Avoid Hitting the Rocks of Financial Ruin

by Adam on April 27, 2011

You’ve got to know yourself if you are to make progress in life. You’ve got to know what helps you, and what stops you from achieving the goals you set for yourself.

I believe the difference between high achievers and those who have little to show for their years on the planet is remarkably little. We all can be lazy, and be influenced by temptation. But those who end up meeting their goals simply have a better understanding of themselves and ‘trick’ themselves into getting things done.

Controlling Yourself –Lessons from Ancient Greece

One of the most famous ‘tricks’ that someone played on themselves is in Homer’s Odyssey, an ancient Greek story of Odysseus and his journey across the known world.

As part of the treacherous voyage, Circe warns Odysseus that he must pass the Siren’s island –an island of temptresses who’s singing lures all sailors to their deaths. Odysseus knew that his willpower and resolve would not be any different to all the other sailors before him, and that he must do something to protect himself from short-term temptation (the sirens) for his own long-term best interest (not dying!!)

His solution was to have himself tied to the ship’s mast whilst the other sailors plugged their ears with wax so they could not hear the sirens’ songs. Predictably when Odysseus heard the sirens song he was seduced and ordered his men to turn towards to rocks. But due to his foresight to plug his men’s ears with wax, they could not hear him and being tied to the mast himself meant he could not move. He therefore made it safely through the passage and continued his onward journey.

Tie yourself up!

Odysseus recognised that his willpower was not stronger than anyone else. But he made it safely passed the Sirens because he had protected himself from making a poor short-term decision.

It’s exactly the same thing you have to do if you want to grow your pennies.

You can’t keep saving money by willpower alone. Sooner or later you’ll be tempted by the sirens songs of consumerism. Instead, tie yourself up –commit to the long term goals you want to achieve:

Window-Shop Without Your Wallet

If you enjoy shopping, it can be tempting to walk around the high-street looking for new things to buy. It can be fun but it also has disastrous consequences on your finances. I could just tell you to stop shopping but rather than simply avoiding the shops all together, why not try window-shopping without your wallet?

When Odysseus was passing the Sirens, he could have clogged his ears with wax like the other sailors but where’s the fun in that? By tying himself to the mast he could enjoy the beautiful singing of the sirens but remain protected from temptation. Similarly by window shopping without your wallet you can still enjoy looking at new things but you won’t be putting your bank account in danger. If you do find something you really want, you can use a 30 day challenge to give yourself a cooling off period, ensuring it’s something that you genuinely want, rather than an impulse decision.

Save and Invest Automatically

If Odysseus had chosen to rely on his willpower to avoid the sirens he would have failed. So what makes you any different? If you’re not a natural saver, then ‘spare money’ to go into saving is a rare sight. There’s always going to be short-term temptations that make the long term seem less important.  But if you commit yourself to your long term goals  by moving money straight into savings on pay-day, then short term temptations will not lead you off-track –because that money is already spoken for.

In the heat of the moment Odysseus was willing to give up his own life to get closer to the sirens. Likewise many of us are willing to give up huge amounts of future wealth for the lure of a shiny gadget or a luxury holiday today. By setting up automatic withdrawals to retirement, investment and savings account we can save ourselves from sacrificing our future selves –and making it automatic takes the willpower of the equation so we stay on track, effortlessly. Just make sure the ropes are tied tight and you don’t let money slip back from your savings account to your current account!


If you want to grow your pennies and achieve your financial goals then you need to recognise that it won’t always be plain sailing. There will be temptations along the way. But if you admit to yourself that you are not infallible and put systems and plans in place to protect you from yourself, then you’ll be much more likely to make it the clear waters of financial freedom.

Bon Voyage!


You may also like:

Confessions of a Procrastinator -And Why You Should Be Saving For Retirement Today

Is Delaying Spending Delaying Happiness?


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Bret @ Hope to Prosper

I used to invest automatically, to avoid using this money for bills or other wants. Now, I invest manually, because I enjoy putting the money into my investments. Either way, I pay myself first, before I pay any bills or buy anything for myself. Habit and pride have replaced will-power, during 25 years of investing.


I’ve tried both ways too, but automatic saving won out. I also do manual saving as well with things that get left over but automating it saves me from the cycles of over-spending and over-saving that I’ve seen happen. Jealous of your 25 years of investing 🙂


Loved how you pulled a financial lesson from a Greek myth! Well done.


Thank you 🙂 Had a little read of your site the other day actually. I had to laugh a little about the bee story but hope you had a good little mini vacation 🙂

mr dollar

Hi Adam,

really loved this article, i think it personofies the meat within the stake for actually trying to get people saving.

I’ve set myself a gole for the next 2 months to not pay ANY bills, and to let the utility companies come begging … this way i can save interest on any unpaid bills and STILL pay them before they cut me off.

What do you think?

Dwight, Dallas


I don’t think its a good idea to delay paying bills just to get extra interest. It can lead to a bad credit score and you might lose out on extra discounts and offers, as well as the risk of being cut off.

The ultimate goal should be to save/invest/earn more so you don’t have to do these ‘tricks’ to earn tiny amounts of interest -it’s not worth your time.

I do however love that you are feeling empowered and are focusing on saving money.

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