For years, I’ve been plagued with poor financial decision-making mistakes. Credit cards and loans have been the bane of my existence, along with shady banks trying to squeeze out every penny from my account. Even with a full-time job that offers benefits and part-time gigs, I still struggle to make ends meet and live paycheck-to-paycheck. At some point, I have to ask myself: Is it just me or the economy?
Workers have been going on strike for better wages and working conditions all year long. The rent keeps going up. More adults are moving back in with their families or living with roommates to save money. Price hikes on products and stagnant compensation rates mean no one can afford to eat. You can’t even read the news without paying a subscription. At this point, getting a $6 latte at Starbucks isn’t what’s breaking the bank — it’s our entire monetary system.
Thankfully, there’s girl math.
What is “girl math”?
I follow Vials — a musician and long nail aficionado — on social media and have seen her recent videos on girl math go viral. She explains how you can justify the purchase of any product based on the amount of times you use it (such as clothing or a purse), how much of an investment it would be (such as for a new computer), and the estimated return you’ll make over time (based on how much you may end up paying without said product or service).
While this is not advice you’d find in most financial journals, it highlights how spending money on things usually considered to be “luxuries” can be worth it. Some people struggle with guilt over the things they purchase that isn’t gas, groceries (only the “essentials”), and bills. This is partly due to all those “stop buying coffee and eating avocado toast every day” articles that shamed us for getting a dose of caffeine and a little treat to deal with each day.
It’s also generational. My parents and older relatives were raised in a very different economy, with opportunities and interest rates that my generation has not been offered. Instead, we were told to go to college in order to get a good enough job to buy the kind of house we grew up in — only to end up in debt living in overpriced apartments and working for minimum wage outside of our field. According to my girl math, this isn’t adding up.
How to use girl math for your financial gain
So, how do we use girl math to save money? The methods used in calculating whether a designer handbag is worth the price tag can be applied to other purchases, such as a new car (versus paying for maintenance and repairs on a used car), a new computer for school, or other expensive items in this inflated economy, like eggs. If you’re currently contemplating a big purchase, try using girl math to add up the pros and cons.
Since going viral, girl math has been both praised and criticized. I found one article on how to use girl math without overspending, and wanted to highlight a few key points:
- Money isn’t free: even though the rules of girl math say that anything less than $5 is “basically free” doesn’t mean it actually is. You’re still spending money, so make sure you actually have enough to spend.
- Create a budget and stick to it: this is something I’ve been trying to do for a while, and it’s admittedly harder than it sounds. You can use a budget planner book or an app to keep track of expenses and categorize them to see where your money goes each month.
- Pay your bills first: rent is due the first of the month, so make sure to pay it on time or you’ll wind up with late fees (or worse, eviction). While I get a sense of enjoyment out of making all of my bills fight to get their money out of my bank account while I’m getting groceries for the month, it doesn’t change the fact that bills are, unfortunately, more important than eating.
- Auto payments: setting up autopay can not only help you stay up-to-date on your bills, but sometimes it can even save you money. Some companies reduce interest or offer incentives to set up auto bill pay, and it also saves paper, which in turn helps the environment.
- Don’t spend more than you have: this is another tough one for me. Credit cards offer the sweet lie of having more money available than you really do — but you still have to pay that back. Using credit cards with a cash back incentive or no interest can be good for you as long as you use them responsibly.
Of course, if you’re already drowning in debt or living paycheck to paycheck, it can be hard to justify even the essential purchases. In that case, there are debt reduction companies that can help set you on the path to a healthier checkbook. Gig work is also booming, so if you have the time, look into some that fit with your lifestyle.
What are some other unconventional financial tips you’ve seen or shared? What advice would you give a young person entering the workforce and interested in moving our of their family’s home? Let me know in the comments below!