a reminder. Keeping that information in your wallet is like an invitation to thieves to take over your life and your bank accounts, your online shopping locations and everything else.
- Account and Routing Numbers – This is difficult since you probably keep your checkbook here, but don’t. Keep your checkbook at home or in a location that is not close to your wallet so that your thieves cannot steal your money straight from your account. It’s not that difficult to do if they have your name, address and your numbers thanks to all that information in your wallet.
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