Upgrade Your Life

Super-Useful Homemade Gadgets for Under $1

Becky Worley
Upgrade Your Life

I love a good do-it-yourself gadget. But only if it's not too hard, and not too expensive. So here are solutions to the toothpaste mess on your counter and cable clutter on your desk, an on the fly speaker for your phone, and a stylus made from a candy wrapper.

PROBLEM: Toothpaste mess all over the bathroom counters.
SUPER-USEFUL SOLUTION: Use a hand sanitizer or reusable soap pump to cleanly dispense toothpaste.
First, find a dollar store soap dispenser (one with a very wide tube in the pump) or thoroughly clean (and I mean thoroughly) an unscented hand sanitizer container (you have to run lots of warm water through the pump apparatus, not just the bottle). Next, squeeze toothpaste into the bottle (more than one tube will fit, which is handy). Prime the pump and — voila — you will be able to put toothpaste on your toothbrush cleanly. This is especially awesome for kids, who seem wholly predisposed to get more toothpaste on the bathroom counter than the toothbrush.

PROBLEM: Messy desk full of cables.
SUPER-USEFUL SOLUTION: Use a big binder clip to tame the wires.
You can certainly buy cable organizers, but you probably have big binder clips that will do the job just as well. Thread cables through the clip's metal loops, and then attach the pincher to the desk. If you want to lock the cables so they can't move up or down (to give you more or less slack), flip the clip handles over — and they will hold the cables in place.

PROBLEM: The speakers on your phone aren't loud enough.
SUPER-USEFUL SOLUTION: Use a keg cup as an amplifier.

View photo


This tip we found on Reddit; it's so simple that it's genius! Use a knife to slice a plastic party cup about a quarter of the way from the bottom of the cup. Make the slice just long enough for the phone to slide in. Then slide the edge of the phone — where the speakers are — into the slit in the cup. Point the cup at the listeners. I tested this with a decibel meter and consistently saw at least a 10-decibel jump in the volume. This also works with tablets and is great for conference calls where you have multiple people listening on speakerphone.

PROBLEM: You need a stylus for your tablet.
SUPER-USEFUL SOLUTION: Stylus made of a candy wrapper and a pencil.
If you have a touchscreen tablet but want a stylus — lets say for a drawing program — you can make it. You need a metallic candy bar wrapper, a pencil, tape and some cotton. Put a little cotton padding on the tip of the pencil. Wrap the metallic wrapper all around it. Secure the wrapper to the pencil using tape. The wrapper conducts the electromagnetic charge from your fingers to the tip of the stylus, and that registers as a touch to the tablet. One tip: make sure you have as much skin-to-metal contact as possible; don't tape over the wrapper. This is a clever fix in a pinch, but not a long-term replacement for a stylus. We had decent, but not perfect results, so if you really need a pinpoint stylus, spending $11 for stylus seems like a good investment.

Related: Time-Saving Touchsecreen Secrets

View Comments (20)