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Girl Math: Decoding the social media trend

Written by:
Staff Writer

Girl math is a new social media trend. Many trends and challenges have taken off in the past, such as the ice bucket challenge. This involved participants willingly pouring ice water on their heads in this chilling challenge to boost ALS awareness. According to ALS Societies across Canada, at the height of its popularity in 2014, the ice bucket challenge raised over 16 million dollars in Canada. 

What sets girl math apart from other challenges and trends on social media is its focus on finances and its targeting of a specific group of people, namely, young women.

We will delve into the concept of girl math and hear the perspectives of both its supporters and critics. However, we first need to explain the subject matter.

What exactly is girl math?

Girl math is a financial trend that some women use to justify their spending habits. This social media trend rose to popularity in because of a radio segment on FVHZM radio in New Zealand. New Zealand residents would call in and discuss one of their purchases. The co-hosts of the show would try to justify their spending.

TikTok has been great at promoting girl math to the rest of the world. The trend became widely popular because of the numerous TikTok videos that were popping up about this topic.

According to the girl math logic:

  • Buying more items to get free shipping is a wise choice.
  • Anything costing less than $5 is free because it’s a small amount.
  • If you purchase something for $100, and use it daily, after 100 days, it’s inexpensive because it equates to only a dollar per day for its usage.

The benefits of girl math

Girl math can be beneficial. Many women find this financial concept interesting because it may help them think about budgeting, tracking their expenses, and analyzing their overall financial health.

This social media phenomenon might make some women think about their finances but also encourage them to improve their financial literacy. According to Cision, less than 44% of women said their families taught them about budgeting and financial planning to support their financial education. Additionally, only 62% of Gen Z women (Age 18 to 24) reported receiving financial literacy education. 

Cision’s findings also reveal that 60% of women experience higher financial stress, in contrast to 49% of men.

We can alleviate financial stress among women by continuing to help increase financial literacy rates in Canada. Perhaps girl math is just the thing to really get the ball rolling. Its innate ability to spark a conversation about finances may get more women talking and curious about how to improve their financial literacy skills.

An added advantage of girl math is that, while constant overspending can be cause for concern, having a lighthearted way to stop feeling unwarranted amounts of guilt and shame from the occasional overspend is beneficial to our mental health.

The problems with girl math

Girl math has its drawbacks. One pitfall of girl math is that it may be seen as derogatory to women. Although some Canadians see it as silly fun (as it’s intended), it might make some people believe women view mathematics differently than men, which isn’t true. It can also make some believe that women are not truly interested in expanding their financial literacy skills.

Another drawback to girl math is that it mostly focuses on spending money. In fact, some retail stores are now using girl math to promote their products in their advertisements to get more customers. This only further promotes consumerism.

The instant gratification that comes from spending money creates the illusion that buying frivolous items can bring satisfaction in the long run. However, in reality, consumerism can cause financial stress. This stress can lead to depression, problems with self-esteem, and the continuation of debt.

Gender stereotype of girl math

Girl math critics believe this social media trend reinforces the stereotype that women are prone to impulsive spending. This assumption comes from a long time ago when women didn’t have the opportunity to manage their finances or even learn how.

Even though many realize things have changed, there are still concerning stereotypes when it comes to women.

According to a 2021 study, it was discovered that 19% of Canadians agreed to the stereotype that women don’t rise in their careers because they aren’t willing to make larger sacrifices than their male counterparts, which has no basis in reality.

Stereotypes about women have persisted throughout history. Those who believe these stereotypes may not see girl math as the fun that it is intended to be. This misguided perception may perpetuate these stereotypes and undermine the reputation and positive image that women have worked hard to build for decades.

What are the alternatives to girl math?

Many excellent alternatives to girl math exist that may be a better fit for young women. Below are a couple of fun money-saving challenges

52-week challenge

The web has a vast database of fun money-saving challenges. One of them is the 52-week challenge. It is typically used for saving up for a specific goal, such as saving up for a vacation, renting a new apartment, or moving to a new city.

Participants of a 52-week challenge put 1 dollar into their savings account in the first week. The second week, they put in 2 dollars. In the third week, it’s 3 dollars. This continues each week until they reach 52 weeks. At the end of the 52 weeks, participants have saved about $1,378.

What makes the 52-week challenge so popular and fun is its benefits. Here are the benefits of the challenge:

  • It feels less intimidating starting with a small, manageable amount of money.
  • It helps you determine your spending habits and discover ways to save money each week.
  • The challenge can help you move forward with bigger financial goals, such as owning a home, planning for retirement, or developing an emergency fund.
  • It can offer you a new way to save money that is both systematic and enjoyable.

No-spend challenge

Another enjoyable challenge to undertake is the no-spend challenge.

In this TikTok challenge, participants motivate themselves to only spend money on essential items during a certain time frame. The duration varies between a week and a year.

There are plenty of wonderful benefits to this challenge, such as:

  • You’ll save money: By spending money only on essential items, you will save more money to achieve your larger financial goals.
  • Improve your emotional awareness: The no-spend challenge will help you determine the emotional triggers that get you to spend money. For example, you may be tempted to spend because you feel anxious, lonely, or depressed.
  • Reduce waste: Since you will spend your money only on essential items such as bills and groceries, this means that your home will not be cluttered with unwanted items.
  • More appreciation: The no-spend challenge will help you appreciate the things that you already have. You will be able to review all the items that you have acquired with your hard work and determination and be grateful that you have those items.
  • Creativity: The need to figure out how to use what you have in order to avoid spending will get your creative juices flowing.

Tips on how to spend money wisely

Although some people see girl math as a discussion on how to spend money wisely, there are more effective and timeless ways to do that. Below are 3 of the most effective money-spending tips that will improve your financial health:

Give priority to your needs instead of wants

It’s easy to spend money on things you enjoy, like dining out, going to the movies, or taking vacations. However, it’s more important to prioritize paying for your needs. By focusing on your needs first, you’ll have more money to put towards financial goals like getting out of debt faster or saving an emergency fund. This will improve your financial health and increase your overall financial security.

Make use of your credit card, but pay it off each month

Using your credit card is a great way to boost your credit score and earn reward points. These reward points can help you save money at the movie theatre, gas station, or even your local grocery store.

Using your credit card can be highly beneficial. However, it is crucial to pay it off each month and not miss payments. Missing credit card payments can lower your credit score, leading to higher interest rates and penalty fees.

Postpone spending

Let’s face it spending money can make you feel good. When you spend money, your brain releases a chemical compound called dopamine that will make you feel elated.

Although you will feel good in the short term, in the long run, you might end up with buyer’s remorse. This feeling of guilt often happens by watching your debt rise and knowing you could have done something about it.

One of the best ways to stop buyer’s remorse is to delay spending. By delaying spending, you will find out if you are buying a product to make you feel good right now, or if you seriously think the product will add to your overall happiness.

Final Thoughts

To some, girl math is seen as just a fun challenge. It might benefit some young women because it can help them make mindful purchases and think about how they are spending their money. 

Even though girl math is seen as mostly harmless fun among its supporters, critics say that the financial concept may have some negative effects. It could reinforce gender stereotypes and discourage women from exploring other choices like tips on spending money wisely and fun money challenges.

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