Angry Artist Alley: How Much Change Should I Bring?


First note: I’m talking about two ‘wallets’. The ‘personal wallet’  is for yourself to buy all the great goodies at the convention  and the ‘cashier’s wallet’ is for giving out change and taking money from sales and counting for the rest of the day. These should be separate so you don’t mistake any calculations (unless you absolutely need that cash for buying something huge)

Depending on your popularity and how much you’ve sold before, it’s all up to you. But before you stuff your wallet, think of these few tips:

  • How cheap/expensive is your work?
  • How much is the cheapest thing that you’re selling?
  • If it’s not one, five, or ten dollars, what are you charging?
  • Any $0.50?
  • How poor are you?
  • How much money did you spend getting your table in the first place?

Key things to think about:

  • NEVER bring $20 in your cashier stash. In the first couple hours of any convention, consumers would have brought $20 from the atm machine or packed it in their wallet. Your cashier’s wallet is to GIVE CHANGE to people, not to buy stuff from people. Two hours in the convention someone is sure to buy a little button for $1 and give you a twenty.
  • Do not accept bills over $20. I get nervous when someone hands me $50….I don’t have a magic marker that can check or anything, but I don’t want to take my chances.
  • Bring some quarters just in case. Maybe your tablemate might need to break a dollar, or you need bus fare, it’s just for safety.
  • Look for a cafe. If there was an insane emergency where you and the rest of the people in the row of tables don’t have enough dollar bills or something, you NEED to break them right away! A local cafe or restaurant that is generous enough will help you break them. But you need to know where the closest one is.
  • A $20 bill can break into two $10 or four $5 or twenty $1, a $10 can break into two $5 or ten $1, a $5 can break into five $1, BUT YOU CANNOT BREAK A DOLLAR INTO TWO DOLLARS.
  • In large conventions, usually in the first few hours everyone is carrying twenty dollar bills. Towards the middle of the convention, you’ll notice people using more $10 and $5, and towards the end of the convention, you usually don’t have to give out as much change. And on rare occasions you’ll see people give you exact pocket change to buy things.
  • People actually carry credit cards everywhere (I mean, here in the Bay Area). So if you have a smartphone, get a card reader. Currently, Paypal and Square has a deal to get you one for free

Story: Many years ago as an amateur  I used to bring tons of fives, tens, and twenties. But not enough ones. And all I sold were dollar buttons, buttons, buttons. People would give me twenty dollar bills in the morning just to buy one or two buttons, and my $10 and $5 went out so fast. But I had this stash of $20 bills. So I kept asking my tablemates to break them, over and over. Then I kept running out of dollar bills. At one point I had to ASK the consumers to break MY big bills, and everyone was running low on their dollar bills because of me. Pretty much learned my lesson there. 


  • Common dollars come in $1, $5, $10, $20
  • If you sell something that is an integer, you don’t need to worry about spare change (although for safety measures, bringing four quarters would be wise)
  • Having a product that does not end in five or ten dollars, you need to figure this out:
    • $1 priced objects=$4 in change with a five. This means you need to prepare far more dollar bills than anything else.
    • $2 priced objects=$3 in change with a five.  Same as above, you need to consider extra dollar bills
    • $8 priced objects from a $20 does not mean two fives and two dollars. That means one ten and two dollars. Giving less change=better for you and them.
  • Your most important bills are $1 and $5. The moment you’re out of either one, you need to break your big bills, because these can go out like hotcakes depending on what you sell.
  • Avoid using your $5 if possible when giving out change. The reason is not just because $10 change is convenient than two $5, it’s because if you needed to get some $1, the person next to you may not have ten $1 bills.
  • SquareUp card readers can read credit cards, but for 2.75% transaction. Paypal card readers will use a 2.7% transaction through account.


 My personal wallet:

Just to give you an idea about my ‘cashier’s wallet’ before the convention starts, this is usually how much is in it.

Three $10 (nothing I sell is above $10, and it’s only when someone hands me a $20 that i need these)

Five $5 ( like I said, nothing I have is above $20, so after someone hands me a five, I get it or need to break a ten)

Fifteen $1 ( I sell lots of little stickers and buttons. So I either get ones, or have to break fives)

A fat ass handful of quarters (my stickers were $1.50)

If you sell really expensive stuff, then there really might  be that rare possibility that holding a few twenties would be helpful. Or maybe the only thing you sell are dollar keychains, so more dollars are needed. This is just a rough estimate!

After selling and earning cash for the day, I would recommend you read this blog article about how your earnings should be considered