Valid Budgeting Technique or Dangerous TikTok Trend?

If I pay it in cash, it’s free.

every “girl math” video on TikTok and YouTube.

“Girl Math” started as a viral trend on TikTok and gained popularity as women (and men) shared how they rationalize their spending habits. Many videos are just for laughs, but the ideas they present can have a significant impact on your finances, good or bad.

So let’s take a look at what girl math is and when you should and shouldn’t use it.

What is Girls Math?

The term “girl math” is often used for any technique used to rationalize or defend purchases. This can include large, expensive purchases as well as smaller ones. The term has no fixed definition and evolves as it is used.

While “girl math” is often used to justify unnecessary purchases, there are elements of legitimacy budgeting and spending strategies within the method.

The most consistent theme of Girls’ Math is the attempt to define purchases as free.

Here is a list of ways purchases are rationalized as free:

  • Payment in cash
  • Payment with gift cards
  • Paying with pre-installed money apps (i.e. Venmo, Paypal balance, etc.)
  • Paying with a pre-installed rewards app (i.e. Starbucks Rewards app)
  • Buying deeply discounted products
  • Purchases under $5 or $10
  • Purchases made from funds obtained by returning previous purchases
  • Purchases paid for months ago (ie tickets to events, flights, etc.)

“Free” shopping isn’t the only element. Here are other spending/savings ideas commonly featured in girls math videos:

  • Only the price per use is important
  • Discount purchases earn you money
  • Not taking advantage of discounts or BOGOs (Buy One, Get One) is a waste of money
  • Not buying something makes you money
  • Only wins count
  • Returning items earns you money
  • Average spend is more important than total spend
  • Round your purchases down

While some videos present additional or different ideas, the above ideas/feelings are the most common.

The Girl Math app

Let’s look at an example to understand what girls’ math looks like in the real world.

Expenses for one day💵
Fill the tank 40 dollars
Have a coffee 8 dollars
Lunch with coworkers 15 dollars
Snack from the vending machine $2.75
New outfit 120 dollars
Concert 80 dollars
Total $265.75

Now let’s apply the ideas of girl math to today’s expenses.

Expenses for one day 💵
Fill the tank purchased with a gift card free, release
Have a coffee purchased using the Starbucks Rewards app free, release
Lunch with coworkers paid with your Venmo balance free, release
Snack from the vending machine under $5 free, release
New outfit
– upper Returned for a different size free, release
– Bottom parts 50% discount, original price CZK 60 He earned $30
– Footwear Estimated use once a week $1.15 per use
Concert Paid 4 months ago free, release
Total + $28.85

The result is not just less money spent, but a real “profit” of $28. Yes, this scenario is a little extreme, but it accurately illustrates the perception of how spending is perceived when using girl math.

What are the dangers of girls’ math?

The biggest danger of girl math is the disconnect with how much money you actually spend.

Buying coffee for $4.50 a day for a year is $1,642.50 – so definitely not free.

A girl’s math mindset can make coming up with any realistic budget and sticking to it challenging. How do you track your spending if you consider everything free?

Another big problem is the inherent danger of losing usage costs. This is especially true for expensive purchases.

Let’s say you’ve budgeted $300 for a new item (purse, phone, coffee table, etc.), but the item you want costs $800. So you justify the purchase with girly math.

$800 divided by 365 days is $2/day.

While $2/day sounds great – you just spent $500 more than you planned.

When should you use girl math?

While girl math may not be the best choice for everyday spending, there are situations where it has its advantages.

Discretionary spending would be the main one. Using girl math for shopping is fine if you already have X amount of money in your budget for discretionary spending.

Let’s say a pair of pants costs $30 and there is a buy 2 get 1 free sale.

  • If you buy one pair of pants, you will pay $30/pair of pants.
  • If you get 3 pairs of pants, you will pay $20/pair of pants.

This girly math buy makes sense if you have at least $60 in your clothing budget.

Using gift cards or returning items for purchases can also be a valid way to stretch your budget. These purchases are truly free, especially if you received an original item or gift card.

Another valid idea of ​​girls math is cost per use ideabut only when comparison shopping.

Let’s say you have $100 to spend and your options are a mani-pedi, new shoes, or dinner with friends.

  • Dinner – takes several hours
  • Mani-pedi – lasts for several weeks
  • Shoes – last a year+

Looking at shopping this way shows that buying a mani-pedi or a new pair of shoes has more value (at least financially) than dinner with friends.

Cost per use can also be a good way to compare different price points. For example, you can buy a $20 pair of jeans that will wear out in a few months and need to be replaced, or you can splurge on a well-made $50 pair of jeans that will last you several years.

“Girl math” is often light-hearted and may just be a way of joking about spending. If you’re sticking to a budget and not racking up debt, a little girly math won’t hurt and could help. If those “girl math” hashtags are covering serious overspending and a growing pile of debt, the joke isn’t funny anymore. It’s time to make changes or even seek help.

Alternatives to Girls’ Math

If the girly math way of looking at your finances isn’t working for you, there are plenty of other budgeting methods you can try.

Envelope system

The envelope system consists of creating specific budget categories and allocating cash in envelopes for each category. This method has recently seen an increase in popularity and has been renamed to cash stuffing.

The envelope system has several similarities to girls’ math. Pre-installed rewards accounts are basically a kind of digital discretionary spending envelope. This makes this budgeting method an easy-to-use alternative to girl math.


For those looking for a simpler budgeting method that provides overall guidance, 50/30/20 method may be a good choice.

This method breaks down your budget into

  • 50% essentials
  • 30% discretionary
  • 20% Savings/Debt Payoff

Using this method, you can still apply girly math principles to your 30% discretionary spending while still making sure your necessities like rent and utilities are paid for.

Zero-Based Budgeting

This method of budgeting is the opposite of the idea that shopping is free. This budgeting method helps you allocate every dollar you earn. The goal is basically to end up with $0 unaccounted for each month.

If you’ve previously gotten carried away with your spending or lost track of where your money is going each month, this method can help you get back on track.

DIY budget

When you’re looking for new budgeting ideas, you don’t necessarily have to choose a method right away. Instead, start tracking your spending now, identify your spending categories, and decide where you want to be.

You can then choose a budget method that works for you. To get a better idea of ​​how to get started, check out our article on basics of budgeting.

🤔 More information: Understand the impact of structured finance with our post that covers the core the benefits of budgeting.

A gender issue

This article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the elephant in the room: the idea that the term “girl math” promotes the perception of women as bad with money.

They are actually women No inherently worse in finance. Women beat their male counterparts in many ways.

for example credit score between men and women are almost identical. Men tend to wear greater debts than women. In addition, women are more likely use debit cards rather than credit cards and stick to budgets better compared to their male counterparts.

The point is that the rationale for girls’ math is not exclusive to girls/women. Many boys and men use the same ideas to rationalize their purchases.

IE, spending money on a golf course membership by advocating how often you’ll use it, or telling a significant other that an item is only $100 when it’s really $130 (or much more).

Girls math videos on TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, etc. are No they are not to be taken as an attack on gender differences, nor are they intended to provide actual financial advice. These videos are just for light entertainment.

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