While performing tasks I would like to tally up a large number while not having to remember it. However the total may reach up into the hundreds, and I only have ten fingers. Also I want to count while e.g. carrying things, walking around etc, and so methods that involve both hands or having to look at the process while doing it (such as simply writing it down) won't work.

There are tally counter devices that exist for this task, but surely there must be a way of counting up numbers without such a device ...

  • I guess that without a physical tally counter, which can be kept in a pocket and operated with one hand (leaving both hands usually free), you will need a memorisation technique. Associating imagery seems to work well but this isn't really a Life Hack. Commented May 19, 2023 at 22:40
  • Can you explain more about the use cases where you need this? Why not just simply count and remember the number? Can there be any physical component to this tally system, or should this only be in your head? Commented Jun 8, 2023 at 21:10
  • Does a tally counter not suite your use case? You can operate it with one hand, it hangs around your neck, and you don't need to keep track of a number. I don't know if this is really a life hack, though. Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 15:17
  • I've tried commercial mechanical and electronic tally counters, however they are frequently buggy and break down, plus the cost involved. As for use cases, it is the same as for a tally counter - how to keep track of a incrementing number without having to remember it. E.g. counting the number of times you see, hear or think of something. So there would definately be a physical component involved as the idea is that you don't have to mentally keep track of the tally. Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 22:50
  • An app that shows a number on screen, and adds 1 to to it when you say "add". or displays a number when u say a number but ignores other words. would such an app help?
    – tgkprog
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 22:40

2 Answers 2


Come, Mr. Tallyman, tally me banana Lifehack…

This is a simple two-part problem taken one part at a time.

  1. You do the counting of the… [You never mentioned what you wanted to tally.]
    Let's say you're in charge of counting bananas on some banana grower's property as you walk around or loll by the entrance to the banana storage depot, say.
  2. As you count, you give totals to your tiny, trusty voice recorder, hanging around your neck…
    1 …, 8 …, 4 …, 2 …, 1 …, 9 …, etc.

When there are no more bananas to tally, play the recorder from the beginning of the session with your trusty abacus for summing the total.

All you have to remember is which bananas you already counted as you focus on new ones and bunches to add as they appear.

Look. No Hands! You may only have ten fingers, but you can give them the day off and let them do the walking, or whatever else you need them to do.

Good luck.


It will take some time to practice, but what you want is Finger binary - Wikipedia:

Finger binary is a system for counting and displaying binary numbers on the fingers of either or both hands. Each finger represents one binary digit or bit. This allows counting from zero to 31 using the fingers of one hand, or 1023 using both: that is, up to 25−1 or 210−1 respectively.

Examples of finger positions and their values.

Warning: Public display of the 132 tally is not recommended.

  • unfortunately the OP wants a no-hands option, otherwise this represents a useful response. I don't know how one can have a no-hands option without either finger marking as in your answer or using a device.
    – fred_dot_u
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 13:34
  • @fred_dot_u, OP says he want to avoid "methods that involve both hands", implying that use of one hand (only) is okay. The tally-counter devices I know require the use of one hand, but OP is looking for an alternative.
    – mgkrebbs
    Commented May 19, 2023 at 17:12
  • Even "4" is a bit questionable. :) Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 15:18
  • And if I remember correctly, 6 might be questionable in Australia. Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 15:19
  • @GregBurghardt, yes, basically everywhere with British origins (except here in Canada, where the sign died out). Commented Jun 9, 2023 at 21:24

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