JANUARY is traditionally a tough month for everyone – but this January will surely go down as one of the hardest yet.
Petrol prices are through the roof, inflation and VAT are up and to make matters worse we're still paying off Christmas.
With salaries for most workers staying static, our finances are being stretched to breaking point.
It's no wonder that the number of people declaring themselves bankrupt recently hit a 20-year high.
Latest statistics show no one is immune, either.
There may be an idealised view of retirement as a time of financial security but the figures prove that is not always the case.
Pensioners are increasingly struggling to control their debts as more and more are forced to declare themselves bankrupt.
Given the prevailing economic climate, today's greater reliance on credit and pension funds that are running dry, that gloomy picture is unlikely to improve, either in the short or the long term.
It means that rather than living out our later years safe in the knowledge we have enough to support ourselves and our families, many of us will have to contend with money worries that never go away.
Given that gloomy outlook, it is worrying that at a time when many are seeking help from their local Citizens' Advice Bureau the Government looks set to cut funding for the organisation's specialist debt teams.
Free and independent support must be made available to those struggling under a burden of debt – whatever their age.
Stories of hope
USUALLY when people find themselves in the grip of alcoholism there is an expectation that they will be unable to loosen its hold on their lives.
So the personal stories of courage in today's Yorkshire Evening Post offer a ray of hope to all those afflicted by an addiction to drink.
Keith and Andy both found themselves hooked on booze and desperate for a way out.
One was drawn to drink by the nature of his work and the friends he socialised with. The other turned to it in the wake of personal tragedy, job loss and depression.
Now both men are on the road to recovery after getting help and support from St Anne's Alcohol Services in Leeds. We wish them well in their fight, along with all the others who are on a similar journey.
FOR those of us who always felt Lassie's life-saving exploits seemed a little far-fetched, the deeds of canine duo Lady and Missy might just make us think again. When owner Johanna Kaye fell unconscious after slipping on ice, the puppies summoned help and led workmen straight to her.
Now the pair are being pampered by their grateful owner – and rightly so.
Unlike Lassie's heroics, this rescue is no shaggy dog story.