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If there’s one thing I love almost as much as my husband, it’s getting a sweet deal on something I was going to buy anyways.
While I’ve always been adverse to parting with my paycheck, I’m not the most responsible with my money and I never considered myself frugal until recently. But through paying off $78,000 in debt, I know for sure I married the most frugal man I’ve ever met.
He introduced me to pawn shops and now they’re my super secret frugal weapon.
I grew up buying everything new. We’d stop at thrift stores every once in a while to look at clothes but I don’t have a long attention span for shopping in the first place so thrift store scavenger hunts were my childhood nightmare.
Pawn shops are different. Everything is easily identifiable, reasonable quality, and negotiable on price. They are the Holy Grail for thrift store averse frugal shoppers.
Some of our favorite things Travis and I have purchased from Pawn shops are an indestructible Bluetooth speaker, a vintage typewriter, workout DVDs, a Chromecast, and dearest to my heart, my engagement ring.
Yes, I did pick out my own engagement ring. I remember it like it was yesterday.
We only went in to look at the styles so I could show him what I liked (because the ideas he was throwing out were reminiscent of bad 80‘s costume jewelry.) When I first laid eyes on it I audibly gasped. It was still too expensive, we had a budget of $800 and it was listed for $1600. So out of my league.
But the jeweler said it’d been in the store for a long time so he took the ring back to the pawnbroker to see what he could do. Minutes later he offered it to us for $800. It was love at first sight, a match made in heaven.
We got it appraised from an independent jeweler when resizing it and he said it was easily worth over $3,000. Now every time someone compliments my ring my response is always “Thank you! I got it at a pawn shop!”
We would’ve never gotten that deal if we hadn’t been strict with our budget. One of the strategies to getting the best deal is to have the power to walk away. Now that I’m an avid pawn shop stopper (stopping for pawn shops whenever I see one) I’m shocked at how few people take advantage of the great deals to be had there.
Pawn shops are a treasure trove for
- Small appliances like KitchenAid stand mixers and fancy blenders
- Household appliances like vacuums, lawn mowers, and electrical hand tools
- Newer model TVs and speakers like Soundbar
- All kinds of jewelry
- Digital cameras
- Musical instruments
Don’t be intimidated by the sketchy reputation of pawn shops. I’ve never felt unsafe in one and I’m usually impressed by the security and organization of their set-ups. So let me demystify this secret weapon for you so you can walk in with those steel enforced doors with the confidence of a pawn star.
Pick Your Pawn
There are two types of pawn shops: general and specialized.
General pawn shops have a wide variety of general things. Specialized shops have a wide variety of a particular category.
Typically the major types of specializations are gold & jewelry, guns, and electronics. For my ring, we went to a store that specialized in jewelry. They might’ve had some other items but 95% of the shop was jewelry. That meant a way better selection than what we’d seen at any other shop.
If we’re being honest, I wouldn’t buy jewelry or electronics from a shop that didn’t specialize in them. If you’re shopping for small appliances or just browsing then the major pawn retailers like Cash America or Value Pawn are great. For high-value items, you want to make sure you’re getting better quality than a generalized store can offer.
Do a Little Research
Google pawn shops in your area and find out their reputations. Read reviews and determine the level of trust you’ll go in there with. A great pawn shop may charge a little more but you’ll feel safer buying high-value items there.
Don’t avoid those seedy little pawn shops though. You can find failsafe items like DVDs and tools there for cheaper than the big guys.
In the same vein, if you know what you want, research new and used prices for the item to make sure you’re getting a good deal or to give you leverage when negotiating. You’ll also want to find out if there are any models that are subpar or prone to defects so you can avoid those.
Since my ring is rose gold, I did a quick search on my phone for rose gold engagement rings. The ring is 10K plated which is common but I learned it was the diamond we were getting the real deal on.
Pay With Cash
You have more negotiating power when you pay with cash. This doesn’t work at every pawn shop but it works at a lot of them, even the big name shops.
When we got my ring the pawn shop included tax in the $800 if we paid with cash and I was able to get our Bluetooth speaker down $10 when I offered to pay with cash.
I’m not sure of the advantages paying with cash offers, or how ethical they are, but if it saves me money I’ll gladly do it.
Don’t be Afraid to Negotiate
In instances where I can’t get them to go down on price with cash, I’ll ask them to throw in something small for free. It’s usually a small tool or lug nut that Travis has been eyeing. Negotiating like this usually works.
Approach them like you’re just going get the smaller item but you’ll get the more expensive item if they throw in the little thing for free. Or if you negotiated and pricier item and they won’t budge, walk away and look for something small then say you’ll take their price if they throw in your new found item for free.
In the case of my ring, we were firm on our budget, we were upfront with them that there was no way we were going to pay more. I didn’t even ask them to come down on the price because I didn’t think they’d take half off but because we were firm and the ring had been there a while we got the deal of the century.
Be Aware of the Return Policy
Pawn shops may or may not have a return policy. If you’re on the fence about something then a 14-day return policy could make or break your decision to buy. Don’t be that person who tries to return a broken TV only to find out the policy excludes electronics. Do your research.
Online pawn shops, I haven’t personally tried one yet but, like everything with online shopping, I hear it’s a growing trend. You have the ability to shop and barter just like a real store but you don’t have to drive to the sketchy part of town to do it. I’d love to hear experience from people who’ve tried this.
I never get tired of looking at my engagement ring. It doesn’t bother me one bit that somebody else may have worn it before me because it’s mine now! And best of all, we got a great deal. 😉