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Save Money by Shopping in Pawn Shops

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If you, unlike me, think about saving money when shopping, and you like thrift stores, you might find that shopping in pawn shops is another way for you to save a buck or two.

We have a street in Salt Lake City where every third or fourth building is a pawn shop. Some of them look decent from the outside, some of them – not so much. Last weekend, out of curiosity, I went out of my usual way and into a few pawn shops to see what they are all about.

I have to admit it was quite an experience. I am not a thrift store shopper. I am not big on saving money when it comes to shopping. However (and don’t fall off your chair reading this), I have to say that there would be a few things that I might consider buying in a pawn shop to save money. There are also things that I would never buy no matter how good of a deal was offered.

How Pawn Shops Make Money

If you are desperate for quick cash, you might end up bringing something of value into a pawn shop. Depending on your intentions – to pawn or to sell – an owner of a pawn shop will do one of the following:

1. If you intend to pawn an item, a shop owner will ask you how much money you want. Let’s say you want to pawn something for $200. You will have one month (or 30 days) to come back to a pawn shop and buy your item back. In Salt Lake City you will have to pay about 15% interest on your $200 pawn, so your item will cost you $230.

2. If you intend to sell something, be ready to negotiate and negotiate hard. I hope you do realize, that you will get much less than you are asking, so be ready to bargain and know how to do it. Do not settle for the first pawn shop that you find. Shop around. You will be surprised to find out that some owners offer better prices.

Things I Hated About Pawn Shops

Feeling of Hopelessness 

One of the owners told me that he had people come in and borrow $3 for gas because they had to go to work and did not have money to buy gas. Some people are in desperate situations and they would pawn watches, DVD players, TVs, tools, whatever they can for $5-$10 just to get by.

I had a feeling that behind any merchandise is a story of poverty and despair. This is one of the reasons I would never buy a piece of jewelry in a pawn shop (and I saw some impressive pieces!) In my mind, any piece of jewelry carries a sentimental value. It represents memories. I don’t want to own someone else’s life, someone else’s memories.

Shady Individuals

Every pawn shop owner is supposed to run a check through the local police department on every item that is pawned or sold to make sure that the item was not stolen. Some of the shops do that, but some of them don’t. I did see quite a few shady looking individuals talking to the pawn shop owner. However, it could be just my subjective and opinionated subconscious talking.


For some reason every pawn shop I visited smelled the same: stale odor of dirty clothes and rags. The smell lingered with me for what seemed hours.

Things To Buy in Pawn Shops to Save Money

There were a few things that I would consider checking out in pawn shops to save money. Some of the merchandise those shops carried looked high-quality.


Most of the pawn shops had a variety of bikes. Surprisingly, a few of those bikes were in a good condition, and seemed to be high-quality. I saw a few good mountain bikes offered for a fraction of their real price.

If you are into biking, I would recommend checking out your local pawn shops. Just make sure that a pawn shop owner has run the bike’s serial number through the police system. Otherwise, you might end up with a stolen bike.


I was surprised by a variety of tools that each pawn shop carried. Some of the tools were in questionable condition, but some looked good.

I saw a few lawn mowers that seemed almost brand new! Considering the price tag, I would definitely try a lawn mower from a pawn shop. Of course, there is always a possibility that even almost a brand new tool might fall apart on you because, after all, it is used.


I was impressed with the huge DVD collections that some of the pawn shops carried. However, as everything else in pawn shops, quality is not guaranteed. Therefore, make sure to inspect what you are buying.

Important Things to Remember

You can make you own offer on a merchandise you are considering to buy. You are welcome to negotiate. Some of the shops had signs that said “Make you own offer to save more money.”

There are no refunds and no returns. You buy something that falls apart on you in a few days, the joke is on you.

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