How to Break Down Change for a Cash Drawer

by Heather Skyler - Updated June 27, 2018
Close-Up Of Stacked Coins Against White Background

Most businesses have a cash drawer. If you run a retail business, you'll need a cash drawer in order to provide customers who pay with cash exact change. If you run a non-retail business, it's still a good idea to have a drawer of petty cash on hand at all times. A cash drawer is a simple, lockable box with slots for dollars and coins. A cash drawer should have the correct amount of slots for each denomination of coin and currency with four slots to include $1, $5, $10 and $20 bills, and four smaller slots to include pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

Cash Drawer Breakdown

The typical amount stored in a petty cash box is $100. If you run a retail store, consider keeping up to $200 in your cash box on a daily basis. Although physical cash is used less and less these days, you don't want to be caught without the means to provide change to a customer. If you find that your cash drawer is often running empty by day's end, consider increasing the amount you keep in the drawer.

If you have decided that $200 works well for your business, make sure you have an evenly split amount of bills and a substantial amount of change as well. Twenty dollar bills and one-dollar bills are the most commonly used, so make sure you have a lot of each on hand in your cash drawer. You should also keep five-and-10-dollar bills and an even distribution of coins, even those pesky pennies.

Determine Maximum Cash Amount

Once you have determined how much cash you need to start with on a daily basis, determine a maximum amount that can be in the drawer at one time. Pulling excess money from the cash drawer during a shift is good cash management and is often called a "cash drop." During busy retail seasons, you don't want the drawer to become too full. This will create the temptation for theft and put you at greater risk of robbery.

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Balancing Your Cash Drawer

At the end of each business day, remove the initial amount placed in your cash drawer and add up the rest of the money. This will tell you how much the business made in cash that day. A daily balancing of the cash drawer helps deter internal theft.

Where Should the Extra Cash Go?

Most businesses make a daily deposit. However, if you close late at night, it's smart to store any excess cash in a safe then make a deposit during daylight hours. To this end, it's a good idea to have a small safe at your business in addition to your locked cash box. This will ensure that your earnings stay secure.

About the Author

Heather Skyler is a journalist and novelist who has written for wide variety of publications, including Newsweek.com, The New York Times and SKY magazine.

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