5 Things to Always Keep in Your Car

old school cadillac
I used to keep a lot of stuff in my car – mostly junk.  The new me, though, is new & improved and I try to keep only what I truly need in there. Here are 5 of these bad boys below. There are others too, of course, but these are the ones that always seem to save me. Either in money or frustration :) Pay attention!

  1. A handful of $1 bills. Coins would do too, but really only if we’re talking quarters.  I like to keep 5 or 6 dollar bills on hand just in case of an emergency. And for tolls, yard sales, homeless donations, must have slurpees, an extra gallon of gas, you get the picture.
  2. Anything you need to return or donate. I talked about this on my one and only radio appearance last Christmas, but basically these all go in the trunk to make sure you actually DROP THEM OFF.  If you’re anything like me you always remember to do this sorta stuff when you’re driving.  Usually right past the store ;)
  3. Bed Bath & Beyond coupons! (Or any other kind that come in handy –  like those entertainment books you all seem to like so much :)) You’ll never forget to save 20% again!  Also, those “buy 10 lunches get the 11th FREE” cards are smart to keep there too.  Us guys don’t have the luxury of toting around purses.
  4. A backpack w/ extra set of clothes – You won’t believe the number of times this comes in handy.  In fact, I need to start doing this again because I’ve been out of practice so long! Other things to keep in the bag: toothpaste, tooth brush, deodorant (could all be travel sized), and socks.  Can never have too many extra socks laying around.
  5. One “Power CD”. The one that makes you feel all kinds of confident and jovial no matter what mood you’re in! This is very important.  Sometimes you just need to blast some tunes and tell the whole world you’re coming (especially if there are some fine ladies nearby). Note: Justin Bieber won’t cut it.  Justin Timberlake, however, will. “I’m bringin’ budgets back (Yup!), them other boys don’t know how to ac (Yup!)”

I think that about covers it.  Am I missing anything?  Sometimes I like to keep hand sanitizer around for when my donuts and coffee spill everywhere (Oh, napkins are good ideas too!) but other than that I keep the ride pretty bare necessitied (new word). Cars just get cluttered so fast, ya know?

Some ideas from my Twitter friends:

(I couldn’t help it – they’re so smart!)

twitter car responses
Hopefully these will spark some ideas for what YOU’d feel comfortable with! As long as alcohol isn’t one of them, I think you’ll be set. But remember, no Bieber.

(Pimp Caddy shot by linz_ellinas)

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  1. Blair August 19, 2010 at 8:42 AM

    True story re: Bieber in cars. I’m driving back up to Jersey with the GF on 95 north; pull over for gas in MD right before we get to Delaware. I’m out pumping gas (like I don’t have to do in NJ!) and some guy pulls in to the pump next to me in an old school Mustang, rims, spoiler, the works and one of those systems where you could hear the bass about 12 miles away.

    What’s he blasting? That Bieber track with Ludacris.

    He got out and I was trying to look away to keep from laughing my @$$ off. Luckily, I had just filled up when he had pulled in so I got back in the car and drove off.

    Needless to say, we couldn’t stop laughing for at least the next 10 miles.

    So hey, it seems like there ARE a few people who use Bieber as a “power CD.” :)


  2. Liz August 19, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    Um… how about a 2 liter full of water! In case you run out of wiper fluid – you could use that, or your car overheats… it can come in handy as an emergency “bandaid” to situations until you can get to the shop!

  3. Chris Gallagher August 19, 2010 at 11:04 AM

    Interesting list. I have been takign an extra set of clothes in a backpack when I go on short local trips or during my local speaking engagements. I have foudn they do come in handy from time to time.

    I would add keeping a book in your car. I have found time to read between meetings, sitting in forever type traffic (Major accident ahead), etc. I have been able to read a few pages each time and sometimes many pages, but I have found a simple book has a tendency to spur great thoughts.

    Just my two cents.

  4. GJ August 19, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    Other than all of the usual emergency gear that is in the trunk, I make sure to keep:

    – Napkins: Just leftover ones from Subway or Starbucks. You never know when something’s gonna spill.
    – A mini emergency kit in the glovebox with extra set of contacts, eye drops, bandaids, sewing kit, kleenex, pain reliever, mini deoderant, tampons and a Hershey’s kiss. They all fit in a small makeup bag and are each a lifesaver when you need them. A torn contact while you are away from home is not fun or easily replacable.
    -Car charger that will give one charge to any type of phone with a AA battery. I got it from the in-laws.

  5. Ariella August 19, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    All good suggestions here. Added to Liz’s idea of water for the car is water and snacks if you normally take young children along. Just about 10 minutes into a car ride, they start complaining that they are hungry or thirsty. I also like to keep extra shopping bags in the car in case I go to Stop & Shop where you get 5 cents off for each of your own vbags you use.

  6. Little House August 19, 2010 at 12:12 PM

    These are all great suggestions. I’d also add a small bottle of water; on warm days I tend to get thirsty in the car! Someone above mentioned an emergency kit, a great idea too. Does your list assume you’d already have a spare tire? That would be helpful.

  7. myfinancialobjectives August 19, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    All great ideas, I really like the “things you need to return”. That would REALLY help me out lol…

    Like others, I would say add bottled water, and actually some blankets in addition to the extra set of clothes. I am always spendnig the night somewhere, and the clothes and blanket alwayyssss come in handy!

  8. Lop at Rebates Money August 19, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    As an avid basketball player, I always have my basketball shoes, socks, shorts, and t-shirts just in case. Always ready to play whenever I’m out.

  9. Sarah Smith August 19, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    See I’m way more boring and responsible with my list of things for the car – hah! I keep blankets, a first aid kit, a tire pressure gauge, bottled water (though I don’t have those in there now), etc. I am ALWAYS trying to keep quarters in my car but living in LA they get used up fast with meters and the like. Quarters are a hot commodity round these parts – esp with all the coin-operated laundry machines. Great post!

  10. Jenna August 19, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    I always make sure I have a first aid kit, blanket (for shock) and jumper cables in the back of my car.

  11. Daniel Howard August 19, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    Corollary: the more crap you store in your car, the more it weighs, the more fuel you burn, the more money you spend. So, maybe you’ll have an article coming on what to clean out of your car. ;)


  12. Nick August 19, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    We always have some change, a roll of paper towels (we have a one-year-old son… and I’m sort of messy), car chargers for our phones, and a few snacks. I really need to get an emergency kit though…. And we have a snow brush / ice scraper in the winters.

  13. Techbud August 19, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    Flashlight, and tire air gauge.

  14. Donna Freedman August 19, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    I knew a guy who carried a kite in the trunk of his car. If he was having a bad day he’d find an open spot, pull over and fly his kite for a few minutes. It always cheered him up.
    For non-windy or otherwise inclement days, I’d suggest a bottle of bubble-blowing stuff.
    Tootsie Rolls! They get soft in the heat but don’t melt like Hershey’s Kisses. Did you know that Tootsie Rolls and dental floss were invented in the same year? I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

  15. Jennifer August 19, 2010 at 7:26 PM

    I have an emergency kit that includes a first aid kit, granola bars, bottled water, flashlight, spare batteries, jumper cables, bungie cords, waterproof matches, mechanics tool kit, a blanket a quart of oil and transmission fluid, and a gallon of windshield washer fluid.

    Plus things that need to be returned, reusable shopping bags, and countless crumbs. And there may be a bowling ball, a sleeping bag, and a school project still hiding in there!

  16. J. Money August 19, 2010 at 9:04 PM

    @Blair – Ahahahahaah…. it’s Beiber mania!!!! Did you see that Mashable post about him getting back at that kid who gave his # out? Crazyyyyy. the guy’s got some power, that’s for sure.

    @Liz – Great idea :)
    @Chris Gallagher – Yeah. I think someone had tweeted about audio books too but I got it too late to include here. I think that’s a wonderful idea!
    @GJ – I’ve got a car charger too :) A must-have w/ iPhones!
    @Ariella – That’s what I hear… duly noted for the future ;)
    @Little House – Spare tires are good. I think most cars come w/ them now, yes?
    @myfinancialobjectives – Do it! I’m telling you, my wife never remembers to return things (at least back in the day) and keeping it in your trunk makes it much better. Unless it’s something crazy expensive, then you don’t wanna get robbed of course.
    @Lop at Rebates Money – Good call.
    @Sarah Smith – Boring = Smart! I tend NOT to have any of those things in my car and the days I get caught w/out I swear up and down like a sailor ;)
    @Jenna – Jumper cables is a must have too, for sure. Or at least make sure to break down w/ others around ;)
    @Daniel Howard – Hahah, I like that. Although I’d imagine you’d REALLY need to pile it in to tell the difference, yes?
    @Nick – Oh yeah! scrapers for snow time is 100% a necessity, forgot about that one.
    @Techbud – I usually keep a mini flashlight around.
    @Donna Freedman – ahahahahaahah…your friend wins the AWESOME award :) I would love to see someone whip out a kite all willy nilly like that from the trunk! That’s too funny.
    @Jennifer – Woah!! It’s like a mini house in there ;) Love that you have a bowling ball though, that’s pretty sweet.

  17. Rachel211 August 19, 2010 at 10:08 PM

    Somethings are different when you live somewhere that has really bad winters. I used to live in South Dakota and some of the stuff you would keep in the car in case you ever crashed on the highway and became buried in snow:

    Charger for your phone
    Sleeping bag for warmth
    Extra socks
    Kitty litter for traction
    Jar of peanuts – as long as they aren’t open they will last a long time and they can keep hunger away for quite a while
    Bottles of water that wont burst if frozen
    Alert flag

  18. J. Money August 20, 2010 at 10:17 PM

    Oh yeah – wayyyy different out there. Just learned about the kitty litter idea too this winter, never thought about it before :)

  19. Len Penzo August 21, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    I can’t remember the brand, but I have a compact roll of toilet paper in the console of my car that isn’t much bigger than a very small penlight. You never know, J, if nature is going to call in the middle of nowhere!


    Len Penzo dot Com

  20. J. Money August 22, 2010 at 4:25 PM

    Hah! Good idea sir :)

  21. Donna Freedman August 22, 2010 at 4:40 PM

    @Len: Or roll some of the TP you already own around a pencil, a straw or a popsicle stick and keep it inside a plastic bag in the glove compartment. No need to spend a lot of money on something that promotes itself as being small enough to carry.
    You’ll want that plastic bag for, um, afterwards. Please don’t leave the paper for someone else to find. And bury your waste, instead of leaving it for someone to step in. You should see the area near the Russian River salmon fishing area — eeeewwww. :-(

  22. nka August 23, 2010 at 8:21 AM

    Flashlight and Jumper Cables

  23. asdf August 23, 2010 at 8:48 AM

    disposable camera

  24. Randy August 23, 2010 at 9:11 AM

    A must for us chrome dome guys, a hat. You don’t want to be caught without one on those unexpected events when the dome is exposed to the the rays for more than 15 minutes. A small towel will do but you will look dorky. A bandanna serves two purposes, It can be used to wipe sweat or be fashioned into a skull cover, Again dorky, but useful.

  25. Mark Dionne August 23, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    I keep a scrap of carpeting. This is handy if you need to kneel down to change a tire. In icy weather it can help you if you get stuck, but putting it under a wheel that is in an ice rut and spinning.

  26. Mark Dionne August 23, 2010 at 9:59 AM

    I’m amazed no one has yet mentioned an umbrella.

  27. Charles Ma August 23, 2010 at 11:18 AM

    To your first aid kits, add crazy glue.

    Pencils instead of pen. Pencils don’t dry out.

    If you insist on pens / sharpies, store them in doubled freezer bags to maximize their lifespan. Tips down, if possible.

  28. AG August 23, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    I drive a Ford diesel, so my stock is a little bit different. Ironically, I’ve found this is handy for helping stranded motorists as well:
    – 1 gallon oil
    – 1 gallon antifreeze
    – 1 5000 LB towing chain
    – Socket wrenches, screwdrivers, and a hammer
    – Heavy duty shop towels
    – Buck knife
    – Jumpers
    – Plastic bags
    – Tire pressure gauge
    – Tie downs
    – Pencils, and notepad
    – Wood shims and a 3 foot strip of thin, flat metal (for unlocking the car when you lock your keys in it)

  29. jim slim August 23, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    CD on dash board reflects speed cameras.

  30. John Donnelly August 23, 2010 at 1:08 PM

    Not so practical…….

    Pint of scotch.
    Sleeping bag,

  31. The Skinny On August 23, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    Awesome post J! I just recently got my first car (Last week) and was thinking of things I should put in there other than jumper cables and a small toolkit. I was pondering the backpack and some clothes myself! I will make sure I bookmark this page for my next Wal-Mart visit!



  32. Rudy August 23, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Power CD? Ha! That’s so 1990’s.

    I carry a small 1G MP3 player with my favorite Techno albums. When I feel like it, I just turn them on shuffle and cruise on.

  33. J. Money August 23, 2010 at 8:53 PM

    Haha…wow, some of you are pretty clever. I take it you came from LifeHacker? :)

  34. You are an idiot August 24, 2010 at 7:21 AM

    Seriously, how do people make blogs with this kind of crap?

    5 things you need in a car
    1) Egg sandwich
    2) Curling iron
    3) Bowling ball
    4) Aquarium
    5) Football cleats

    See? I can make useless posts too.

  35. Karl Siy August 25, 2010 at 9:00 AM

    Hey, just thought of you when I was reading this article.

  36. Brent September 8, 2010 at 12:44 AM

    If you live in a city with metered parking (and they don’t have smart meters that take credit cards), coins are invaluable. Save the quarters for something else (like laundry) and just accumulate nickles and dimes. You will have plenty if you fequent fast food drive-through windows. I will usually have enough on hand for a few minutes so I can quickly run into a store to pick something up.