Pawning has come to the middle class thanks to the power of the Internet.

The Chicago Tribune  reports what was once generally confined to struggling blue collar workers is now finding a new audience online. Sites like Borro.com, Pawntique.com, and PawnGo.com are attracting customers who would never normally think about setting foot in a brick-and-mortar pawn shop.

If you're unfamiliar with the term, what exactly is pawning?

Here's how it works: You take something of value like, say, a ring that might be worth $500 to a pawn shop or online and basically hawk it. The pawn shop lends you a fraction of the value, maybe $100, against that $500 ring and they charge you an interest rate on the money.

Meanwhile, while you're paying back that loan, the pawn shop is holding your ring as collateral. What happens so often is you never quite get around to paying off the pawn shop loan and it becomes their property to liquidate.

So if you're sitting on some valuables, the goal and purpose of pawning something needs to be as a way for you to get a short-term loan. Because the cost of that loan is way too high if you treat it as anything but that.

Ask yourself are you getting reasonable value for your valuables with the money you're advanced and is the interest rate reasonable?

If you're on the other end of the transaction, buying in pawn shop can be great way to get a bargain. It's not a routine stop of mine, but I go to local pawn shops from time to time to look for deals.

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Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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