Phil has worked as a web and software developer for 10+ years. He is passionate about sharing knowledge and promoting experiential learning.
I recently published a hub listing a few good projects for those interested in electronics and are just starting out. If this is you, or if you just want some ideas for fairly easy, generally fun and sometimes useful projects then definitely check it out, in addition to this page. None of them on the list are particularly costly.
However, if you really don't have a lot of money to spare then I've compiled a shortlist of projects you can do for under $15! I wouldn't say that these are all projects appropriate for beginners, but the majority do not require extensive prior experience.
While some of these projects are now slightly dated, hopefully, this list can still serve as an inspiration for what you can do with not much money when it comes to electronics projects, which is especially great for kids or if you just want to keep yourself busy with some small projects.
USB Doomsday Device
Sure, at the end of the day it's actually only a program launcher, though you could modify it to do a many number of different things. Pretty sweet looking device and surprisingly cheap for a doomsday device! Now there's a worrying thought. - This project is on Instructables.
Portable Guitar Amp ~ $10
Haven't you always wanted a guitar amp in a tub? I know I have. Well OK, maybe it's not something I had actually considered before finding this project, still, it's a pretty cool idea and having a portable guitar amp may even come in use for some of you budding musicians out there! - This project is on Instructables.
Chapstick LED Flashlight
Simple design and easy to make. If you ever have a reason to hide a torch then a chapstick might just be the perfect disguise! - This project is on Instructables.
Blinky The LED Pet
This is possibly my favourite project in this list. Have your own mechanical pet, and no I don't mean one of those silly overpriced robot toy dogs or anything like that. This may not move like a real pet, although you could definitely find a way of making it, this project has a certain appeal to it, and the only word I can think of for it is 'cute', well at least for an electronics project. Anyway, you'll see what I mean when you look at it...or you'll just think I'm a little strange for calling it 'cute.' - This project is on Instructables.
See Blinky in Action
I know it's made using a toothbrush, but I wouldn't advise putting this critter in your mouth! Sure, this doesn't really serve any real purpose but who says everything needs a practical application!? - This project is on Instructables.
Price: $5 - $15 (Depending on how many you want to make)
Potentially the most colourful of projects on the list. Stupidly simple, and brilliantly colourful. - This project is on Instructables.
I think the description on the instructable describes this one the best: " A simple way to pleasure a simple mind... or a complex one who needs a break, so fun for most ages" It's a simple vibrating motor taken from a cheap electric toothbrush and strapped to an Altoids tin, nevertheless I assure you it will provide some form of entertainment for you, and well, if it doesn't... then use your imagination to make something different! - This project is on Instructables.
This project will drain every last bit of energy out of those batteries you thought were completely dead! There are lots of Joule Thief projects out there, they all implement pretty much the same basic circuit and vary in cost. - This project is on Instructables.
Price: $6 - $15
The 'circuit' is pretty much the LED Throwies circuit, but this time the aim's to make jellyfish! Though I'm not sure how well they would respond to be submersed in water... - This project is on Instructables.
LED Cube Night Light
Simple, but effective! Looks great, easy enough to build and inexpensive, you could even build multiple versions in different colours at minimal cost. - This project is on Instructables.
Supercapacitor USB Light
The supercapacitor is a fairly interesting component, one worth looking at if you're interested in the theory. This is a pretty simple application for it but cool none the less. - This project is on Instructables.
USB Latte Foamer
What can I say? Maybe, genius? No, not really. Still, it's novel! If you're fed up of wasting batteries on that cheap latte foamer you got last year for Christmas from your ridiculously distant relative, then this might just be the perfect solution for you! Chances are that whilst you're drinking that coffee you'll be in the vicinity of a USB port, and with any luck that USB port is actually attached or integrated to some sort of device providing power...like a PC or laptop... If that's the case, you can power your latte foamer with it with this project! - This project is on Instructables.
You've probably heard about this one, or maybe you made a potato clock in a school chemistry lesson. But let's be honest, potatoes are so last year, they're also not very colourful or interesting. So why not bring some extra colour to this classic electronics project and use fruit instead of potatoes? - This project is on Instructables.
How to Make a Fruit Clock
Set one of these loose in the house and your cat will probably go crazy thinking it's a mouse, but I'm sure once you calmly explain to the cat that it's modeled on a beetle, then it'll leave it alone. - This project is on Make
Cracker Box Amp
Similar to the last portable guitar amp, just this one uses an even cheaper enclosure! - This project is on Make.
It Doesn't Stop There
There are so many fun projects which you can complete with very little money now, the possibilities are endless. And if you're the really creative type then perhaps you have a few of your own ideas you want to try out! I encourage everyone to take action and get involved, not only can you challenge yourself and learn something new, but once you start you'll get those creative juices flowing and no doubt come up with many more ideas.
If you have any more ideas like these, why not share them below with the community.
- Cool Ways to Recycle Computer Hardware - DIY Projects
Genius ways to recycle/reuse parts from your old computer set up.
- Getting Started - Top 10 Small Electronics Projects
10 great electronics projects for anyone just getting started or even those who've just ran out of ideas.
- Fun Electronic Circuits
In this hub you'll find some fun electronic circuits you can make yourself.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Phil Hobbs
Phil Hobbs (author) from UK on March 27, 2011:
Yup, you never know when NASA might need a USB Latte Foamer!
Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on March 27, 2011:
From high school science project to NASA Engineer,you never know.;)