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Viral internet trend ‘girl math’ is a fun take on managing your finances

But does it all add up? We find out. 

‘Girl math’ sound might sound like something mildly misogynistic, but it’s something that we as women have all done before. You would have, too. Did you ever justify an unnecessary purchase because it was discounted so you were technically saving money? That’s girl math. Did you ever get repaid for a dinner you paid with your credit card and thought of the cash as free money? Girl math right there. Have you ever put yourself on a spending freeze after buying something exorbitant and thought of the whole process as getting your money back? Girl math too.

If you’re still wondering what girl math actually is, read ahead as we break down the trend for you. 

What is ‘girl math’?

After ‘girl dinner’—where women on the internet shared their realistic dinners that ranged from instant noodles to just an apple, ‘girl math’ is the latest trend that first originated on TikTok but has now taken the entire internet by storm. In this viral trend, young women explain their spending habits that make little to no mathematical sense, in a fun, silly way. For example, if a coffee costs just 200 bucks, then it’s practically free because of how cheap it is. Or if you buy an expensive tote bag but use it multiple times, then it’s actually inexpensive. While it may look like it’s just a strategy to justify overspending, most see it as a non-serious phenomenon that brings women together where they can revel in the collective experience of treating or splurging on oneself. 

What are the principles ‘girl math’ is built on?

Proponents of girl math on the internet have listed a few tenets of the phenomenon. These include “you’re losing money if you don’t purchase something when it’s on sale”, and “you’re making money whenever you skip your daily coffee or soda run”. 

At the economic level, girl math can be broken down into three basic economic principles. The first is cost-per-wear, where the cost of an item is divided by how often it is used—the lower the cost-per-wear, the thriftier the purchase. For instance, if you splurged on a pair of designer shoes but the fact that they go with your every outfit, and knowing that they will last a lifetime because of their high quality, it becomes an inexpensive purchase. Second is the future, or prospective cost of an item. If you buy a winter coat in summer that’s heavily discounted, then you’re saving money by not waiting till winter, when it will be back on full price. Another principle is that once money is spent, it cannot be recovered. So, if you buy an item and then return it, whatever you buy with money you get back is free. 

Is ‘girl math’ problematic?

The beauty of girl math lies in the fact that most women who are talking about it are in on the joke. While it may seem to perpetrate and reiterate the idea that women are not good at finances, this trend is deliberately silly and satirical. But of course, if someone comes across these videos without context, they can reinforce misogynistic stereotypes. In an age where the concept of instant gratification, or “buy now, pay later” is increasing, girl math can also inadvertently promote long-term debt in favour of short-term satisfaction. And while you should not beat yourself up for small purchases, know that these can add up, so it’s important to have a plan or budget when it comes to the bigger things.