Visualizing a Billion Dollars

I allowed myself to be duped by the source information for the Drug Money post. One of my readers pointed out that the pile of money shown was not 22 billion dollars. Here is the article in Snopes debunking it.

This got me thinking about visualizing piles of money. So I did the math. A dollar bill is 155.95 mm long, 66.23 mm wide and 0.1 mm high. The volume of a dollar bill therefore is 1032.85 cubic mm. Since that would be a perfectly crisp, brand-new bill, it’s not realistic to expect that I could stack them without some slop for folds, creases, gaps between stacks, rubber bands around stacks, etc. So I factored in a 10% slop, allowing for 10% waste overall in my stacking of the money.

I went to the garage and found my old briefcase that I used to use for business before laptops existed.

Cash-BriefcaseI calculated the volume of the briefcase and came to the conclusion that it would hold 7,763 dollar bills. Of course, if they were all twenty-dollar bills, it would hold $155,262 dollars’ worth. And using hundred-dollar bills, I could fit $776,311 into my briefcase.

Going forward, I decided to just use hundred-dollar bills. Anything less does not make sense for this exercise. How much could I put into my suitcase?


This medium-sized suitcase is 60 cm by 43 cm by 25 cm – without stretching and cramming. I could put $5.67 million in hundred-dollar bills into this suitcase.

Given those results, Walter White’s money pile in Breaking Bad, supposedly about $80 million, in various denominations, seems somewhat realistic and accurate in comparison to my suitcase here.


Just to complete my reality check, I took a quick look at our microwave:


It is 37 cm by 37 cm by 22 cm and would hold $2.65 million in hundred-dollar bills.

Now let’s go big. The largest U-Haul truck is 26 foot long.


Its cargo hold is 1,611 cubic feet. Therefore, filling it completely with hundred-dollar bills, it would hold just about exactly 4 billion dollars ($4,015,197,438) assuming the 10% slop factor.

Back to my Drug Money post, using all hundred-dollar bills, it would take 5.5 such U-Hauls, stacked to the rafters, to hold 22 billion dollars, not a measly corner in a spare bedroom in a Mexican mansion.

Last time I checked, Bill Gates was worth about $56 billion. If he wanted to cash out and move to the Bahamas with his money in hundred-dollar bills, he would have to pack up 14 large U-Haul trucks. This puts the term “immense wealth” into perspective for me.

Now, to prove I got it right, I’ll go to the bank on Monday, take out $2.65 million and stuff it into my microwave for a picture, just so you can actually see it.

3 thoughts on “Visualizing a Billion Dollars

  1. Haha! What a fascinating post! Thanks for doing all that work. Given my math “skills” you had me shaking my head! There is no way, in other words, so thanks for explaining so well! ☺️

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