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Last-minute budget tips for those last-minute gifts

At this point in the holiday season if you’re like me, you’re over budget. Yesterday I started worrying about that cashmere sweater I bought for one sister-in-law and the sweatshirt I bought for the other. It’s back to shopping this evening to try to even it out.

This time when I’m wandering the aisles, I’ll check my Excel holiday budget on my phone. I saved it on SkyDrive—Microsoft’s free cloud service—so that I can take a look to remind me what I bought for whom and for how much. My budget is a customized version of the holiday budget template we made available in early November. 

Here’s how you can customize that budget and access it on your phone:

  1. Click to open the Excel holiday budget from our SkyDrive, and it will open in Excel Web App.
  2. Download it by clicking the Download button in the upper-left corner of Excel Web App.

    Download command

  3. After you’ve downloaded and opened it, make the spreadsheet yours by replacing the example information with your own.
  4. Save it to your SkyDrive, choosing Save & Send on the File tab, click Save to Web, and then click the Sign In button.

    Sign-In button

    If you don’t have a SkyDrive account, sign up for one using the Sign up for Windows Live SkyDrive link.

    Sign up for Windows Live SkyDrive link

  5. After you sign up, use the Sign In button on the File tab to save the spreadsheet on SkyDrive.

Now, on your smartphone, go to http://skydrive.live.com, and sign in. Find the spreadsheet you uploaded, and open it.

Smartphone view

Change the look to create a new budget for spring vacation

To make the spreadsheet appropriate for year-round use, open it in Excel, remove the holiday picture, and change up the color scheme. Here’s how:

  1. Replace holiday-related text with your own, such as, “Vacation Budget” and categories such as “Flight,” “Lodging,” and “Meals.”

    Replace text

  2. In the first row, click the picture and press your DELETE key to remove it.

    Delete picture

Now let’s change up the color scheme.

  1. Go to the Page Layout tab, and click Colors, and then choose a color scheme, such as Adjacency.

    Change color scheme

  2. Right-click Cell A1, click Format Cells, and then on the Fill tab, set Pattern Color to Automatic, and Pattern Style to Solid.

    Pattern style - solid

  3. For the Background Color, choose a color from the color scheme.

    Choose a background color

  4. Repeat the previous step for rows 2 and 4. Select them both: After selecting Row 2, hold down the CTRL key and select Row 4. When they’re both selected, right-click and change the Fill settings as you did for Cell A1.
  5. Select Row 3 and repeat the Fill settings, only choose a darker background color.

    Choose a background color

  6. Right-click Row 5 and change its background color to one of the colors in the color scheme.

    Choose a background color

  7. Select the other category rows (for example, the rows labeled, “Lodging” and “Meals”), and press CTRL+Y to repeat the color formatting you applied to Row 5.

Lastly, modify the text and budget amounts, and save the spreadsheet. Remember: Use Save & Send to store your budget on SkyDrive, where you can get it on the go.

Vacation Budget in Excel Web App