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Making sense of girl math: How does it all add up?

Written by
Written by
Author and Financial Expert

Sandy Yong is a TEDx and keynote speaker and award-winning author of the intriguing and informative book The Money Master: Inside Secrets On How to Make Your Money Grow and Stay Safe.

Sandy Yong
Girl Math

Picture this: you’re shopping at the mall and stumble upon a gorgeous outfit that’s on sale. Then you do quick mental math and determine, “Well, if this is 50% off, if I don’t buy it, I’m actually losing money.”  This is called girl math. Confused about the calculations? Don’t worry, it’s not supposed to make any sense.

What started out as the “girl dinner” trend has evolved into “girl math” on social media. Girl dinner is when young women share their meals consisting of little nibbles or a charcuterie board while eating alone. Here, we’ll explain what girl math is and give tips on how you can manage your personal finances. 

A quick lesson on girl math 

This may sound silly, but sometimes, humans need to find creative ways to justify purchases. You may have seen some trending videos on social media lately. Young women are rationalizing big and small purchases using mental gymnastics. 

The most popular TikTok videos are from @samjamessssss and @danielasotohealth, explaining how girl math works. Some examples include:

  • Justifying buying more items so that you can get free shipping—otherwise, you’re losing money if you don’t.
  • Anything you buy under $5, such as a coffee from Starbucks, feels like it’s basically free. 
  • If you want to buy a $365 handbag and you plan to use it every day for a year, it only costs you $1/day. So, essentially, it’s free.

Since these topics went viral, they’ve promoted financial transparency and helped people have playful conversations about money. Joyee Yang, a Finance Influencer, says, “ I think the girl math trend shines a light on the fact that some people will somehow “talk themselves” into bad spending behaviours that they know are bad. With this trend, they’re calling themselves out with a hint of humour, which I think is fun!”

On the bright side, it’s created a sense of camaraderie and community. People feel like they’re not alone and can relate to making irrational financial choices. 

Girl math removes the guilt related to spending 

Whether you’re making an impulse purchase or splurging on a fancy item, girl math can help relieve the guilt and shame felt after you’ve tapped your credit card. People like to live in the moment and enjoy buying things with their hard-earned money. Sometimes, people need a dose of lightheartedness and to give themselves permission to make purchases without feeling guilty about it. 

Girl math vs. boy math

Once girl math started gaining traction, boy math emerged from it. Yet, instead of focusing on spending, it mocks male logic. With all jokes aside, some experts say that these social media posts have spurred on gender stereotypes and gender roles. 

For example, when you think of the term retail therapy, it tends to be associated with women. But, according to a global study conducted by Deloitte Insights, men are as likely to splurge as women. When they do so, they spend nearly 40% more on various items. So, whether it’s girl math or boy math, everyone has a tendency to make illogical purchases from time to time. 

How gift cards can make you spend more money 

When it comes to behavioural economics if you return an item you purchased and receive a store credit that’s put onto a gift card, you may think that it’s “free money.” What’s more, 75% of people redeeming a gift card end up spending an average of $59 more than the card’s value, according to the National Crowdfunding & Fintech Association (NCFA). Although it doesn’t feel like real money, it’s best to treat it like it is and set a limit beforehand on how much you are willing to spend at the store. 

How to use girl math and avoid reckless spending 

Although girl math is an entertaining social media trend, it’s important to balance it with responsible spending. Eventually, if you’re trying to justify all your silly spending habits, it could go down the slippery slope of poor money management. 

Yang says, “My advice would be to continue seeking financial literacy and live by it. That way, people can actually enjoy the underlying humour with the girl math trend while still being financially responsible.” 

Remember, be careful what you see on social media. Just because someone else is spending their money on certain purchases doesn’t mean it’s right for you. 

How to save and spend money wisely 

When it comes to making money, the gender pay gap still exists. According to the Human Rights Commission, on average, women earn $0.87 for every dollar a man earns. Although women tend to earn less than men, studies reveal that women are better at saving and investing their money than men. 

During tough financial times, you may be more prone to getting into debt, which can be challenging for women to manage. To prevent that, Yang shares a few tips for people to curb their spending. First, she suggests that living a minimalistic lifestyle can make you happier. Secondly, Yang says to automate your finances by

  1. Transferring a percentage of every paycheque into a High-Interest Savings Account (HISA).
  2. Investing your money into a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA). 
  3. Setting up automatic payments for your credit card bills.

Looking for more tips? Yang shares more personal finance tips on girl math on her Instagram video. By following these three steps, you can reach your financial goals while paying off your debt.

How does girl math add up?

It doesn’t. That’s what makes it so comical. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. Ultimately, girl math is supposed to be a fun way to rationalize spending or saving money on things you buy or don’t buy using mental accounting.

Although it may seem like it’s about making good vs bad financial decisions, remember what matters most is finding joy in spending money on these things. And hopefully, you get a good chuckle from your lesson on girl math.

It’s important to find the right balance between spending for today and saving for tomorrow. If you’ve experienced financial loss and need assistance in managing your debt, we have experienced Credit Counsellors here to help you. Contact us today.

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