Monday, December 19, 2016

Commuter Bags, or, the Virtues of Miniwallets

The only professional product photo I can find of my current wallet, purchased from the now-defunct Kate Spade Saturday line in March 2015.

It's rather un-stylish, but my North Face Recon (current version) backpack from law school is my current commuting bag of choice, thanks to all the things I need to carry back and forth, namely my laptop, lunch, and binders of documents. Given the number of laptop-friendly totes for professional women out there in the market, I must be in the minority because I loathe carrying my laptop in a tote. Something like the Lenovo Carbon X1 I got at the firm was light enough (the Everlane Petra Market was my go-to office tote, and I carried the laptop in a work-provided non-bulky laptop sleeve with handle similar to this or this, either shoved into the tote or separately by hand). Anything even slightly heavier, like a Macbook Pro, just feels too heavy for carrying around regularly that way, so backback it is. For short trips, I probably wouldn't mind toting around my laptop as much, but I typically spend around 50 minutes walking to and from the train station for each day's commute.

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I'm not sure most backpack commuters feel much need to have a handbag in addition to their backpack. Personally, I don't enjoy needing to shift my backpack off one shoulder to get at my wallet or work passkey, so a second bag is necessary. That Annabel Ingall Jojo bag (other color, but sadly not generally available from US retailers anymore), which I originally thought was a mistake-purchase has ended up being that go-to second handbag. It's crossbody, so it's easy to carry with my backpack and stays put and out of the way. It's also small and light, so it doesn't feel "too much" when carried with my backpack and the extra fabric tote I sometimes need to bring along for my lunch and/or a second binder of documents. It's still big enough for everything I need: keys, work ID card and keys, phone, headphones, Metrocard, a pair of knit gloves for winter, and...

Well, my previous wallet, the long Everlane Slim Zip (old version, reviewed, now revamped) just doesn't fit. The long Everlane Slim Zip has a few good years left, and I may yet return to it, but it's incompatible with my current commuting needs. I've turned, instead, to my mini card case and coin-pouch wallet from the defunct Kate Spade Saturday, which I bought while still at school for the few occasions when I carried a too-small handbag (typically the Rebecca Minkoff Mini MAC) on my rare nights out. That miniwallet is enjoying a bit of a second life as my primary wallet for now. I've been surprised that it has proven to be a sufficient size for everything I need in my day-to-day life, despite having a fifth of the card slots of my previous wallet.

This isn't a "minimalist" discovery per se, but I think it's related, insofar as it's a realization that I "need" much "less" than I used to think I did, even if it's just with regards to the number of cards I carry around daily. There's been some "growing pains" associated with the transition: I've headed to the ATM a few times, only to realize that I didn't have my debit card. That was before I figured out exactly which cards to keep with me. I've previously described my rewards credit card preferences and how I use them. I typically carry the Chase Sapphire Preferred for restaurants, American Express Blue Cash Everyday for groceries, and the Citi Double Cash Back for most other purchases, in addition to my driver's license and debit card, as well as a bit of cash in the coin pouch. I switch in items like medical insurance cards as needed. The only things that I sometimes want, but that don't fit, come up only on rare occasions, i.e. when I need many small bills (rare), when I want to carry a check without folding it (extra rare), or if I want to keep change in coins.

My actual wallet's no longer in stock, but I've linked to a few options below that I think would be similarly functional and that I'm reasonably confident would be a good value and durable, with reasonable quality leather based on my experience with the brand or a friend's experiences. Out of these, my favorite designs are probably the new Everlane Mini Zip Wallet (backordered) or the Comme Des Garcons half zip wallet (a good color is hard to find, a friend uses it in plain red leather that looks nice).

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