Holiday gift lists

By Bart Kelsey (SuperTuxKart) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Time to get back to the basics after that long foray into complex formulas, and there’s not much more basic than inventories. And, given the time of year, I thought it might be good to discuss gift lists.

While I’m pretty good at organizing things, especially non-physical things like information, I’m pretty bad at remembering things. I can’t even remember everything I’ve got sitting in a draw to give to people this year, much less what I gave people last year. And the year before that? Hah.

So I try to keep an inventory of what I’ve given to various people, at various points. That way I don’t wind up looking at books in a series and thinking “Did I give him 7 and 8 last year, or was it 8 and 9?” or at t-shirts thinking “Did I already give her one with this design? I remember thinking she’d like it…”

In my opinion, for a gift inventory you just need one header row, and one or two header columns. The row has the years, the first column has the person, and the second (optional) column has the holiday type. For example:

Person Event 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Mom Xmas
Dad Xmas
Brother Xmas
Sister-in-law Xmas
Nephew Xmas
Nephew Bday

In this example all the adult members of the family get Christmas gifts, but the nephew (still a child) gets both Christmas and birthday gifts.

There are several advantages to doing this in a spreadsheet instead of a a word processor. First, when you’re looking for a particular person, you only have to look through the names, not the lists of gifts. Second, when there get to be too many years of gifts, you can freeze columns. And third, it makes it a whole lot easier to see if, perhaps, you gave that same give to their sibling or someone else they’re likely to know, in a previous year.