How to Break Down Change for a Cash Drawer

by Cari Haus; Updated September 26, 2017
Begin with an adequate amount of cash at the start of each business day.

Few things are as annoying as running out of change in a cash drawer. Just as customers are lining up and things are getting really busy, the retail clerk finds that he or she is out of nickels, pennies, or one dollar bills. You can avert this unhappy outcome by providing your cash drawer with a well planned breakdown of starting cash amounts at the beginning of the day.

Items you will need

  • Pen
  • Small notebook for cash drawer log
Step 1

Begin your cash drawer breakdown by considering the total value of cash to start out with. The total amount could be influenced by a number of factors, such as if your store is in a dangerous section of town, the volume of sales each day or if you sell high-ticket items. For example, a dollar store needs more change than an appliance store. The percentage of customers who normally pay by check or credit card could also affect total value of cash needed in the cash drawer. Many businesses start the day with $250 in the cash drawer, others set $150 as their threshold. Another rule of thumb is to keep at least $30 in change on hand. Also, it’s not likely that you’ll need anything larger than a $50 bill for making change.

Step 2

Once you have determined the total value of cash to place in the store, determine how you will break it down. For example, if you were going to have $250 in the cash drawer you might start with $60 in 20s, $60 in 10s, $60 in fives and $40 in ones. In addition, you might have $10 in quarters, $10 in dimes, $6 in nickels and $4 in pennies.

Step 3

Make a note of your starting cash amounts for each type of bill and coin, and keep track of it in your cash drawer log. Then keep a close eye on cash drawer levels, especially for the few days or weeks. Replenish the starting cash amounts at the beginning of each day, and modify the starting levels as needed. Never wait until you run low on change to go to the bank, and you should avoid the embarrassing experience of having customers lined up to pay, with no way to complete the transactions.


  • "Alpha Teach Yourself Bookkeeping in 24 Hours"; Carol Costa; 2008

About the Author

Cari Haus has authored or co-authored a score of books on topics ranging from business and health to parenting, faith, and life. After earning a B.B.A. from Andrews University in 1982, Haus became a C.P.A. in 1985. Lately she has been writing business articles for the newsletter Real Estate Advisor.

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