In these lean and mean times, wouldn’t everyone like to have an extra R2 000 to spend over the festive period?

Imagine the extra gifts that could be splurged on for loved ones. Or the thrill of greeting the new year with no credit card overdraft.

Surprisingly, with a little discipline, creativity and effort, it is not that hard to do.

Here are a few interesting and effective ways to cut costs quickly and easily in the lead up to Christmas:

Buy meat in bulk

Tis the season of braais and roasts, but with meat costs sky-high, this can be an exorbitant cost. Buying meat in bulk from a butcher is an effective money-saving measure. For example, instead of buying lamb chops at R89 a kg, you could make the savvy choice of buying half a lamb at R55/kg and getting the butcher to chop it into portions. This can also be a more versatile option, because the butcher can portion the meat into chops, a shoulder for roast lamb, and mince. For 10 kg of meat for the festive season, this would work out to a saving of R340. Approximate saving: R340.

Pack your own lunch and drink work coffee:

Pack your own lunch and make use of the free instant coffee if you have it available at work. On average, if you spend R35 a day on lunch and about R15 a day on coffee, you will be spending R1 000 in a 20-working-day month on lunch.

So, assuming there are around 15 working days left until Christmas, there is another solid saving suggestion right there. Approximate saving: R750.

Cut out a tank of fuel:

Simple things such as avoiding quick acceleration and sharp braking can significantly cut down a petrol bill. Slow down – it is not necessary to crawl at a snail’s pace, but no one has to drive at breakneck speed either. And think before you jump in the car: walk if you can and enjoy spending time at home. The holidays are around the corner so a little bit of time spent lying low won’t hurt.

A full tank of petrol for a small car will cost about R500, so if you’ve got a small car and cut down on trips over the next month, you could ostensibly save R500. Approximate saving: R500.

Lobby your family and friends to do a Secret Santa this year:

Families can make a collective effort to save money by taking a “secret Santa” approach to gift giving. Here’s how: put all the family member’s names into a hat and have a draw. Each person has to buy a gift just for the person whose name they drew. And they keep the name secret, so that part of the fun on Christmas Day is guessing who bought the gifts.

The stress of choosing gifts is reduced and, in a family of six, instead of spending R500 at R100 a gift, you could easily save R400. Approximate saving: R400.

Wash your own car:

A decent car wash could easily cost you about R80. If you wash your car twice a month at a cost of R80 each time, washing your car at home will save you R160. Approximate saving: R160.

Use loyalty programmes effectively:

Sign up for loyalty programmes at the retailers you use regularly (Clicks, Dischem, Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books) and learn the intricacies of how to realise real savings at these stores. While these savings are hard to quantify, in the run up to the festive season, you could conservatively save up to R150. Approximately saving: R150.

* Van Heerde is head of advice processes and tools at Sanlam Personal Finance