A Day Without A Wallet

“Wallet, keys, cell phone”

Ever since college this has been the quiet mantra I repeat to myself whenever I leave the house. These three items make up the most critical things I carry with me in order to get through the day.

And yet… somehow I managed to forget my wallet in the haste to get to work a back in December of 2015. As the jitney bus was pulling away from where I got on I had a slight feeling of concern. Should I go home and get my wallet?

Then I had a question: Do I really need to carry a wallet with me every day?

I decided to not get off the bus and try to answer that question for myself.

The Commute

In order to make it to work I have to take the following modes of transit:

  • Jitney bus
  • Railroad train
  • Subway

The return trip is the same but in reverse. So to make it to and from work I have to navigate three modes of transportation without anything that was in my wallet. And since I was already on the jitney when I realized I’d left my wallet back at the house part one of my trip is already taken care of since the jitney is a free service.

The next part of my commute is to take the New Jersey Transit train into New York Penn Station. Since I switched over to the NJ Transit App for iPhone I won’t need anything but my phone. Thankfully I remembered that.

When I got to Manhattan I actually encountered my first true obstacle in not having my wallet. The MTA does not accept any other form of payment except for cash or credit when purchasing a subway pass. This is a bit of a surprise since so much of the city does take other means of payment.

Not a problem, I chose to make the most of the last nice day of 2015 that I was in Manhattan and walked to the office. There were a lot of people bundled up on the streets but it felt like a nice day to me as it was not too cold, wasn’t raining or snowing, and there was fog. Fog makes me happy.

Empire State Building in fog

Getting to the jitney on time meant skipping breakfast so before starting the work day I would need to eat something. So the second obstacle for the day would be buying food (breakfast, snack, and lunch) with no cash or credit cards. My cell phone came to the rescue again as I had already setup accounts with the following payment gateways and companies:

  • Starbucks – The app lets me load up a store credit that can be used to buy drinks and other items within the store. This took care of the snack for the day.
  • Apple Pay – This is tied to a credit card (or multiple credit cards) and can be used to pay a bill without having the physical credit card present. Shake Shack has pretty tasty breakfast options.
  • Paypal – Tied to my bank account, I use this for pretty much any transaction that occurs online or when I just want added protection when making a purchase. Lunch is served.

Getting home, as I said, is pretty much the reverse of coming into work so I walked back to New York Penn Station and opted not to take a cab or Über even though I could have paid for either of them from my phone.

All in all, it wasn’t at all difficult to navigate the day without my wallet. What I have learned today is that I perhaps can remove a lot of things from my wallet and travel even leaner during the week. It’s fun to run these kinds of experiments from time to time. Hopefully next time it will be a planned experiment not come from my own forgetfulness.