Want all the latest gadgets? No money? Don’t despair, Ruth Spencer has the solution.

Everyone has cool stuff. You want cool stuff. But you just haven't got the cash to splurge and you've had so many payday loans even Instant Finance wants to help you budget. It's time to get crafty with these tips to make cheap versions of the gear everyone needs right now.

iPhone 7

Take your iPhone 6 and put chewing gum in the headphone jack. You would have lost the Bluetooth earbuds anyway, so with only the investment of a pack of Juicy Fruit you've upgraded your phone.

Witty inflatables

Yearning for a giant inflatable swan in which to be washed out into Manukau harbour? It's totally the most Instagram way to die. Or perhaps you're after an 2.5m pizza slice to recline on for some reason. Funky inflatables are the trendiest pool accessory, but they don't come cheap. With a bit of creativity and a puncture repair kit you can make your own. Paint a tractor inner tube pink and, before the paint dries, fire a party popper at it. Voila! A donut with sprinkles. Duct tape a triangle "crust" of pool noodles to the styrofoam you found in the skip behind The Warehouse: your own pizza slice floater. If you're lucky it will still have convincing food scraps on it.

Feature fingernails

Nails are important. They must be, or there wouldn't be so many nail salons in the malls. They can't all be fronts for drugs. Home manicures are cheap enough: you can buy a fresh new nail polish for less than the salon charges for a few swipes from a gluggy, half-used bottle. But nails tired of opening V cans and scratching that thing on your arm that doesn't seem be going away want some jewel-encrusted nail art. Do it at home with PVA glue and some hundred and thousands. If you're a nail-biter this will be delicious. If you're trying not to be a nail-biter, try stylish iron filings or the go-with-anything beige neutral: sand.


Oculus Rift

Virtual reality headsets are the next thing in gaming. Full immersion with surround vision and sound promises to be the ultimate entertainment experience. To recreate this excitement on a budget, find a second-hand motorbike helmet, put the visor up and walk around. The effects are incredibly realistic but beware: the system bricks permanently if your character dies.


Maybe you don't have $12 a month to subscribe; maybe you don't have a cool wireless device to stream music on. You know what's also a wireless device? A transistor radio. Ask your mum what that is. With a couple of AA batteries, you have endlessly streaming music. Tell your friends it's an "80s, 90s and sort of today" playlist. You might not to be able to explain the DJs, but who ever has?

Industrial furniture

Trawl the berms for discarded steel-framed outdoor furniture. Replace the crumbling plastic rattan with unsanded pallet wood, and that's it. You've done it. The rust will be authentic, so only do this if you're happy to ruin your carpet, clothes and tetanus-free status. It can't be any worse than the fake lichen you made with paint and porridge during your French Country phase. Talk about distressed.

Personal drone

Glue some fans to your iPhone, push record and join the ranks of the citizen cinematographers. It cannot be stressed enough that this won't work with a landline. If you do attach an expensive telecommunications device to a portable fan, make sure your video is being livestreamed, because there's no guarantee you'll ever see your phone again.

Vaping pen

If you smoke you'll go broke, so vape to escape. Not escape going broke though, a vaping habit is almost as expensive as cigarettes. For the sensation of inhaling flavoured, addictive vapour on a budget, break open a ballpoint pen and keep the tube (hang on to the ink stick though - see next entry). Lurk around the mall's Muffin Break coffee machine and use your cool new vaping pen to suck up some of the partially caffeinated steam.


It costs a fortune to get the kind of ink that makes old people assume you're poor. Tattoos are so mainstream now that you'd be hard-pressed to find an adult woman who doesn't already regret the dandelion clock turning into a flock of birds on her collarbone. Tattoos are an evolving fashion with incongruously permanent results, thus you should never over-invest. Ballpoint ink, a needle, a great deal of vodka and your older brother's weird friend Robbie are all you need for a home tattoo. Yes, you can get a tattoo gun on Trade Me for a few dollars, but when you're going cheap, you might as well throw caution and autoclaving to the winds.