How I spend my money in tough times is - or should be - a reflection of what I value. While I want to cut the unnecessary, it is easy to cut important things in the interest of reducing expenses. If you're looking to reduce your household spend by x dollars, it is simpler to look for a single item of the same amount, rather than reflect on what is important to you. It seems less painful in that moment to cut one thing, rather than reduce several.
It's easy to class anything that doesn't keep a roof over our head as an "extra". It is easy to class anything we do for ourself - rather than for our kids, parents or partner - as expendable.
I know parents who deprive themselves of realising their dreams, to keep their children in the teen trend rat race.
I know people who cut the big ticket items, but indulge - maybe overindulge - in little 'treats' to keep themselves going: treats that probably add up to more than a couple of big treats taken over the course of a year. "It's only $20," is an easy lie we tell ourselves. Ten or twenty onlys later, we can find ourselves with a case of financial indigestion.
I know people who panic (or indulge their inner skinflint) using the current downturn as an excuse to squeeze the last drop out of the family budget.
This isn't to minimise those who are feeling real pain. If someone in the family has been let go, then drastic action is called for, and some essentials may have to go, as well as any extras. The mortgage will, of course, come first. For most of us, that isn't the situation - yet.
It isn't the right social climate to brag about one's latest frivolous purchase, that is for sure. There isn't one right or a wrong answer to "what gets cut". There is only what feels right to each of us. I did find it useful to ask myself, "who do I want to be? what do I want more of in my life? what do I want less of? what gives me real and lasting satisfaction?".
I've realised that learning new things - which includes music - keeps me happy and healthy. So education expenses are the last things to be cut at my house.
I can do without so many little treats: cake at cafés, icecreams, eyeshadows, dvds, etc. I can eat more salad at home this summer. (I can't possibly reduce my coffee intake, some things are just necessities.)
So before you, or someone you know, decides that music lessons are an "extra", ask yourself where music sits in your life. It's about the value of what we are paying for, not just the price.