"Girl math" is a trend on TikTok characterised by a playful and often whimsical approach to financial decisions and spending habits. It involves users, primarily women, sharing their unique and humorous rules for handling money, which are not meant to be taken seriously. These rules often contain exaggerated or illogical explanations for justifying spending choices, creating a lighthearted and entertaining perspective on personal finance. Examples of "girl math" may include humorous explanations like considering products bought with cash instead of digital money free or suggesting that using a $300 purse daily for a year is equivalent to it being almost free on a daily basis.
The deeply ingrained stereotype of women's financial incompetence has its origins in both historical and cultural contexts. Television series like "Sex and the City'' and "Confessions of a Shopaholic'' portrayed women as compulsive spenders, reinforcing these unfair stereotypes. These depictions suggested that, when given financial autonomy, women would recklessly deplete their resources without considering their financial well-being.
How is “Girl Math” used?
Let’s have a closer look at what “Girl Math” is and how it is used on TikTok to justify absolutely bizarre calculations. One such example is “if you buy a purse for $300 but use it every day, that’s less than a dollar a day.” This may strike many as bizarre because it employs a misleading and overly simplistic approach to financial reasoning. While it may attempt to make an expensive purchase seem more financially palatable by breaking down the cost into a daily metric, it disregards crucial aspects of personal finance. It fails to consider the significant upfront expense of $300, ignores the potential depreciation of the purse over time, overlooks the opportunity cost of not using that money elsewhere, and conflates a one-time purchase with daily expenses. In essence, it reduces the complexity of financial decisions to a superficial calculation, which can lead to misguided perceptions of the true financial implications of such purchases. Another such statement is “using cash is basically free.” While it's true that cash transactions don't directly deduct money from an online account, this oversimplification ignores the fact that cash is a tangible form of currency. When you make a cash purchase, you are still parting with your money; it's just in physical form.
What is “Boy Math”?
The emergence of "Girl Math" and its counterpart "Boy Math" reflects evolving gender dynamics in society. "Girl Math" initially highlighted financial prudence, though it inadvertently perpetuated stereotypes about women's spending habits. In response, "Boy Math" emerged to spotlight problematic aspects of male behaviour, drawing attention to the need for equitable conversations. While "Girl Math" may have started as a humorous take on financial choices, it has since sparked a broader discussion about the implications of gender stereotypes in personal finance. Some of the most widely recognized instances of "Boy Math" highlight situations where men engage in hypocritical behaviour, as seen in statements like "feeling concerned about gold diggers despite having only 3 pairs of socks to your name" and "criticising women for not doing the cooking or cleaning when you yourself cannot, and then labelling them as 'lazy and dirty' for refusing to do it."
If not “Girl Math”, then what?
We’re glad you asked! Efforts to save money and cut down on purchases through responsible financial planning are crucial for long-term financial stability and security. Resorting to delusional ways or dismissing cash as not "actual money" can lead to financial pitfalls, so what can you do?
Here are five practical ways to save money and cut down on unnecessary purchases without resorting to “Girl Math”:
Create a Budget
Start by establishing a monthly budget that outlines your income and expenses. This will give you a clear picture of where your money is going and allow you to allocate funds for essential needs while setting limits on discretionary spending.
Prioritise Needs Over Wants
Distinguish between needs and wants. Prioritise essential expenses such as housing, utilities, groceries, and debt payments. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if it's a genuine necessity or just a desire.
Set Savings Goals
Define specific savings goals, whether it's an emergency fund, retirement, or a vacation. Allocate a portion of your income to these goals each month to ensure you're consistently saving for the future.
Keep a record of your expenses to identify spending patterns and areas where you can cut back. Utilise budgeting apps or spreadsheets to monitor your financial transactions.
Practise Delayed Gratification
Before making non-essential purchases, implement a "cooling-off" period. Wait a day or a week to reconsider whether you truly need or want the item. Often, this delay can help you avoid impulsive spending.
By following these practical strategies, you can effectively save money, reduce unnecessary purchases, and improve your overall financial well-being without resorting to gendered delusional approaches like “Girl Math”.