How can we get out of the red and into the black? By thinking green.

The fact is, getting into debt is all about the misuse of resources. Start applying the 3Rs to your finances – reduce, reuse, recycle – and you’ll discover that things that are good for the environment are also good for your bank account.

Reducing costs and waste often begins in the same place: the fast food joint. For example, a grande cafe mocha from Starbucks with whipping cream rings in at over $4 a cup. Three times a week, that’s $624 per year. By contrast, filtered coffee comes in at about 25 cents a cup, when home brewed and poured from a stylish stainless steel thermos into your own mug.

Need to reduce the grocery bill? Think green again. Buy bulk foods. Go vegetarian once a week. Eliminate packaged and processed foods. Cook big meals from scratch and freeze the leftovers into lunches and dinners.

Reducing energy consumption saves money too, so turn off lights, hang-dry clothes, shut off the computer, and wear sweaters instead of turning up the heat. Limit car use by walking, cycling, carpooling, or using transit whenever possible. When you do need to drive, do you have a car with better fuel economy than that big gas-guzzling truck? You could save anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars every year on fuel by using a more fuel efficient vehicle for commuting.

Architects have termed the trend to smaller homes “eco-density” but it’s another green philosophy that benefits the debt-burdened. Shrink your home and you’ll find all your other costs decline, including the mortgage, heating, insurance, maintenance, gardening, and decorating. A related benefit is that small space living reduces the amount of stuff you can acquire, and all the associated costs of storing and caring for it.

The challenge of reusing or recycling everything you need is easier to meet thanks to the many consignment stores (clothes, sporting equipment, furniture) and online markets like Craigslist and eBay. Secondhand stores buy books, DVDs, and CDs, as well as selling them at a fraction of the cost new.

Finally, discover the debtor’s best friend: a spending plan, otherwise known as a budget. Just like the earth’s resources, yours are limited so you need to plan how to use them effectively.

Planning and Advice Taming Debt