I was helping a client price hardware the other day for their new shoe store opening in a strip mall. Since this is their first store and they already spent a sizable amount of their budget on merchandise, store build-out, lease, etc.. they wanted a simple to setup cost effective system to track their inventory of shoes and some basic accessories. Of course anyone can go to Dell or HP and buy a $400-500 workstation, $150 LCD, pay $200 for a cash drawer, $250 for a receipt printer, $160 for a bar-code scanner and $60 for USB mag-stripe reader but totaled up that’s still around $1,300. So I went on a mission to find the cheapest option available and we ending up getting a complete setup for ½ that price. Here’s some links and tips for when you’re on a budget, what to avoid when buying cheap and tricks to get more features for less.

The computer:  ($100-$400)

Of course the workstation is the centralized hub that all peripherals will plug into so it’s important to keep in mind that some peripherals need a powered USB hub to operate so you’ll need enough on-board USB ports to plug in the cash drawer, scanner, keyboard, mouse, etc…

Also, you don’t need that latest Core i7 processor from Intel with 8GB of RAM in your workstation, especially if your running a web based POS. A simple 2Ghz AMD processor will be plenty for a dedicated POS terminal. Also, if you plan on using Web based POS you don’t need to worry about hard drive space or this workstation crapping out on you. I’ll speak about cloning a cheap replacement hard drive later.

So instead of heading to your local Best Buy and getting ripped off on a computer, try one of these options:

$100 option
*Buy an (off-lease) computer. You can typically find these on tigertdirect.com or a computer warehouse. The nice thing about these is they all have an OS (probably widows xp) preloaded. A typical Basic Windows OS license is an easy $100 so it’s almost like your getting a free PC!

$400 all-in-one
* I always love a decent all-in-one computer. They look great on your checkout counter, you don’t have to buy a separate monitor and they’re a definite space saver. I’ve worked with the HP 100B All-in-one and for a POS unit they’re fairly durable and priced just right.


Monitor: ($100)

I wouldn’t recommend going smaller than 19” just because most software these day’s are Graphic based and designed for at least 1024×768 resolution. You can easily get a 19” from tigerdirect.com or geeks.com shipped for right at $100. Also, I was in Wal-Mart the other day and they had a decent 19” Acer for $79. Although you’re getting a no-frills piece of equipment your making sales with it not playing the latest edition of Crisis.




Cash-Drawer: ($90)

The typical MMF Cash drawer both receipt driven and USB typically run around $170. I found that if you search for the MMF Val-u Line you can save about $100 and the drawers are almost identical to the $170+ drawers. Look for this SKU 2251516442-04 and you should find one for under $90.




Receipt Printer: ($220)

Receipt printers are hard to skimp on because if you buy a really cheap piece of crap your going to have customers standing around waiting for a their receipt. However there are to types of Receipt printers out there that are the most common. The Impact Ribbon Printer is the one that prints really slow, has high consumable cost and sounds really annoying. While typically cheaper than a thermal receipt printer it’s not worth that savings to buy one. That brings me to the thermal ribbon receipt printer. These printers are fast, cost less to maintain and are fairly quiet. One of the most common types you see out there are the Epson T88V but with a price tag of $300+ that doesn’t quite fit our POS budget. The Epson T20 Printer is a very similar printer and about ½ the price. Also, The Epson T20 Thermal Receipt printer can be hooked up via USB or Serial and will attached to your cash drawer.


Barcode Scanner: ($130)

To be quite honest, I don’t believe in buying the cheapest bar-code scanner you can find unless your ringing in very limited sales. The only scanner I’d ever buy is the Symbol LS-2208 because it has a warranty of at least 1-yr (some times 2) and they’re really good about replacing yours if it stops working suddenly. This scanner is pretty rugged and can take a beating and for about $130 i think it’s a great investment. You could cut cost with a chap $25 scanner from Unitech but their junk so buy right the first time and get the Symbol LS-2208 from Motorolla.



Mag-stripe Reader: ($25)

Try not to lease credit card terminals from a merchant company. It may seem that you need them but most POS software will allow you to take credit cards with a simple USB Mag-Stripe reader. $25 for a 3 track USB Magnetic Stripe Credit Card Reader Model – MSR90.

Total POS Cost = ($655)

So while it’s tempting to purchase the first complete POS unit you can find, it pays to shop around and save some cash. I hope some of the recommendations in this post have been of use. Shoot us a line if you have any suggestions on budget POS Hardware.