How to Measure Without a Ruler?

Majority of use don’t carry a ruler or measuring tape, but what if you need to measure something on the spot? Maybe you’re in the store and want to buy something, but you’re not sure if it’s the right size.


Fortunately there are easy ways to measure objects even if you don’t have a ruler. Here are some tips.

How Can You Measure Without a Ruler?

First thing you should do is look in your pockets: you probably have your credit card, a few dollar bills, your phone and business card. Using these you’ll be able to estimate the size of various objects.

  • A standard credit card is 2 inches long and 3.5 inches wide.
  • A mobile phone is usually 4.9 inches long and 2.3 inches wide (though each succeeding model gets thinner and thinner).
  • A quarter (US) has a 1 inch diameter.
  • Most business cards are 2 inches high and 3 ½ inches long.
  • A US bill is 2.5 inches wide and 6 inches long.

If you need to measure an object, you just take out your dollar bills and line them up side by side. Since each one is approximately is 6 inches long, you just need to add or multiply to find the length or width to measure the object. You can do the same with your credit card or mobile phone.

How to Measure Small Items with Your Body

If there’s nothing useful in your pockets or wallet, you can use your body instead. Here are some common measurements.

  • 1 inch / 2.5 cm: this is the distance between your thumb knuckle and the tip. For small objects, i.e. 6 inches and smaller, you can literally use your thumb.
    The measurement used in miniature objects is roughly 1 inch = 1 foot, and the same scale is used in most action figures.
  • 4 inches / 10 cm: is approximately the width of your hand from the bottom knuckles up.
  • A yard or 36 inches / 92 cm about the distance from your nose to the fingers of a hand that’s outstretched. However, your fingers have to be bent. Measure your outstretched arm and how close it is to a yard so you can use it as a gauge.
  • 1 meter or 39 inches: this is just like the yard estimate, but this time you extend your fingers. Using your arm, you can measure ribbon, fabrics or cords.
  • A US bill is 2.5 inches wide and 6 inches long.

If there’s nothing useful in your pockets or wallet, you can use your body instead. Here are some common measurements. Again, measure your arm’s length against a ruler so you know how approximate it is to yards and meters.

  • The spine is in its natural S-shaped curvature. When your spine is in an abnormal position, you will likely wake up with backaches.
  • The heels, buttocks, shoulders and neck should be in their proper alignment. Otherwise, you will eventually end up with aches in these areas.
  • The head should be supported, as well as in alignment with the rest of the spinal column.

A mattress that’s too soft will not provide the optimum support so it will not be comfortable, too. A mattress that’s too firm, in contrast, will push on the body’s main pressure points and put it out of alignment. In both cases, your mornings will be marked by an aching body.

Standard Furniture Sizes and Dimensions

Furniture comes in different shapes and sizes, but through the years some standard sizes have emerged. These are for the US:

  • Most doors are 6’6” to 6’8” high (198 cm to 203 cm).
  • Most dining room tables are 30 inches (76 cm) from the floor.
  • A typical dining room chair has a ground clearance of 15 to 17 inches or 38 to 43 cm.

How to Measure Furniture and Other Medium Size Items

A lot of objects can be measured with your body or the items in your wallet as we have shown above. But they’re not just limited to small objects as you can use them to measure medium sized objects.

For furniture, appliances etc. take out your dollar bill and set them end to end as we mentioned above. If you don’t carry cash, just use your credit card or business card.


Since you probably have just one, mark the end point with a pen or your finger, and reposition your business card there. Once you’re done, multiply the number of bills / credit card / business card to get the measurement in inches.

Multiply the number by 15 if you want the results in centimeters. If you’re measuring a small object, you can fold your dollar bill in half so it’s 3 inches.

How to Estimate Room Measurement

Knowing a room’s dimensions is necessary if you plan to install a new carpet. If you don’t have a tape measure, walk by the edge of every wall in the room. Each step should be full, i.e. from heel to toe.

Count the steps and multiply it by your shoe size, and now you have the approximate floor measurement. If you have a thread or yarn, make a cut that’s as long as each wall. Then fold in half three times. Use your dollar bill to measure the yarn and multiply the figure by 8.


Tips and Suggestions

You can also gauge measurements using household or office objects. An index card measures 3 x 5 inches.

If you fold this along its length axis by a third, you can use it to measure objects in inches. If you’ve got a 4 x 6 business card, you also fold it along the length axis twice for measuring inches.


Final Verdict

Learning how to measure without a ruler is something most people don’t bother with. But there are a lot of situations when it can be handy. By taking the time to study and take measurements using various objects, you’ll never have to wonder how large or small an item is.

Lastly, if you’ve got a smartphone, you can search and download measuring apps. You can also make notes of common measurements like what we have here and keep it in your wallet for reference.

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