In the summer of 2023, a new trend emerged on TikTok under the hashtag #Girl Math. Girl Math is not about math, but about bogus calculations that rationalize harmful behaviors and serve as justification. In the process, the tendency to overspend is glossed over and downplayed. People prone to impulse buying feel validated by this trend. What’s dangerous about Girl Math is the fact that young people in particular get the wrong idea about how to handle money.
Especially in the age group between 14 and 20, Girl Math can be dangerous, as this group of people often has no income of its own or has few financial resources. Careless handling of money can quickly accumulate a mountain of debt. Not only is whitewashing counterproductive, it is also harmful because debt accumulated at a young age is difficult to reduce.
What is „Girl Math“? Meaning, explanation, definition
Videos posted under the hashtag Girl Math sometimes feature a bit of irony, but it’s rarely obvious. In fact, they serve as a justification to buy something again despite being „tight on cash“ because you haven’t indulged yourself in a while. This is accompanied by a promise to oneself to do without in the future. There is certainly nothing wrong with occasional spontaneous purchases, but here the aim is to declare a wasteful tendency to be normal. To do this, the women apply little logical calculation methods.
A justification calculation style of Girl Math looks like this, for example: If one has spent €800 on a luxury object like a designer handbag, that’s only €40 per year invested over the course of 20 years. The expenditure is therefore put into perspective. This calculation seems plausible at first glance, but it is unrealistic. It tempts people to make more impulse purchases, because the bottom line is that spending more money than is available has no unpleasant effects. The bill rationalizes an impulsive behavior that contradicts the sensible use of money.
The 2022 Youth in Germany study indicates that Generation Z in particular is prone to debt. The TikTok trend Girl Math gives the impression that getting into debt is cool. The opposite is true. Especially at the beginning of vocational training or studies, it is important to realistically assess one’s financial possibilities. But when important financial topics are trivialized, it encourages young people to make rash purchases and then gloss over them. The likelihood of losing touch with money is high, and the debt trap is pre-programmed.
Girl Math discriminates against women
The Girl Math trend is problematic for yet another reason: it serves age-old clichés according to which women are not good with money because of their gender and tend to make impulse purchases. In contrast, women who are very good at math and successful in financial professions are discredited by the term alone. In the 21st century, it is hard to understand why women have to justify their spending. They should be able to spend money they have earned themselves as they see fit (if they do not harm themselves or others by doing so).
Psychology: Why is the trend so popular?
The trend sends messages that confirm one’s desires and needs (in this case, for purchases). Subliminally, it conveys that we are allowed to reward ourselves at any time. „Real“ life usually looks different, where doing without is often a necessary and usually the more sensible option. The desire for a reality beyond restrictive financial obligations is human and is massively supported by the Girl Math trend. Especially in today’s world, we have the opportunity to satisfy our needs immediately. Through clever advertising, we are manipulated into believing that we only belong to a social group and are cool with a certain product.
Is there a positive side to Girl Math?
The temptation to buy is lurking everywhere and it’s hard to resist. This makes it all the more important to teach young people the right way to handle money as early as possible. For years, numerous scientists have been calling for financial topics to be dealt with more intensively in schools, because far too little is said about them in parents‘ homes. The Girl Math trend may well stimulate discussion about money and thus be a way to make better financial decisions. It is also possible that it can reduce feelings of guilt about one’s own consumer behavior.