How to measure an item when you don’t have a ruler at hand

You might be wondering: “How can I measure an item if I don’t have a ruler?” Maybe you left your measuring tape at home, or you’re away from home and don’t have your measuring tape with you. Whatever the case, there are a number of items you probably have on hand that you can use to measure instead. The following is a list of items you may have lying around your house that can be used to measure items.


Electronics are also very handy when you want to measure something.

Smartphone or tablet

If you have a smartphone or tablet. Just take a picture of the object and use your device’s ruler function to measure it. You can even use a ruler app to measure a person’s height. 

Digital camera

If you have a digital camera, you can use it to measure objects. To do this, simply take a picture of the object and use the ruler function.


How to measure an item when you don’t have a ruler at hand

If you don’t have your phone or electronic device with you then you can try using money in your wallet.

Dollar bill

The dollar bill is a little over 6 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. For quick reference the exact measurements are 6.14 and 2.61 inches respectively. So, if you have relatively shorter items that you need to measure this bill can be really handy.


If you aren’t carrying any bills then you can also use loose coins. Coins are quick and handy for smaller measurements. The diameter of a quarter is a little over 2.5 inches or 2.67 inches to be exact. A penny is just under 2 cm or 1.9 cm for the exact diameter.

Human body

What if you forgot your phone and money with you. What do you do then? Well, you can measure items with your body. For instance, you can measure things with your hand, foot, forearm, or any other body part that’s convenient for you. These types of measurements are not as precise but if you need a ballpark of the numbers than it can be handy.


Hand length is measured from the tip of your middle finger to your palm. The average hand length of a women that wears a size small, medium or large is between 6 to 6.5 inches; 6.5 to 7 inches or 7 to 7.5 inches respectively. For men these numbers for small, medium or large are: 7 to 7.5 inches, 8.5 to 9 inches or 9.5 to 10 inches respectively.


If you’ve come from the office and are looking to measure some small to medium sized items you can use the following:

Lined paper

The standard size of lined paper is 8.5 x 11.0 inches according to the American National Standards Institute. So if you’ve got a notebook handy then take a piece out and use it to help measure what you need.


Pens come in many shape and styles. However, the average length of ball-point pen is between 5 and 5.1 inches. This can be a quick and handy way to measure what you need.

If you have no ruler at hand, you can measure any item with any of the items we’ve mentioned. The most important thing is to be creative and use whatever you have on hand.


We’ve compiled a list of a some common questions we get about measurements.

What is the difference between the imperial system and the metric system?

The imperial system has 12 inches in a foot and 3 feet in a yard. It also has 1760 yards in a mile. The metric system has 100 centimeters in a meter and 1000 meters in a kilometer. It also has 100 kilometers in a mile.

How many inches are in a foot?

12 inches make up a foot.

How many inches are in a yard?

36 inches make up a yard.

What is the difference between a centimeter and a millimeter?

A centimeter is one hundredth of a meter. A millimeter is one thousandth of a meter.

What is the difference between a yard and a meter?

A yard is 36 inches. A meter is 100 centimeters.