Some people say that the “American Dream” is dead. I am here to let you know that it is absolutely NOT. If you take some simple steps to avoid detrimental costs, the sky is the limit! There is a myth in the financial world that borrowing money will lead you to wealth; this is inaccurate. Interest payments are the single most detrimental cost that prevents people from building wealth. Some financial gurus like Dave Ramsey advocate that you cut up all of your credit cards and never borrow money for anything; I am not that extreme, but I do agree with them to a point.

Your FICO score can be very important, so I will never recommend that you cut up all of your credit cards, but you have to have the self control to not pay interest on them. Don’t charge anything that you can’t pay off that month. You should also be very aware of all of your due dates so you aren’t getting hit with penalty fees (another cost you should always avoid).

The same is true with 0% interest credit cards for a certain period – these are designed with the idea that you will rack up as much money as you can on them and probably not pay them off before the grace period runs out, at which point you get to pay back interest on all of the purchases. Don’t fall for that. If you want to use a 0% APR card for a balance transfer, that’s great. Just make sure you pay it off before the grace period ends. Red light cameras are extremely profitable for cities.

Feel how you may about them, but $75 a pop isn’t fun for anyone. When you see a yellow light, do yourself a favor and stop! There’s an argument online that you can dispute these tickets because they can’t prove who was driving the car, but is it really worth it? Plan ahead, give yourself a little extra time and don’t be in such a hurry! Not only will it save you money, it will save you the stress of always rushing around and reduce the risk of being in an accident. If you decide to ignore the extreme financial advice and choose to borrow money, make sure that your loan is fixed rate with no prepayment penalty. Remember 2008? People with great intentions got trapped in a quagmire of variable interest rates and loans with more penalties than your local hockey game.

Always make sure that you carefully read any contract that you sign; you never know what kind of hidden fees are in there if you don’t look. Financial freedom and the American Dream are not out of reach. We just have to make smart choices with our money and avoid paying fees that help other people win at the cost of our success.

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