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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bowling Green chapter.

If you’ve been on TikTok recently, you’ve most likely heard about “girl math.” You may have even used it before. 

Girl math is the justification of how people, in this case, predominantly women, are spending money. Some examples of this are using gift cards and thinking anything you buy with it is free. The idea that buying and returning something is making money back. Buying concert tickets months ahead of time means that the concert is free once you get there. Loading the Starbucks app and using it to buy coffee the next day means that it is free. Spending more to get free shipping is saving money. This is just the beginning; there are so many more examples of girl math in this TikTok by @mckennaelianna that explains what she believes about money.

While shopping for my dorm this summer, I used “girl math” to validate my purchases on one of my shopping trips. My first step was to return some clothes to Old Navy. So, basically, I just got $40 for free. Next, I went to Bath and Body Works to get my hand soaps. They were 40 percent off, so obviously, I would be losing money if I didn’t buy them that day. I picked out six hand soaps and a bottle of lotion. When I got to the checkout, I remembered that I had $25 left in cash from babysitting a few nights earlier and an old gift card that had maybe $2 on it. Awesome! Now, my $27.65 purchase was only $0.65. What a deal! I paid with loose change in my bag, so once again, it was free! On my way back from this trip, I remembered I had 100 stars on my Starbucks app, so I got myself a free venti iced coffee. When I got back to my house, I told my mom that I spent $0 on my trip, since $40 went back into my account and I got what I needed and more from the store without using my debit card. 

I actually spent a bit of money on this trip. Even though I returned my clothes, I just gained back what I previously spent, so that canceled out and there was no profit, like I thought. At Bath and Body Works, I may have had that gift card, but I still spent my $25 in cash that I worked hard for. At Starbucks, I got my free coffee, but in reality, you get 1 star per dollar spent, so I had to spend a lot of money just to get those points. 

Although the process of justifying overspending is not new, the trend on TikTok with the name “girl math” is. Even though girl math seems silly and fun, there is a lot of discourse on the topic. CTV News explains in their assessment of this conversation that the term “girl math” is offensive because of the lack of financial education being gender-based and directed towards women. “Girl math” led the panelists to ask “can we just call it math?” They argued that this type of terminology reduces women to children and strengthens the stereotype that women are bad at finance and don’t have agency. 

Arianna Reardon, a writer and finance blogger for The Every Girl, writes, “Girl math suggests that the stereotypes surrounding women and finances are true even when the reality is that women are statistically better at handling money than men.”

This leaves the question of whether or not this type of spending should still be referred to as “girl math.” Is it still a lighthearted and fun TikTok trend, or is it something much more?

Carolyn Engle

Bowling Green '26

Carolyn Engle is a sophomore studying AYA Integrated Social Studies Education at BGSU. She spends her free time reading, writing, hanging out with friends, baking, and listening to music. She is a huge fan of Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, & Olivia Rodrigo!