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Gift cards, coupons and great holiday deals

Welcome to the Globe and Mail Personal Finance Reader. I'm Rob Carrick, personal finance columnist at The Globe, and each week I compile a list of articles, blog postings and websites that represent the best of what the online world has to offer on money-related subjects.

I know you're going to be out there shopping for holiday stuff this weekend, and probably the next few after that. Navigating busy malls, subjecting yourself to egregious Christmas muzak, vying for hot but maddeningly scarce toys and electronics. It's war out there and the Personal Finance Reader wants to help. I can't get you a prime parking spot at the mall, but I can give you some tips for keeping your spending under control, for selecting gifts - there's lots here on gift cards - and for finding coupons and deals.

As usual, there's also some prime intelligence for investors in this edition of the Reader. Be sure to read about a big French bank's kind of scary view on what could happen to the global economy over the next two years.

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Found something on the Internet that your fellow investors might enjoy? Talk to me at

From The Globe and Mail, Globe Investor and Personal Finance

Debt weighing you down? RBC financial planner Suzanne Schultz will answer your questions on how to chip away at that debt load on Friday, Dec. 4th at 12 pm ET. She appeared in a video on this same topic earlier this week.

Move from plastic to cash to keep your holiday budget on track. Blogger Chaya Cooperberg on how much to spend this holiday season

Why you can, and should, give generously to charity. Rob Carrick on the season of giving

Procrastination is good when it comes to timing income. Tim Cestnick's advice on how to put off a tax hit

Tips for a scaled-back holiday season. Angela Self says it pays to choose spirits over wine, e-greetings over paper cards and redeem purchase points to buy gifts

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Must Reads From Around the Web

Advance Planning Let's start off with a good bunch of tips for saving on holiday shopping from the Canadian Finance blog. There are a few original suggestions here, like skipping the option of buying extended warranties and being wary of gift cards.

Gift cards are hot stuff - Shoppers Drug Mart stores now carry a huge rack of them from all kinds of retailers, restaurants and such. Before you buy, read the column I wrote this week on the fees, terms and conditions that can apply to gift cards.

Ten things not to like about gift cards.

More dissing of gift cards.

The Aeroplan customer loyalty program has set up a website where you can earn points while buying gift cards from 40 different retailers.

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Here are two other takes on how to shop for the holidays in a financially responsible way, the first from debt guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade and the other from a blog called Studenomics.

Still more holiday financial tips, this time from the Squawkfox blog.

All manner of holiday advice from the people at Globe Life.

What To Buy Time's list of gift suggestions includes children's chopsticks, the complete first season of Thirtysomething on DVD and an adult colouring book featuring indie rock musicicians.

A customized cupcake car heads's list of extravagant holiday gifts.

The ThinkGeek website is good for a laugh, even if you're not in the market for Star Wars Force FX Light Sabres and BuckyBalls magnetic building spheres.

Bring Your Coupons and Smart Canucks have been mentioned in the Reader before as sources of insider buying tips and coupons, but it's worth reminding you about them at a time when you're likely to be throwing a lot of money around.

Picking Up The Pieces Feel the need to complain about a dud gift you bought or received, or some bad service? Check out this online forum we ran this week with Jane Steele More, founder of Complaints Are Us, a Toronto-based company that pursues grievances on behalf of customers.

Sharing The Wealth Here's are some ideas for charitable giving from Royal Bank.

I cover a few ways to give making charitable giving quick and easy online in this column.

Investor Intelligence Conditions have almost been euphoric in the stock markets lately, but there's still a sense of unease out there. Read here about how the French bank Société Générale has laid out the possibility for clients of a "global economic collapse" over the next two years.

Gold prices keep climbing - can it continue? Jim Rogers, the billionaire commodities bull, says in this interview that he expects gold "to be over a couple thousand dollars an ounce sometime in the next decade."

Heading in just the opposite direction to gold is natural gas. Read this Bloomberg story on the global glut of natural gas and take in the implied good news for your home heating bill.

This is must reading for mutual fund investors - seven mistake that can ruin your portfolio.

Editor's note: If you don't receive Rob Carrick's newsletter each week by email, you can sign up to get it for free at All you need to do is register for the site, or if you've already registered, login and go to your profile at the top of the homepage. Once you're in your profile, look under Alerts and look for the Personal Finance Reader and other newsletters. Other financial newsletters include: -Business Ticker, a summary of the day's top business stories -Berman's Market Update, a summary of the markets at the open, noon and close -Globe Investor Magazine, a biweekly collection of smart investment ideas and portfolio management stories

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