It’s time to cut your finances. I mean permanent reduction, not just post-Christmas compression. But it’s not about tightening your belt; it’s about shrinking your wallet.
These days, my wallet is more of a wallet. It’s a glorified cardholder, really: just bigger than a credit card, with slots for swipe cards and driver’s license and the few store cards and membership cards that haven’t yet migrated to my phone. There is a snap compartment for money, although I rarely use it. In lipstick-red grained calfskin, with gold YSL lettering, my wallet always looks important. But it is the shadow of its former incarnations.
By the time I received my wallet, its full-size predecessor was falling apart at the seams. I’m not particularly thrifty, just too lazy to deal with the tedious mini-admin task of figuring out what to do with the wreckage and wreckage of receipts and loyalty cards that had piled up. What made me decide it was time to buy a new purse wasn’t the scuff marks, but the fact that the wallet had gotten too big. Big enough to fill the entire back pocket of a pair of jeans, it was an unwieldy relic, like carrying around a brick-sized phone. My wallet is small enough to slip into a front jeans pocket. I can pull it out in an evening bag, instead of having to decant a debit card and an emergency £20 like I did in the big wallet days.
And it’s not just me. The baby carrier is a great novelty. For Christmas gifts, Zara has had a bargain with a £59.99 box set of matching leather gloves and mini wallet. At Matchesfashion, cardholder sales are up 117% year-on-year in the run-up to Christmas. Bestseller at Marks & Spencer right now is a diminutive croc-effect card holder with a starburst snap closure for £9.50. At Selfridges, the range of mini wallets has grown by a third: it is reported that Le Porte, a Jacquemus unisex mini wallet with a strap so you can wear it cross-body or as a lanyard around your neck, is a best-seller at £240.
At Mulberry, where wallets used to tend toward the size of a checkbook (remember that?), demand has also shifted to the dinky. His folded multi-card wallet, a palm-sized 8 x 11.5cm, is a hit, and the slim cardholders are popular with those who have given up on coins altogether.
I already predicted the death of the wallet. Seven years ago, in fact. I don’t say this to show off, however, because rereading this article, I realize that I was completely wrong. My wild prediction at the time seems to have been that the big wallet would eventually disappear with Gen X, since millennials preferred small wallets and were boldly experimenting with the concept of paying for sandwiches and train tickets using their smartphones. At the time, it didn’t seem to have crossed my mind that cash would be nearly obsolete anytime soon. For that, I can blame the accelerated disappearance of cash, and with it the wallet, not only because of the practicalities – dirty bills and all that – but because it showed us that even ingrained habits can change – quickly.
The rise of the mini-wallet is driven by utility, but it’s also symbolic. A big wallet is no longer a status symbol – not now contactless stealth wealth has come to the masses. A big wallet once made you look rich; now it looks like you need to save for a wallet.