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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 23 January 2022

Meet the former accountant who dumpster dives and lives in New York City on $5,000 a year

She even manages to make it along to the opera occasionally.

Image: Shutterstock/vichie81

BEFORE COMING TO the US in 2007, Marie was an accountant living in France.

Today she’s living a middle-class American lifestyle in New York City — on only $5,000 a year.

The poverty line in the US is $11,700 a year for a single person.

In a profile published by the Guardian, Marie (who uses only her first name, since her residence in the US is technically illegal) discusses her life in France, living on a traditional income:

I had buried my head in the sand, convincing myself that was life. But that just wasn’t what I wanted, counting others’ money. I’m still not sure what I want.

How does she live? 

Since then, she’s cobbled together a life in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, keeping a home and garden for a friend in exchange for a rent-free place to stay. She receives money — it’s unclear how much, and she says she doesn’t use it — from the home she owns and rents out in France, but otherwise doesn’t have a standard salary or source of income.

The Guardian’s Pauline Marie Bock writes:

She lives on cash from baby- and dog-sitting. The $1,000 she recently was paid for painting a house “can go a long way.” Her clothes are finds and she travels by bike, even from Crown Heights to Manhattan.

Sometimes she books cheap opera tickets: she saw Don Giovanni at the Met in March. For $15 a month, she’s on Greg’s family cellphone plan. When she dumpster-dives, she can bring $60 worth of food home in a night. “Marie’s the most earth-friendly person I know,” said her landlord Greg. “She doesn’t own a car, wears only used clothes, fixes broken things. She fills holes in the system and leaves zero footprint.”

Methodical coverage

She is methodical about her dumpster diving. Bock writes:

Three or four times a week in warmer months, Marie bicycles through Park Slope. She knows supermarkets put out trash between 8-9pm. Food Train, at 7th Avenue and 11th Street, is “good for fresh fruits,” and Union Market throws away unexpired, sealed Tuscan bean soups, fresh cheese raviolis and raw kale salads every day — they clean the shelves for newer ones, she explains.

Marie’s friend Janet Kalish lives a similar lifestyle, subsisting on $10,000 a year. She says that while she used to try and donate some of the food she scavenges, she no longer does so after a homeless woman “screamed at her” after finding out where she got the food. “We receive plenty of criticism — that we take advantage of the society, that we are elitist even,” she tells the Guardian. “But we’re trying to be sustainable.”

In June, Marie will buy a plane ticket home and choose to be deported, barred from returning to the US for 10 years. As of now, she doesn’t know what she’ll do back in France, “only that she won’t stop dumpster diving.”

Read: Menu terms like “artisanal”, “farmhouse” and “natural” now have to mean something

Also: Could you feed yourself for a week on €6.74? This Irish lady did just that

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