I am looking for a word to describe the products or solutions to problems that are made at a very low cost, often home-made or by a very small organization. The products or solutions perform their function very well, but lack the aesthetics found in major brands or finished products at retail stores designed just for that purpose.

Examples include:

  • hand bags that are reasonably strong and functional, only a lot less attractive compared to expensive ones
  • a home-made camera mount built by a few pieces of wood, glues and rubber bands
  • blocking sunlight from the window with aluminum sheets

EDIT: There have been a few suggestions with "hack" and "improvise". However I do not wish to convey the meaning that the solution is temporary or rushed under time pressure. The key point is low cost and sacrificing elegance, decorations which are unnecessary to make it functional. The goal is cost-effective. I think "utilitarian" comes pretty close.

  • 1
    The word that comes to mind is makeshift. Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 18:25
  • 4
    They are utilitarian - makeshift implies a temporary or contrived "best-we-could-do-with-what-we-had" solution. The handbags are utilitarian, the camera mount and window shades are, as Steve says more makeshift
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 21, 2017 at 18:40
  • Very tempted to offer Batneec...
    – Spagirl
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 15:20

8 Answers 8


serviceable, defined by Collins English Dictionary:

If you describe something as serviceable, you mean that it is good enough to be used and to perform its function.

His Arabic was not as good as his English, but serviceable enough.

  1. that will give good service, esp. in hard use; durable

Example (Made up):

My husband build the bookshelves for his office. They are serviceable, especially for his heavy textbooks, but I wouldn't have them in the living room.

The definition I quoted does not explicitly mention low cost and devoid of frills, but I have never seen a luxury product described as serviceable.


There are several words you can use specifically for things that are home-made:

  • Jury-rigged (North American) and its synonyms:
  • Hack:
    • To jury-rig or improvise something inelegant but effective, usually as a temporary solution to a problem.
      Urban Dictionary

    • See also lifehack. Your last point is something I'd expect to see on Life Hacks SE.

A more general term would be cost-effective:

Effective or productive in relation to its cost.
Oxford Dictionaries



1.1 US informal as modifier
Made at home, rather than in a shop or factory.
‘a home-brew radio transmitter’

Quoting wikipedia for the ham radio usage ...

Homebrew is an amateur radio slang term for home-built, noncommercial radio equipment. Design and construction of equipment from first principles is valued by amateur radio hobbyists, known as "hams", for educational value, and to allow experimentation and development of techniques or levels of performance not readily available as commercial products. Some items can be home-brewed at similar or lower cost than purchased equivalents.


A short phrase used in British English to describe this sort of solution or product is cheap and cheerful

not expensive and of reasonable quality

(Macmillan dictionary)

Another option could be no frills


Kludge (wiki)

A kludge is a workaround or quick-and-dirty solution that is clumsy, inelegant, inefficient, difficult to extend and hard to maintain.

In response to OP's EDIT:

Bare-bones (OXD)

Reduced to or comprising only the basic or essential elements of something.


Maybe hack might work:

  1. a piece of computer code providing a quick or inelegant solution to a particular problem.
  2. program quickly and roughly.

Source: ODO


"Streamlined" Often a prototype will be a no frills version of the intended finish product. Off-brands are sometimes made by the same manufacturer as the product that carries all of the frill features and marketing costs.


'functional'. Just about everything is 'functional' so when you use this word to describe an object, you're specifically conveying that the design/aesthetics are not worth mentioning.

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