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  • On Your Marks. Get Set. Shop!
    Shop online for unbeatable holiday gifts, deals, and more!
    by Armeen Youssefian
    Remember when you actually had to leave the house to search for holiday gifts? Yeesh! That is so, like, 5 years ago. If you haven't yet discovered the joys of online holiday shopping, you're in for a crowd-free treat. But if you're like me, you already depend on this convenience and can't remember how you managed pre-Internet! (Maybe I'm blocking it out?) I admit, it's pretty geeky of me. But the thing is, you just can't beat the virtually unlimited selection and availability of unique and original gifts online. Plus, you can easily find the best prices, compare products specs, and read reviews from other shoppers or experts.

    As good as all this is—the sheer magnitude of information and options online can be a bit overwhelming at times. Where do you start? Whom do you trust? And why do you suddenly have a migraine? There, there. 'Tis the season to be jolly, remember? To help take some of the legwork, guesswork, and "mousework" out of your online holiday shopping—and help you find something for everyone on your list—we've dug through the virtual haystacks to find some shiny needles we think you'll like!
    First things first: Get inspired!
    Still scratching your head about what to get everyone on your list? Before you comparison shop or read reviews online, you need some good ideas! So here are a few sites to rev up your mental engines. Read the expert reviews
    Need to know more about a product before you can make a smart choice? Forget about tracking down that harried employee at the retail store. There are many places online where you can find expert, unbiased information about the products you seek. For everything from car seats to camping equipment, start with the well-rounded Consumer Guide—where you can read reviews, then, if you choose, learn how the products work. For words from the pros in the world of electronics and technology, check out the always-reliable CNET Reviews.

    What are other shoppers saying?
    Sometimes the most useful (and most honest) product details come from average Joes and Janes like you and me. Want to know what people really think? You can bypass the marketing and see what real people are saying about the products you're considering. You'll find detailed reviews, ratings, and recommendations at free consumer review sites such as Consumer Search, Consumer Review, and Epinions.com.

    Find the best price
    Comparing prices online? No need to visit each Web site individually. There are several "shopping bots" online that allow you to quickly search for products across a large variety of sites. In fact, automatic price comparisons are as close as your myEarthLink start page. Just click the Shopping tab on the search box at the top of the tab and enter the item you're looking for. On the results page, simply click the Compare Prices button next to anything you're interested in.

    mySimon.com is a well-organized, comprehensive site that lets you read reviews, compare prices, and find all shops that carry a specific product. Similarly, PriceGrabber and ShopZilla help you find the best deals, gather information on merchants, and see reviews and ratings—with PriceGrabber including the expert reviews from various publications.

    Everyone loves a good sale
    If you're waiting for those holiday sales, you don't have to wait for the Sunday paper. Did you know you can find coupons, rebates—even see your local circulars—online?
    • Find printable retail, grocery, and restaurant coupons, as well as printable rebates and online coupons at WOW Coupons.
    • Found a great deal and want to spread the word? Clipfire is a community site where users can let others know about deals and bargains they've discovered.
    • Simply type in your zip code at ShopLocal.com to find both online and offline deals—including local sales, newspaper ads, circulars, and more.
    Last but not least: Be safe out there
    Just like the real world, you have to steer clear of mean Grinches and Scrooges online. So remember to practice safe shopping. To protect your email identity while you shop, use your free EarthLink Anonymous Email Addresses whenever you have to provide an email address. And while feedback from other customers is helpful, always be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau before buying from an online merchant you've never heard of. That said, wishing you happy holiday shopping from your friends at EarthLink!