• »
• Personal Finance»
• Understanding Finance

# How to Count Back Change

Peg owned an antique and collectibles store and a hair salon selling products and services. She shares tips on learned retail experiences.

## You Want the Right Change Back? Oh, no!

Yes, I’m one of those who gives the cashier the exact change for a purchase. I can hear the groans at cash registers everywhere as I dig into the depths of my voluminous purse. The beady eyes of people who wait in line behind me narrow and focus on my transaction. While they’re checking their watches, I ask the cashier, “Is it too late to give you the seven pennies?” The crowd groans. I’ve actually been told, “Yes, it is.”

Could it be that these cashiers were never trained on the art of counting back change to a customer? That’s probably a fact. Seriously, I've asked cashiers if they received any training in customer service, or training on the proper way to bag groceries, or what to do if the customer wants to give you the pennies rather than break another dollar bill. I was shocked when they told me, “No.” Consider the source. I was at Wal-Mart.

## Let's Begin With a Real World Example

Suppose your customer purchased forty-eight dollars and thirty-seven cents (\$48.37) worth of groceries and hands you a one hundred dollar bill (\$100.00). If you accidentally hit the cash out button, indicating they gave you the exact amount of cash, the register won't tell you how much change you need to give.

How would you figure out how much change to give them back? It's easy if you count it back. Here's how I was taught to do it.

1. Start from the smallest denomination of money (that would be pennies) to round up the amount to either five (5) or zero (0). For a purchase of \$48.37 begin in this manner.
2. From the pennies bin, pull out one penny at a time and count to yourself after each penny. “Forty-eight dollars and thirty-eight cents (48.38), forty-eight thirty-nine, (48.39) and forty-eight forty (48.40). You've reached an amount with a zero. You could go to the nickels bin but that isn't the largest denomination of change needed.
3. Go to the dimes bin and pull out one dime. Say to yourself, "Forty-eight fifty (48.50)."
4. Now, go to the quarter compartment and pull out one quarter. With the first quarter, count to yourself, “Forty-eight seventy-five" (48.75). With the second quarter you count and say to yourself, "That makes forty-nine dollars" (49.00). That's a full dollar amount, so move on to the paper currency.

• Pull a one dollar bill out of the drawer and tell yourself, "And one dollar makes fifty."

The change still remains in your hand at this point while you grumble under your breath about stupid old bags and their ridiculous fixation of using cash.

• Pull a ten dollar bill from the drawer and say to yourself, "Plus ten makes sixty." You could also use two fives, but most customers want the highest denomination possible and not a lot of loose currency.

Rather than giving them four more tens (forty dollars) for the remaining change, move on to the next higher denomination, which would be the twenty dollar bills. Assuming you learned this in school,

• Sixty dollars plus a twenty dollar bill would equal eighty dollars.
• Add one more twenty and you’ve got the correct change for a hundred.

## Why Should Anyone Learn How to Make Change?

When I turned sixteen, I started working retail at a dime store. Within the first week, the manager put me on the register. The first thing we were taught about operating that antique brass National Cash Register, was that when the drawer flew open after ringing the merchandise, we counted back the change into our hand and then counted it audibly as we handed it to the customer. This is a lost art in today's world of computers and calculators.

But sometimes, it is necessary to know the art of counting change, like when we have a garage sale or work as a vendor in places that don't have automated registers like the flea market or the school carnival.

And of course, there's the occasional customer like myself who likes to give the odd change to the cashier in order to receive back fewer one dollar bills or coins. I'll admit, I do it sometimes to keep my math abilities fresh. This seems to have a detrimental effect on the register operators who can't make change without the machine telling them how much.

## Giving Back Small Denominations of Cash

This week, I was shopping at the Ross store that recently opened in our area. I waited in the maze of roped off lines, Disney World style, to approach the cashier. I gave her a one hundred dollar bill for a forty-eight dollar and twenty-three cent purchase. I don’t usually have hundred dollar bills, but I sold some furniture at a garage sale and they paid me in cash.

The cashier seemed taken aback that I would even think of using cash. He gave me five tens and a dollar and seventy-two cents change. That was the right amount but most people don't want a load of small bills in their wallet.

I asked, “Don’t you have any twenties? This is a lot of tens.” After marking the currency with his special pen to make sure the large bill was not counterfeit, he announced over the public address system, “I need twenties, here.” People in the line turned to stare at me.

It seems as if stores are not expecting anyone to use cash and they don't supply their registers with the appropriate currency to make change.

## Counting it Back to the Customer

Now, to count it back to the customer whose sweaty little hand is stretched toward you.

Repeat the dollar amount of the purchase to them. “That’s forty-eight dollars and thirty-seven cents, Ma’am," being sure to emphasize the word to let people know that the customer is an old codger.

Next, calmly and firmly, count out the pennies. "Thirty-eight, thirty-nine and forty."

Now, hand them the dime. “And ten cents makes forty-eight fifty.”

Next count back the quarters. The progression is from the smallest coin to the largest. "That's forty-eight seventy-five (after the first quarter) and forty nine dollars (after the second quarter.)

Carefully placing the dollar bill in their hand, continue. “And one dollar makes fifty.”

Moving along to the ten dollar bill, “Sixty.”

We're up to the twenties now. After the first twenty say, “Eighty,” and handing them the last twenty, simply say, “And that makes one hundred dollars.”

Okay, maybe it is just too hard. When all else fails, tell the customer not to bring cash anymore and go on your well-deserved break.

## Why Don't They Just Use a Credit Card?

Credit cards may represent around seventy-eight percent of all sales but there will still be those people, like me, who like to use cash. You will need to be able to make change for these people.

Then there are those odd-balls who want to give you the odd change after you've already rung up the amount tendered.

"Can I give you the seven cents?" The next lesson will cover what to do when the old bat gives you the small change.

## Popular

14

2

• ### How to Answer Amortization Problems with a TI BAII+ Calculator

0

0 of 8192 characters used

• Author

Peg Cole 19 months ago from Dallas, Texas

Hi Rebecca, Yes, I can imagine the world without any electronic devices having been in the work force before automation took over. Most of the TV shows about the future after a major attack of some kind, whether alien or from our enemies, shows the world in a less advanced state without iPads or cell phones or computers. Prophetic? Maybe.

• Rebecca Mealey 19 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Great way to explain that, Peg. Can you imagine what the world would be like if all the computers in the world just disappeared?

• Author

Peg Cole 24 months ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello Rajan Jolly, Thank you for sharing your take on this subject and for taking time to comment. Cheers.

• Rajan Singh Jolly 24 months ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

This is interesting and now with the limited patience people have, not to mention cashiers not knowing the art of counting back change, it has almost vanished.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello teaches12345, Thank you for your thoughts on this common challenge that, once mastered, seems simple. Like other things to learn, such as riding a bicycle, it's not something we forget.

• Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

It seems simple but I do believe counting change can be quite challenging. That is why I leave it to those who are patient with the task. This is a great post and should be training for cashiers everywhere.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello Vellur, Isn't it incredible that the cashiers do not want the customers to give them change? I guess it's because they would have to count it before putting it in the drawer. That might be the real issue. Thanks so much for dropping in and adding your thoughts.

• Nithya Venkat 2 years ago from Dubai

Nowadays cashiers just do not bother to count out the change that they give back to the customers, and they get annoyed if we dig around for change. Everyone is in a hurry and want us to move on fast. I mostly pay with the exact amount coins and all! This sure bothers the cashier and the people behind me! Congratulations on the Editors Choice award.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Oh, Genna. I share your reaction to the eye-rolls when the cashier is impatient with me giving them the correct change or the extra pennies to make things even. You are right to question someone who is unable to count coins. It really makes me wonder about the training and education our children are receiving.

• Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

What a great article. Counting-back-the-change is one example of how customer service behind the counter has diminished. Does anyone think anymore? I realize that "out-of-the-box" thinking seems to create a strain on checkout clerks and cashiers, but this is just plain nutty. I pay with exact change, too, at times, and the eye-rolls I get really test my patience. One time, I asked the cashier if she needed help in counting. Soooo not a good idea. The drop-dead, frosty look I received could have wilted Mohammed Ali.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

I completely agree, Tireless. When it becomes real, as in real cash, it becomes more valuable than when swiping a credit card through a machine. The money leaves our hands and we feel it.

• Judy Specht 2 years ago from California

Peg, What a wonderful hub. The reason some of us use cash? You spend less if you feel the pain of seeing your money disappear.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello Faith, I remember shopping at A & P and the wonderful smell of the coffee which was ground right there at the store. You've reminded me of the buttons used to distinguish the different departments: red for meat; green for produce; yellow for dairy.

Saving for your own wedding; what a novel thought. Today, I imagine many brides expect that expense to be added to a credit card. I was working to save for my college fund, yet, my paycheck ended up paying for gasoline, yearbooks, class rings, new tires, insurance and clothes.

I agree that our youth is losing some of the basic abilities and skills by having a machine that does it all. Sort of sounds futuristic and nightmarish.

• Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Dear Peg,

You brought me back to a wonderful time of being a cashier at the A & P Grocery Store (my first job)! I remember having to take a math test to get the job. Yes, back in day, there were no "beep beep" noises. We had to figure change in our heads. We had to also manually key each individual price for an item and make sure to press the appropriate key for Meat or Produce and such. In addition, we had to figure tax in our heads. I have fond memories of that job as it paid well for that time and I was actually able to save and pay for my modest wedding back 37 years ago. It is rather a scary thought that the young people of today do not know how to count back change.

Excellent hub, as always. Sharing everywhere

Blessings

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hi Aviannovice, I believe it has to do with the new math which to me, is ten times more confusing than memorization of times tables or counting by fives, tens, quarters and the like.

• Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

It's funny, as math skills are just completely non-existent now. Must have something to do with the mental skills of people now(I am not joking).

• Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

I think it starts with their lack of math skills. Some of them just don't know how to add and subtract.

This is a great hub that should be in new employees manuals anywhere there is a cash register!

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello Dreamer, Interesting to find this so widespread. Isn't it great that someone taught you this early in life. I believe it's the basis for learning math skills.

• DreamerMeg 2 years ago from Northern Ireland

This is just so true. I was taught this by a shopkeeper when I was in primary school. It's so much easier than doing the subtraction. Very funny, but it's astounding that cashiers don't know how to give change if you give them extra coins. I see it here too.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

RTalloni, You're a poet and probably know it. I like your comment and the way you phrased that first sentence. Using cash is cool.

Yes, I miss the voting buttons, too. It gave us feedback about reactions the reader had on our work.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Ms. AliciaC, You are the one who receives the ongoing awards for your educational and interesting material. I always learn something when I read your articles. Thank you for coming by and for the kind comment.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello Carb Diva, Thank you for stopping to take time to congratulate me. It seems like a random process at times and feels painful when the accolade goes away due to traffic. But it is a thrill to get the designation.

• RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

A neat read that highlights a real need. We need to use cash more often to help keep everyone used to it. :) Too bad there's not a place to vote "instructional" on a hub like this!

• Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thanks for the interesting and very useful financial education, Peg. Congratulations on the Editor's Choice award for this hub. You definitely deserve it!

• Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

Congratulations on getting Editors Choice!!

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Thanks, The Dirt Farmer. I think we of past generations learned the hands-on method of counting money. With the influx of credit cards and EFT it must be difficult for the modern person to follow. Thanks for the encouraging comment.

• Jill Spencer 2 years ago from United States

That's how my grandmother taught me! When I volunteer locally, I often have to make change, and I'm always surprised by the people who are surprised at how I do it. I wish more cashiers would count back change rather than just hand over a wad of bills and coins. Good tutorial! I hope it catches on. --Jill

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Thank you, and good morning, Mar. I'm working on catching up on comments and my computer is not being cooperative. First the router crashed, now the shock wave script has stopped running. I may have to reboot to continue. Talk to you on the other hub. Love.

• Maria Jordan 2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Sorry I was checking the wrong hub for my comment but ever so glad I stopped by...

...to see and say Congratulations for this excellent pick for Editor's Choice, dear Peg

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hi Flourish, Yes, it is a crying shame that this subject is even a topic. It seems to me that schools need to properly prepare students for real world issues like using cash and counting which lends to better math skills. I'm not sure kids even count by twos, fives, tens or quarters anymore. We did this in recess and at physical education when playing games and singing songs. Now, there's an app for that.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello Bravewarrior, Thanks for noticing the EC status. On Monday, I'll let the staff know that this one is not counted on my accounts page when filtering by designation. That is strange but, I'm sure it'll get resolved. The other day, all the designations went away but the engineers had them restored quickly.

I believe you're right about the next generation of cash registers. Perhaps they will indicate a little photo of the money that the customer needs to receive back. Or maybe cash will be outlawed. Who knows?

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello Drbj, How interesting that you used to train tellers. For a few years, I worked in banks at various stations including the teller line and new accounts. It was during the time (dark ages) when cashiers actually counted back the change to the customer. As bookkeepers, we were even required to help people balance their accounts when requested. All this for a mere \$2.00 per hour.

I am quite surprised that so many wanna-be tellers didn't make the grade.

• FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

It's a crying shame that this hub is necessary but how many of us have had to help a cashier by coaching him or her through this part of the job? (GROAN!)

• Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

Peg, first I want to congratulate you on this being deemed an Editors Choice. I only know that because your name doesn't appear in the URL (where's the accolade?).

Anyway, it's sad that today's cashiers have no idea how to count out change or even to figure it without the computerized register telling them how much they should give back. I wouldn't be surprised if the next generation of cash registers tells the cashier which coins and denominations to return to the customer!

• drbj and sherry 2 years ago from south Florida

What great deja vu, you brought back with this realistic and very funny essay, Peg. One of my earliest positions was as a Training Director for a savings and loan bank. At that time, (during the Dark Ages), bank tellers were trained to count out change as you have instructed.

75% of new wannabe tellers never made the grade when it came to change-counting. Unbelievable but true.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Thank you for stopping in to read this and for the great comment, Greenmind.

• GreenMind 2 years ago from USA

Smart hub -- really cool idea. Really useful but not at all an obvious topic for a hub. Thanks!

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

You're right, MsDora. It is kind of fun to count change. It reminds me of the song we sang when playing jump rope: "Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar." Later the cheerleaders sang it, too.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hi Dana Tate, We can never know when we might be called on to make change. Loved your story about teaching this to yourself for the little league. No, I can't remember anyone counting change back to me either. In fact, I cashed a check the other day at the bank and the guy just handed me an envelope with the cash. My, oh my.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Oh, yes, Carb Diva. You've hit on another area that needs some specialized training. Countless times I have repacked my groceries when the cashier puts clothing or paper products in with meat or drops the tomatoes in the bottom of the bag under the canned goods. You have to imagine that these folks have never bought groceries with their hard-earned money. Thanks for the ideas.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Word55, Nice job working in women's jewelry. What a treat to handle beautiful baubles. Thanks for stopping in today.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hi Jodah, It is one of my pet peeves, too, as you can probably guess. I imagine I'm more discouraged than anything else that our educational system does not equip people to manage in the real world of business and commerce. Learning how to manage money and doing the mental math is critical.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Frank, you can't make that kind of stuff up. This was a true exchange between a cashier and me. The register told the guy to give me back one dollar and ninety-three cents and he was determined to obey the machine.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

BarbRad, Amazing is right. I was in a drug store recently when a storm knocked out the lights. No one could seem to ring anything up or even open the register drawers to take cash from people who wanted to pay and leave. It made me realize how dependent people are on electronic commerce.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hello DzyMsLizzy, The issue with hot checks is quite real or at least it was back in the day when people still wrote checks. I only use them now to pay my utilities and other household bills. You're right about sometimes getting a bad credit card. I ran into that when I operated my collectibles store years ago.

• Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

Peg, you're so right. Cash is a big problem for the contemporary cashier, but counting back change is kind of fun. Some registers will show what change to give back (without any counting). It will just tell: two dollar bills, three dimes and two pennies. Woe to those stores when the registers don't work, because the cashiers will go home. Fun read!

• Dana Tate 2 years ago from LOS ANGELES

This is the way I learned to do it and I taught myself. I was working the concession stand at a little league game and the cash register didn't tell you how much change to give back. I panicked because math was my worst subject in school. I started with the small change to round off to the nearest dollar and I counted everything back. Some rushy people seemed to not like it but who cares. Funny read. (by the way I never get my change counted back.

• Linda Lum 2 years ago from Washington State, USA

How sad that people no longer know how to do this. The "computers" (which is what cash registers are now) do all of the thinking for us. God forbid the power should ever go out. Thank you for writing this. Now, could you do one on how to bag groceries? I'm serious. The advent of plastic bags meant that items are no longer placed in a bag so that the bottom is flat--just toss a few items randomly until the bag is full, and then grab another bag. Now that we are all required to use reusable totes, cashiers are befuddled. They still use the "dump" method.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Dear Ron, You are so right about some cashiers getting flummoxed by transactions that involve math. (I love your use of that word!) Before kids were given credit cards they learned quickly how to count money and do the math required. I remember my five year old son asking to exchange a handful of his coins for green money. Thanks for sharing about the supermarket. I worked at a Food Fair after the dime store and we had to make up any shortage in our registers. If we had too many instances of being out of balance they would fire us.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Hi there, Jackie. I wonder if the cashiers of today are accountable for their shortages of cash like we were. Perhaps, then, they would count the change back to the customers.

You're right about putting the money they gave us on the register shelf. That way we could confirm the amount they handed us to pay. So many times the customer thought they gave me a larger bill and I could show them the actual cash that was presented.

Oh yes, the germs on cash taught me to keep my hands away from my face and eyes.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Dear Mar, I knew we were sisters in another life. My first job was at Neisner's dime store. We had antique registers that didn't tell us how much change to give back. Like another person said in the comments, we put the amount tendered on the shelf of the register, then, counted out the change before counting it out to the customer as confirmation.

You know, dogs can spell, too. O-u-t spells out and they know what it means.

• Word 2 years ago from Chicago

Hey Peg, this is the way I did it when I were a cashier in a women's jewelry department. Nice hub

• John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Peg, this is a pet peeve of mine. Not just the fact that many younger cashiers don't know how to count back your change, but that they cannot work out the change if you give them say a \$10 and 20 cents in change for something that may be \$8.20. If for some reason the register is out of order and doesn't tell them the amount of change due for a sale they are often totally lost. Even if you tell them how much change they owe you they often have to call a supervisor and confirm it with them. The only time I ever use a credit card is for online purchases. I always pay in cash in person.

• Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

a great hub Pegcole, but I'm still laughing at the fact that someone actually told you it was too late to give them the 7 pennies.. LOL

• Barbara Radisavljevic 2 years ago from Templeton, CA

It's amazing you would need to write this. When I was growing up every retail clerk had to know this and it was also taught in math classes at school. Yet most clerks today are helpless without the computer telling them how much changed to give back. When the power goes out, most retail stores simply have to go dark because they can't make sales.

• Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

So sadly true. I learned how to do that, though I've rarely had to use the skill, as I never worked in retail. I did, however, for a short time do the craft fair circuit, and my problem there was that I was not set up to take credit cards in my first excursions into that venue. Cash or checks only, and I've always been leery of checks from strangers...you never know who's going to write a rubber one, or change their mind and stop payment.

Later on, when we did take credit cards, that, too was a risk, as we did not have any kind of wi-fi set up in those days, so there was always the chance that I might get home to enter my charge slips, and find out someone had used a bad card. We did have a cell phone, and for amounts over \$50, we'd call the card company for an approval number, but we also didn't always get good receptions on the phone, so it was sometimes iffy.

• Ronald E Franklin 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

I think this is really useful info even today. When I was in college I worked part time in a supermarket, and counting out change was one of the first things I was taught. Being able to do that gives you a lot of confidence when something unexpected happens. But I've had several experiences where kids at a fast food window became completely flummoxed when for some reason they couldn't depend on the cash register telling them the correct amount. You really don't want to be in a position where the customer has to tell you how much change is due!

• Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I hate being handed change and not having it counted back to me. Why do they not insist they do this? I think it is because they do know most can't!

I ran my own shop for years and I always left the money I was handed (if not the correct change) on top the drawer and counted back to that repeating to the customer all I was doing.

I also give them the correct change if I can especially in winter to save getting back germs! I have so much yard sale change (low bills and coins) it will be a cinch getting through!

• Maria Jordan 2 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear SFAM,

I worked my first job as cashier - Customer Service at Woolworths.

Contrary to today, the great majority of purchases were good old fashioned cash.

I am a proud boomer with my coin purse.

I've had literal teaching sessions about making change with cashiers today. I've stopped worrying about those behind me in line...they can change lanes, pun intended.

Love that shot of Tony... I'm convinced dogs can count...especially treats.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

We are both old fashioned, Mike, to think that we need to know stuff like this. Telling time and counting change are things of the past. We have computers for that. Let's hope that the power does not go out or we'll have a real dilemma. We won't know how much or when.

• mckbirdbks 2 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Hello Peg. I liked your presentation very much. There is a lot of truth to the thought than when the power goes and we are left again with our minds many will not be able to function without the aid of an electronic device. I recently had a receipt of \$5.05 at a fast food place. After it was rung up I produced a nickel and the assistant asked me how much I got back from \$10.05. I smiled and told him.

Many of these little things will disappear soon. I am pretty sure I know a young lady that cannot tell the time from a clock with hands. Of course it is me that is old fashioned.

• Author

Peg Cole 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

It is astounding, Billybuc, that so many cashiers do not receive the training needed in order to serve their customers. And then there are those like you've described who pile the coins on top of the bills. Not a good idea.

Thanks for dropping in today.

• Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I was laughing when I read the title. It's amazing to me how many cashiers do not know how to do this. One of my pet peeves is the cashier that places the coins on top of the bills and hands it all back to me in one lump. I just want to scream at them as the coins fall off of the bills onto the floor. :)