How to Measure Without a Tape Measure or Ruler

Silver tape measure

A tape measure is a vital tool in the toolkit, and many of us would feel lost without it. Maybe you lost it, forgot it, or simply don’t have one, but regardless, if you find yourself without a tape measure, there is still hope! There are some tips and tricks to measuring lengths without a ruler or tape measure.

If you don’t have a tape measure, then the key is to find something you do have with a known dimension. If you know the dimension of any other object, then you have a makeshift ruler. Keep in mind, though, that your measurement will likely be an approximation at best.

Common Measurements

Use these everyday objects for makeshift measurements when a ruler or tape measure is unavailable.

Printer Paper

A sheet of letter paper is exactly 8.5″ x 11″ (215.9mm x 279.4mm), and a sheet of legal paper is exactly 8.5″ x 14″ (215.9mm x 355.6mm). Use the short edge or the long edge to measure as needed.

Keep in mind that craft paper or other non-standard size paper will not be the standard letter size and cannot be used unless you have the exact dimensions of the paper(hint: it may be on the packaging).

Dollar Bill

Graphic showing a dollar bill with measurements of 2.61 in x 6.14 in

A dollar bill is 2.61” x 6.14” (66.3mm x 156mm) and is something you likely have in your pocket. Keep in mind that a dollar bill is just over 6″ long and not exactly 6″. You can also easily turn a dollar bill into a ruler to make shorter measurements.


Graphic showing a quarter with measurements of 0.955 inches in diameter

If you’re short on bills but have some change, look for a quarter. A quarter is .955” (24.26mm) in diameter and is great for shorter measurements.

Credit Card

Graphic showing a credit cards with dimensions of 2.125 in x 3.370 in

If you don’t have any coins or paper money, but you do have a credit card, then consider that credit cards are a standard size as well. A credit card measures 2.125” x 3.370” (53.98mm x 85.6mm).

Print a Ruler

graphic of a printable tape measure

If you own a printer, then you can actually print out a very accurate ruler or tape measure. See our printable 60″ tape measure or our 12″/30cm printable ruler.

Your Phone

While every phone is different, it’s likely that you’re using it right now, which means you can do a quick search to get the dimensions of your specific device. Keep in mind that the dimensions won’t include the case you might be using, so you’ll need to remove it for a more accurate measurement.

There’s an App for That

Believe it or not, you can actually use an app to measure items by simply taking a photo of it. Check out the EasyMeasure app.

If you’re measuring a room, then check out the RoomScan app, which can measure your space and create a blueprint of your home.

Your Arms and Feet

If you literally have nothing with you, then you can at least use your body to make some approximate measurements. The average person measures 15-18″ from the tips of their fingers to their elbows, and the average foot is 10-12″.

Keep in mind that while using any of these objects as a makeshift tape measure will yield approximate results, remember that they are only approximations at best and should not be used when precise measurements are needed. These tricks work great when you’re in a pinch, but if you’re planning ahead, then consider picking up a tape measure.

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