photo credit: Allison Gootee/Studio D; prop styling by Matthew Gleason

photo credit: Allison Gootee/Studio D; prop styling by Matthew Gleason


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What’s in your wallet?

Sorting through your wallet once in awhile is a good idea, and not just so you can find exact change for the soda machine. Looking at what’s in there can actually save you money and help you keep your overall financial house in order. Read on to see how the right balance of cards and cash will help you avoid hassle — and fees.

[To learn more about how you can save money, visit]

Clear out your credit card slots.

Aim to carry just two or three cards. Here’s why: People tend to spend more with credit than with cash, so having many cards handy may lead you to apply for others if you max out your first set. Don’t close an account outright, however. Doing so reduces the amount of credit that’s available to you, which can lower your credit score. Simply stash the cards you don’t use in a locked drawer.

Carry the right cards.

Ideally, your wallet-worthy cards should have no annual fee and low interest (11% is considered low). A rewards card should offer a minimum of 1 point or 1% for every dollar you spend. If your credit isn’t so hot, aim for the lowest fee and interest combo you can obtain. Comparison-shop on a website such as or, where you’ll see fees and interest rates laid out. If you find a better deal, tell your card company you’re switching—the company may match the deal to keep you as a customer.

Purge your store cards.

Charge cards from department and chain stores give you a register discount when you sign up and great offers via email, but often you don’t need to actually use (or carry) it to take advantage of the deals. Store cards’ interest rates are high, so unless you’re paying them off each month, they can cost you big. Plus, you may overlook statements thinking they’re junk mail—and then you’re hit with late fees. If you need the card for a particular discount, bring it the day you’re making the purchase.

Be smart with your debit card.

The immediate deduction from your account when you make a purchase can be helpful in curbing spending, but avoid using it with sellers you don’t know and trust. If you must dispute a charge, you are in a weaker position since the merchant has already been paid. With a credit card, you are not charged unless the dispute is resolved in the seller’s favor.

ATM alert: They don’t make that ka-ching sound, but using machines other than your bank’s costs an average of $2.40 for each withdrawal. Avoid fees by taking out more cash when you visit your bank.

Carry big bills!

A study from the University of Maryland business school shows that people are more likely to think twice about a purchase if they have to break a $20 or $50 bill. Even with smaller bills, you’re apt to spend less when you use cash rather than credit. That’s because with cash, you feel the “pain of payment” more keenly. Ouch!

“I made a small change!”

Another smart organizing tactic: Carry your receipts in a pouch instead of stuffing them in your wallet. Toss any slips older than 90 days that you don’t need for warranty purchases, and keep the ones you need for returns at the ready. Woman’s Day asked Mare Henderson, 49, of Charlotte, NC, to try this system. Her take:

“Collecting all my receipts in a resealable bag in my purse was the perfect visual cue to remind me of all my spending. I decided to apply the same principle to money saving: I put any $5 bills I got as change into a plastic bag instead of spending them. When the bag was full, I deposited the collection into my savings account for a rainy day. Easy to do!”

HELP TEST OUR TIPS! You could appear in an issue. Email us at (type “Small Change” in the subject line).

SOURCES: Susan Bruno, financial planner and cofounder, Amber Stubbs, managing editor,

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