Everyday Math

Math and the Consumer’s Money

How do I make change?

“Making change” is an important monetary endeavor no matter where a person travels or lives. It is defined as the change (in coins and/or bills) a customer receives after making a purchase, especially when the customer gives the merchant more money than the amount due. For example, say a person visiting a farmer’s market in the United States buys a half pound of garlic for $2.60 and gives the merchant a $20.00 bill. To make change, the merchant would first subtract $20.00 - $2.60 = $17.40; or the customer is to receive $17.40 in change.

The resulting change would start with the highest denomination and work down: a $10 bill, a $5.00 bill, two $1.00 bills, a quarter ($0.25), a dime ($0.10), and a nickel ($0.05). The merchant would then count the change out to the customer, stating each amount in the “opposite” fashion: “That’s a total of $2.60 out of $20.00; your change is two sixty-five [$2.65 as the nickel is given], two seventy-five [$2.75 as the dime is given], three dollars [as the quarter is given], four dollars [as the first dollar bill is given], five dollars [as the second dollar bill is given], ten dollars [as the five-dollar bill is given], and twenty [as the ten-dollar bill is given].”



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