Varies, according to your own dumpster diving skill and creativity.
When we talk about "Dumpster Diving," we aren't talking about fishing out half-eaten hamburgers from behind McDonalds.
No, there are a couple of ways to make real cash. The first is in scrap metal. For instance, soda and beer cans bring 20 cents a pound. It only takes 25 or so cans to make a pound and it's not exactly like they're hard to find (Americans throw away about four billion pounds of them a year). Copper, steel and iron all fetch fair prices at recycling stations and scrap yards.
But more lucrative is all the perfectly good shit people throw away just to get it out of the house. Entire working computers wind up in the trash (after the owners upgraded) along with other electronics, furniture, all sorts of stuff you can sell or use.
Dumpster divers, like buskers, have a culture of their own, complete with rules and even forums where tips and secrets can be traded (the Dumpster World forums are members only, so secrets aren't given away and businesses don't get wind of what's going on behind their shops).
There are plenty of articles out there on the subject if you're looking to get your foot in the door. Remember: One man's discarded vibrator is another's Christmas shopping!
$100,000 a year.
Sure, begging isn't anybody's cup of tea, and it's certainly nothing you'd want to brag about at your class reunion. But you know what will make you feel better? $300 a freaking day.
That's exactly how much panhandlers outside a Wal-Mart in Coos Bay, Oregon were making (as much as some workers inside the store made ... in a week). The police there looked into the panhandlers and found they were long-time residents, and even had homes. According to the chief, "This is just their chosen profession."
That's not just an isolated situation, either. This news story found a down-on-her-luck girl begging for money to "buy a bus ticket to get back home." They estimated her income from that gig was around $27,000 a year. By comparison, according to Careers-in-finance.com, the starting salary for a Credit Analyst with a Bachelor's Degree: $27,000.
I can buy and sell your ass.
It isn't as easy as it sounds, though. Here is a helpful guide with many tips and tricks you'll need to know to become a successful beggar, such as:
"Have something to put money in: a cup, a cap, a guitar case ... Empty it regularly so people--both customers and potential crooks--can't see how much you're bringing in."
Depressed about your employment situation after that? Let Swaim make it all better with The 8 Shittiest Jobs Of All Time (Literally). And just be glad you aren't the owner of the email account in The Worst Day Ever (As Seen Through An Email Inbox).