[TheThinkTank] Managing cash

Colin Dixon, Phoenix Bikes colin.phoenixbikes at gmail.com
Wed Mar 11 06:44:02 PDT 2009

We moved from paper record to Quick Books POS.
It makes things pretty easy, though isn't as easy to reconfigure and match
to old hardware (like our receipt printer) as some POS systems. This is a
problem especially when you're cobbling together hardware from various
Our Departments match those of Bici Centro and work well.

My only comment is following up on the cost - the TechSoup cost for QB Point
of Sale is currently $80. It does take a while to get approved by TechSoup
if you're not already registered.  As far as categories that will let you
get the donation, keeping the "education" part and calling the "service"
part "advocacy" or similar (which it is) would probably keep you in the
clear. If your org has a fiscal sponsor, you can ask them about getting it
through them.
Our register drawer and receipt printer came from a shop that went out of
business (sadly, there's probably something near you).
And PC came from a volunteer. It was a pretty sad machine, but we stripped
it of all extras, and since we only use it for the QuickBooks stuff, it does

Also, on a security note, we don't actually use the the cash drawer to keep
money in. The drawer has a switch in the back that opens the drawer. This
led to some theft last summer. This put the shop in a pretty crappy spot.
So, until we disable that switch, whoever is the shift leader at the shop
keeps the cash envelope on person, and at the end of the day deposits it in
a safe. (Volunteer/staff would be put at risk if it's widely known that each
Friday after bike sales day they are carrying a bunch of cash down a dark
path, late at night, on their bike). We have a volunteer pick up the cash
from the safe in the daytime and deposit to the bank.   We don't do the
safe-drop quite as consistently in the winter when there aren't large-ish
amounts of bike-sale money.

Working pretty well so far. We have our youth mechanics (ages 12 and up),
use the cash register to make sales and input donated bikes. (we
individually input the donated bikes when they come in, as 'inventory', but
not the used parts). Its easy and fun - but you do need someone supervising
to make sure its done correctly (hard to modify transaction after the fact
with QB POS), and setting it up so it exports into QuickBooks takes a little
accounting knowledge.

That's it.
- Colin

Colin Dixon
Phoenix Bikes
Barcroft Park
4200 S. Four Mile Run Drive
Arlington, VA

On Tue, Mar 10, 2009 at 5:53 PM, Dave Bourgeois <stdaveb at gmail.com> wrote:

> We track money using computers.  This mail is kind of long and
> rambling on that topic, so skip it if that doesn't sound interesting.
> Caveat:  I had a career as a software engineer.  None of what I
> describe here involved writing code, but I did spend considerable time
> configuring hardware and software.  Read on if that doesn't scare you
> off.
> Last year Bici Centro acquired a departmentalized cash register, on
> our accountant's advice.  I set it up and everybody pretty much dove
> right in and used it.  Departments are:
> * New Parts (taxable.  We get from J&B, a distributer)
> * Used Parts (taxable.  We strip bikes for these.  Some will argue
> these are not taxable.  Consult your accountant.)
> * Bikes (taxable.  Bikes could be "Used Parts", but we wanted to keep
> more accurate statistics on them.)
> * Cash donations (non-taxable)
> About once a week, I would generate a Z report which totals sales by
> department since last report.  I then would manually enter that info
> into QuickBooks (QB) accounting software and deposit the cash register
> money in the bank.  Once a quarter, QB tells me how much sales tax to
> pay to the government.  The hard part is setting up QB.  I had help
> with that.  You could forego QB and keep your books by some simpler
> and/or cheaper method of your choosing.  We inherited QB because we're
> fiscally sponsored by the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, a nonprofit
> advocacy group that already keeps its books that way.
> I can recommend this approach to most community bike shops.
> We would handle credit cards by PayPal.  This requires a few hours of
> hacking to set up, and it is generally a pain to use.  Customers who
> don't have a PayPal account (almost all of them) have to type in their
> detailed CC billing info into a web form on a PC.  It takes a few
> minutes.  This sucks, but some people will only buy stuff if they can
> charge it.  As a minus, this system is separate from the cash register
> and requires separate accounting.  PayPal does not make this easy,
> does not integrate well with QB or any popular accounting software, to
> my knowledge.
> Then I recently replaced all that (except QB)...
> I went off the deep end, and Bici Centro acquired the QuickBooks Point
> of Sale system.  This basically turns a PC into a cash register on
> steroids, connecting to a cash drawer, receipt printer, credit card
> reader, and barcode scanner.  This system keeps very detailed records
> of our sales, tracks inventory, handles credit cards simply, and
> automatically sends all the info to QB for accounting.  I hope the
> time and money invested up front in this thing will lead to less
> drudgery later.  I hope the level of sales detail recorded will allow
> us to manage our business better and write more persuasive grant
> applications.  I hope it will be easy for our volunteers to use.  Time
> will tell if I am overly hopeful.  It is certainly possible.
> How much does all of this cost?
> Departmentalized cash register: ~$250.
> PayPal: ~3% transaction fees
> QuickBooks accounting software from TechSoup: $45
> QuickBooks Point of Sale system:
> * Donated PC & monitor: free
> * QuickBooks POS 6.0 from TechSoup: $80
> * QuickBooks POS hardware bundle (cash drawer, credit card reader,
> etc) with 501(c)3 discount: ~$500
> * credit card processing: ~$30/mo + ~1-2% transaction fees
> I would have used open source software, but nothing I evaluated
> promised to do the trick as well as what we bought.  I'd love to hear
> of your successes that prove me wrong.
> If your nonprofit purchases software, consider joining TechSoup.  They
> act as a low-cost middleman, connecting companies that donate software
> with nonprofits that receive it.  The only trick is to place yourself
> carefully in a category, as we don't fit neatly into their existing
> ones, and registering in the wrong category will disqualify you from
> receiving useful donations.  As a bike education and repair center, we
> are categorized as "Other Instructions and Training Activities".
> I could provide more detail, if anybody is interested.  I would also
> be happy to share data files if anybody wants to emulate our setup.
> Dave Bourgeois
> Treasurer, Bici Centro of Santa Barbara
> On Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 2:55 PM,  <veganboyjosh at gmail.com> wrote:
> > at Community Cycles, we've had a cash register for a while, but no one
> ever
> > knew how to use it except to hit the "cash" button, and use it as a
> > glorified cash box. over the course of the 6 months after we bought the
> > thing, several people read through the manual, took it home to play with,
> > and no one could ever figure it out. one week, two people decided to take
> on
> > the project of figuring it out. they worked on it for about 1 hour each
> day,
> > and finally figured out how to enter sales, how to specify that some
> sales
> > were taxed and others not, and most of the workings of the thing, so that
> we
> > now run all transactions through the register. we even run sales reports
> at
> > end of day, which zeroes out the drawer. we have yet to have a day where
> our
> > sales number from the register matches the amount of cash in the drawer,
> but
> > we're getting closer.  the register we got also allows us to check during
> > the day to see how much cash/check/charge we should have in the drawer.
> this
> > is helpful for super busy days, or days when there's a lot of people in
> the
> > office...if we find a lot of cash in the drawer, we'll take it out, just
> to
> > make sure it doesn't walk away on it's own...
> >
> >
> >
> > On Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 1:48 PM, Stuart O Anderson <soa at ri.cmu.edu>
> wrote:
> >>
> >> At Free Ride we used a paper log for a long time, but it was never very
> >> accurate.  We bought a used cash register, despite some concerns about
> how
> >> difficult it would be to learn to use and maintain.  In retrospect, I
> think
> >> it was a really good decision for us - we do a much better job of
> tracking
> >> our cash flow now, and there's never been much of an issue learning to
> use
> >> it.
> >>
> >> Stuart
> >>
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