A recent trend has taken over TikTok called “Girl Math” that has been all over my “for you page”. It has amassed millions of views from people all over the world, including a few in the Meridian office, and even has it’s own theme song.
Girl math is essentially a type mental accounting in that you justify certain spending.
Examples of Girl Math include:
- If you pay in cash for something, it is “free” as the money is no longer (or never was) in your bank account. Think monopoly money.
- Using a gift card to purchase something, whether or not you bought the gift card, your purchase is “free.”
- “If I am looking at buying something for $60 online and shipping is $20, but I get free shipping if I spend $100, then I am definitely spending $100 – and in my head, I saved $20 on shipping, because even though I spent an extra $40 to get to $100, I got a tangible product for that, whereas to me shipping is intangible and I get nothing from it.”
- Loading your Starbucks or Chick-fil-A app up with money so when you use the app it’s “free” coffee or nuggets.
- The balance in your Venmo account and paying someone using that balance, is “free”.
- Using rewards from a credit card is “free”.
- If you save more money than you spent on a item due to it being on sale, it’s “free”.
I’ve been guilty of just about all of these examples.
While it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in this logic, it’s not really all that logical when you break it down. There’s no such thing as “free” money (other than your employer match in your 401k). Brad Olsen, principal economist at Infometrics “I understand why there’s a need to justify spending in this economy.”
Mental accounting can distort our perceptions of money and lead us to spend based on intuition, rather than reason. Luckily, by making a concerted effort to break these bad financial habits, it is possible to prevent yourself from making these mistakes. The best thing you can do to avoid mental accounting is to be deliberate with your money: think critically about your spending habits including the whole picture with your long term goals in mind, and honestly ask yourself if there is any room for improvement.
Using a tool like Mint.com will clearly show you exactly where your funds are going every month. With Mint you can set realistic goals and budget to live within your means. And don’t forget to “pay yourself first” by putting money into savings after paying your bills so you can buy the nice dress, vacation, or new tires (boring)! without relying on credit cards or “free money”.
Not to throw ladies under the bus on this one, men are equally as guilty: the amount of money spent of golf balls that are forever lost on the course is astronomical.