According to Washington Irving, 'Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall and the genial flame of charity in the heart'. However, the creation of such hospitality and charity requires a little effort on our part. For our halls would not be quite as welcoming without a stock of provisions and communication is not always easy with family and friends in all four corners of the world. Hence, I suggest we make the most of modern technological advances so we can put our energies towards appreciating the real meaning of Christmas.

I never thought that I would be able to find a link between the festive season and computer software, other than in the context of gifts. However, having researched the topic, I have come to the conclusion that MS Excel for example, can be used to assist our preparations for the holiday period. As you are probably aware, MS Excel is essentially used to create spreadsheets and thereby enhance the analysis of information to make informed decisions. A grid filled with information on a specific topic and combined perhaps with a rating scale from 1 to 10 or cost estimates can prove invaluable. Let us consider some of the applications of MS Excel prior to and during the Christmas period.

A Christmas Card List

MS Excel can be used to create a spreadsheet with the following columns: name, address, card sent and card received. This allows you to keep track of your progress and also, update your records each year. The addresses can even copied into MS Word and used to generate printed labels to save you even more time.

A Christmas Present Planner

This spreadsheet for family and friends could incorporate the following information: name, present and cost. This can be used as a reminder of what to purchase on your next shopping trip. By including costs, you can try and stay within your budget because it is impossible to then turn a blind eye to your spending habits. This idea can be taken one step further and used in the work environment for the creation of a secret santa list.

A Christmas Eve Shopping List

As a child, I have fond memories of my mother stressing about the last minute food purchases before the shops closed for Christmas. She used handwritten lists. Nowadays, it is possible to include all relevant information on an Excel spreadsheet as my highly organised sister now does. Additionally, it can be used year after year and is easily updated.

A Thank You Note Checklist

This is perhaps most useful to those of you who receive too many gifts to be able to keep track of them all. However, I like the idea of children compiling such an Excel spreadsheet so they can learn the niceties of etiquette and computer skills at the same time.

I hope some of these suggestions come in useful and perhaps you may try them out or alternatively if you are considering MS Excel training in the future then these are ideas to bear in mind for next year.