FARMINGTON HILLS (WWJ) –  Are you tight on money? Don’t let Christmas make your problems worse.

The 2012 holiday shopping season is under way and non-profit credit counseling group GreenPath Debt Solutions wants to remind shoppers and budget-minded consumers that it’s never too late to start planning for an affordable holiday season and welcome 2013 debt-free.

“Now is the time to get together with family and friends and discuss a game plan for the rest of the holidays,” said Mark Munzenberger, GreenPath’s director of education. “Whether it is gift giving or meal planning, it’s important to have a plan and set limits when it comes to holiday spending.”

In honor of the season, GreenPath financial counselors have put together a five-step plan to help keep your finances in check this holiday season.

  1. THE TALK: Dial down the holidays. Consider asking family and friends to downsize the holidays to something less commercial, with fewer purchased gifts, more valuable time spent together and a “less is more” sentiment. You’ll be well on your way to a very meaningful holiday that doesn’t evolve into overwhelming financial stress in early 2013.
  2. THE LIMIT: Start saving and budgeting now. Set a specific and reasonable amount for each person on your “must-buy-for” list. Before you start socking the money away, make certain the amount won’t impact your ability to manage your existing monthly expenses.
  3. THE GIFT: Consider making your own. Gifts made from inexpensive materials can go a long way in showing someone you care because people do understand the value of your time. It can be extremely meaningful to your relationship and to the holiday, not to mention light on the pocketbook.
  4. THE PLAN: Don’t end up shopping at the gas station. As the old holiday joke goes, wait until the last minute and you’ll be shopping at the 24-hour GasMart. Have a plan and stick to it. Plan your shopping early on. If you wait until the last minute, you may end up spending more just to get the shopping done quickly.
  5. THE WRAP: Save on wrapping. Inexpensive wrapping paper (even a brown paper bag or color Sunday comics), combined with a nice bow or a well-placed flower, pine cone or holiday ornament, works wonders for adding significance to an inexpensive gift. If you don’t have a talent for wrapping, find someone who does and ask for their help.