'We could do Girl Math, or maybe we could stop buying so much s**t.'

This week on Mamamia Out Loud, the always-curious, always-informative Clare Stephens introduced Mia Freedman and myself to the concept of 'girl math' i.e. the wild logic that we all use when justifying purchases.

Spending an extra $40 to get to $100 in online shopping so you don't have to spend $20 on shipping? That's girl math. 

Paying for Ubers because it either saves you money on owning a car (or prevents you from getting a parking ticket if you do)? Girl math.

Clare buying a $500 dress for her wedding reception and reasoning that, because she sold it for $400, it was actually a $100 dress and then by dividing that $100 by the number of photos she got in it (averaging around $1 per photo) it was actually "dangerously close to free"? You bet your ass that's girl math. 

I adore this concept; I think it taps deep into the female psyche and the beautiful kinship we share over terrible decision-making.

I love the idea of your average economist listening to any of this and falling into a dark pit of despair from which they may never emerge.

Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud team talk the basics fo Girl Math. Article continues after podcast. 

However... I also have to be something of a wet blanket and say that in having this conversation, there is an alarm going off in the back of my head and it's begging me: "Please stop buying as much s**t."

Now, I don't think that extreme consumerism is the fault of girl math. But I do think it's worth inspecting why this conversation feels so satisfying and why so many women (myself included) are immediately jumping on board.


I think the reason that girl math feels so good is because it contains the collective understanding that we're all buying too much s**t that we really don't need and somewhere deep down, we all feel bad about it.

Girl math is pure catharsis. 

I've been reflecting a lot on how much I buy recently. Mostly because I'm moving apartments at the moment from a two-bedroom flat to a one-bedroom place and nothing shines a light on your crappy shopping habits more than when you have to downsize significantly.

An abject lack of cupboard space has exposed me in a way I never thought possible.

The flat that I'm moving out of was the flat where we spent the majority of COVID lockdowns and I'm now confronted by the mountains of stuff that I ordered into my house at that time just to make myself feel better. Bizarrely expensive hair clips, skincare routines I never committed to, many, many pairs of basketball shoes for some reason.

Watch Clare Stephens review family-friendly fashion below. Article continues after video.

Video via Mamamia

All of it is trash that has really only served the purpose of attracting small mountains of dust in my cupboards.

The most confronting by far is the amount of clothes that I've accumulated over the past three years. An Everest of cotton, linen and polyester that I scarcely touch.

I think I came to believe (for some reason) that I could create an extensive, Kardashian-like curated wardrobe in my rental home and in doing so, my life would suddenly come together and I would look absolutely incredible every day. I may have somewhat ignored the fact that I actually don't really give a f**k what I look like most of the time and I essentially wear the same four outfits for the majority of my life.

Loading four Ikea bags overflowing with clothes that I was sending to storage into the back of my car filled me with burning shame. I knew I wouldn't even notice that those pieces were gone, and it made me reflect seriously on how I ended up in this place.

Maybe, just maybe, spending hundreds of dollars on things I never wear is both terrible for my bank account and for the environment. 

Maybe I have to think more critically about the way I'm influenced into spending money by hot people on social media.

Maybe I can't spend so much time banging on about climate change if I insist on participating in the system that dredges crude oil out of the ground, turns it into polyester and sells it to me in the form of a dress because it is cute and I am bored.


Every 10 minutes, Australians are throwing out 6,000kg of clothes and we have no effective systems set up to deal with this waste. 

Every year, we each buy 15kg of clothes on average and most of that will end up in landfill.

A huge 83% of women have an item of clothing in their wardrobe they've only worn once or twice.

Girl math is so fun and ridiculous, but I think we have to try to be conscious of how we're using it. Using it to justify wasteful purchases in retrospect is probably not the best.

But there are ways we can also wield it for the greater good.

The fact that girl math asks of us, "Why do you need this? How long will you use it for? How many times will you use it? Can you resell it? Can you rent it out?" could force us all to seriously reassess how we're buying things and our responsibility for those items once we bring them home.

Asking if a $400 pair of shoes is worth it before we splash out could be really helpful – assuming that it saves you from buying four worse-quality pairs of $100 shoes in the long-term, the answer should probably be yes.

Girl math is a very fun, very powerful tool. I think I'd just prefer if we were using it for good, rather than accidentally filling our closets with steaming-hot junk we will never, ever wear. 

Elfy Scott is an executive editor at Mamamia. 

Image: Supplied + Canva.

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