I feel like such an idiot. I committed an egregious financial sin, one for which I probably won’t forgive myself anytime soon. I lost my wallet, and not because somebody snaked it out of my back pocket. I was simply careless.
It happened at the gas station. I got out of the car, slipped my wallet out, withdrew my debit card, and swiped the card in the machine. Then I put the card back in my wallet and put the wallet on top of the pumping station. Can you guess what happened next? Right: I finished with the gas nozzle, got back in my car, and drove off without the wallet.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. But also a valuable lesson. Losing my wallet taught me a few things about how much our wallets really mean to us – and how much we stand to lose.
1. I don’t need to carry all this stuff.
Membership cards, coupons, business cards, family photos. My whole life was inside that wallet, and now it’s gone. I’d convinced myself over the years that I needed to carry everything possible with me, that I might someday need it. Not anymore.
From now on, I’m carrying only the essentials in my wallet. I’m going to stop carrying cash completely, and I’ve whittled down the cards to those I use on a daily basis. Everything else will stay at home.
2. People do steal.
I’ve had a car stolen before, and a few other things, but it really hit home this time. Someone picked up my wallet, took it with them, and used the cash. The thief also spent some money at Quizno’s and Kroger, but my bank refunded those fraudulent charges.
I must be more careful. I think we sometimes trick ourselves into believing we live in safe places with honest people, and for the most part that might be the case. But my Pollyanna attitude is gone with the wallet.
3. Backups are important.
After I lost my wallet, I started contacting every business I could think of to obtain duplicate membership cards and other documents. It would have made this fiasco much easier to bear if I’d done that in the first place.
From now on, I’ll keep an expired driver’s license at home just in case my current identification is lost or stolen. I’ll also keep backup supermarket, gym membership, and auto club cards so I don’t have to wait two weeks for a new one to be delivered.
4. So is keeping a list of automatic bill pay recipients.
Most of my bills are linked to my debit card or my checking account, which usually constitutes a convenience. Not this time. With my wallet stolen, I had to cancel my debit card, which meant changing all the information for those automatic withdrawals. Since I didn’t have a list, it took me half a day to track down all the contact information and report the problem.
5. Wallets are public information.
At least, they are when you lose your wallet and someone else picks it up. This experience made me feel extremely vulnerable, like I’d opened up my life to a total stranger. And in, effect, I did.
The person who found my wallet knows my name, address, phone number, and bank of choice. He knows what my friends and family members look like, where I work out, which library I use, and that I’m a member of AAA.
It’s a sobering realization, and one I’ll take into account from now on. Losing a wallet isn’t just about losing the money inside.