SALT LAKE CITY -- Meet Jim Breitinger, a single guy who returned to the ski slopes near home in Salt Lake City last season, but he made far fewer trips than he wanted as he dug his way out from under thousands in credit card debt.
Breitinger's back in the corporate world after a huge mid-career pay drop to retrain and teach, then go into business for himself.
He's not in the direst of circumstances, considering, but he plays into a small trend noted recently by bellwether Walmart: Some wealthier shoppers are starting to spend up. Consider him behind the world's daily dance of economy urgency, splurging beyond a little more latte at Starbucks to feel better a lot.
At 44, the editorial director spent two years living like a pauper with his dog in an Airstream trailer as he paid off more than $50,000 in credit card debt.
Breitinger's troubles began after he left the corporate world to go to grad school so he could devote himself to teaching history, writing and starting a business selling pieces of meteorite at rock and gem shows.
"It was a mid-career thing," he said after watching his income plummet from $100,000 to $30,000. "I found it somewhat impossible to deal with my lower income."
On the verge of declaring bankruptcy, he negotiated settlements with numerous credit card companies -- and things are looking up.
SBlt Skiing about six times last season on rented equipment, using free lift tickets he got through work. In better times, he would have been out on the slopes 20 days or more.
SBlt Jake, his half Great Pyrenees and half German shepherd, gets a break from staying home alone about once a week at doggy day care. "He loves it and it makes me feel good to know he's not just sitting at home doing nothing."
SBlt Breitinger just bought a new Honda Fit for $17,500, selling his gas-guzzling, four-year-old Dodge Ram for what he owed on it. "Getting a new car felt like a luxury, even though the whole point was to get a vehicle that would be cheaper to own."