Hard times, these. Money’s tight and we’re all looking for ways to stretch a buck, a piece of paper hard to come by in sufficient quantities lately. So, as a public service, has been researching ways to save some of your hard-earned. Towards that end, today we look to Pawn Shops, those outlets that profit on others’ financial distress and pass the savings on to you. Television, musical instruments (musicians always seem to be broke), jewelry, cameras, computers, silverware, antiques, appliances, stereos and all manner of electronics and portable valuables. We all need these items for ourselves, and buying retail can be prohibitive. While you may not enjoy the wide array of choices that mainstream shopping offers, sometimes a small compromise can save you a few dollars. Items like these:

1 very large “Hope & Change” gold necklace, inlaid with small rubies, diamonds and topaz for a red, white and blue motif. – Only $1,200. Originally commissioned for $24,000. Hardly ever worn.

75 Sarah Palin action figures with Kung Fu Grip and Secret Decoder Palm in original packaging. – $6 apiece. Perfect gifts for kids too young to know any better, or collectors crossing their fingers that they’re sitting on the next Luke Skywalker doll.

15,000 lbs. of assorted office supplies. – best offer. This particular pawnshop in Manhattan cashed in on all the fired junior executives from the financial service industries in 2008 who, stung by taking the hit for their mega-thieving bosses, turned around and looted the place down to the last staple. Equip your entire office cheap! Enough Post-it notes alone to last a lifetime!

1,000 copies of Al Gore’s book, “An Inconvenient Truth.” – .25¢ apiece. It seems this pawnshop, located in a Washington, D.C. buried in 2 feet of global warming, has cashed in on the sharp drop-off in sales of Mr. Gore’s best seller. Canny speculators will wait until July to unload them at a tidy profit!

500 copies of the Academy Award-winning movie, “An Inconvenient Truth.” – .89¢ apiece. See above.

1 Academy Award Statue, inscribed: “Al Gore – Best Documentary in 2006.” – $2,500. The number of Mr. Gore’s speaking engagements has plunged in direct proportion to the mercury on the thermometer, so here’s your chance to brighten up the old mantle piece with an Oscar of your own. Another 75 bucks gets it inscribed to you in any category you like!

1 Official Speaker of The House portrait of Newt Gingrich. – $850. This fine oil painting once hung in the halls of The House of Representatives! Mr. Gingrich is pictured with an outdated trophy wife model and has since commissioned a new one to update his latest marital acquisition. Roll the dice, and if this guy ever does become president, you can sell it for a fortune on the frozen streets of Hell

50,0000 Heavy duty Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac inscribed welcome mats- $1 apiece. The former home mortgage giants used to give them away to every customer, and these classic woven hemp welcome mats were the only thing most of their customers have to show that they once owned a home. And for only a buck apiece, you can build a reasonably sturdy, warm and rain-resistant shelter with a several dozen of these bad boys.

1 Trump trophy wife. – $750,000. This one-of-a-kind, gorgeous blonde gym rat in her early thirties from somewhere in Eastern Europe (no one’s really quite sure where) is a steal at only 750K, especially considering that The Donald’s standard Pre-nup calls for a $25 million buy out when her expiration date of 30 is reached. One payment covers everything, including lump-sum alimony payment. Live like a billionaire for an estimated 6 months to a year!

100,000 Winter Olympics Official earmuffs and matching T-shirts. – $1 each. These first-quality Hanes all-cotton T-shirts in all sizes and Antarctic-rated earmuffs are inscribed with the logo: “2010 Winter Olympics, Vancouver, Canada.” Apparently Canada forgot in their excitement over hosting the games that it is the most boring nation on earth and thought more people would show up and watch them fail to win a medal in sports they invented out of necessity to keep warm.

9 million Toyota floor mats. – .10¢ each. These durable rubber-backed synthetic fiber automobile carpets can be easily glued together to form a beautiful all-weather carpet for your family room at a fraction of the cost of wall-to-wall carpeting! Available in standard Toyota interior colors.

Last month’s iPhones. – $35. Every time Steve Jobs calls a press conference, millions of techno-trendies determined to be in the vanguard of personal electronics line up to pay astronomical prices for the newest iPhone that is practically identical to these discarded models that were used for a very short time and work just fine. No one will be able to tell the difference!

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