Mastering Accounting Journal Entries: Examples, Tips, and How-to Guide for Beginners

14 Minute Read

Mastering Accounting Journal Entries: Examples, Tips, and How-to Guide for Beginners



Imagine your piggy bank adventure as a busy beehive, where every honey drop collected or spent is carefully noted by bee accountants. In the world of money, this adventure is called making an accounting journal entry. For example, when a business buys office supplies on credit, it's like the bees gathering more supplies without giving honey right away (payable). They jot this down in their general journal, a big book of all their money adventures.

This includes everything from the honey (asset account) they have, the pollen they owe (accounts payable), to the nectar they're promised (accounts receivable) from selling honeycombs. When they pay their worker bees (payroll) or count the honey at the end of the day (balance sheet), it's all recorded with care. Every drop of honey spent on things like hive repairs (depreciation) or saved for winter (adjusting entries) follows the accounting cycle, making sure not a single drop of honey goes unnoticed in their financial transactions. This way, the beehive thrives, balancing what comes in and goes out, just like a smartly managed piggy bank.

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What is an accounting journal entry example?

Understanding Journal Entries

Journal entries are like the diary of a business, recording every money move it makes. Let’s explore how this diary keeps track of everything, from buying pencils to paying for a website.

What are journal entries in accounting?

Journal entries in the accounting system are like making a note every time money comes in or goes out. For example, if a small business owner buys $100 worth of office supplies on credit, they write it down. This note includes the date, account names (like "Office Supplies" and "Accounts Payable"), and how much money was involved. Each entry has a reference number, making it easy to find and check if needed. It’s a way to keep all the money stories organized in one place.

How do debit and credit entries work?

In these entries, every transaction has two parts: a debit amount and a credit amount. Debits and credits are like opposite sides of a coin. If you buy machinery for your business, you debit (increase) the machinery account because you have a new asset. At the same time, you credit (increase) a liability account (like a payable account) or decrease your cash if you paid right away. This two-part action keeps the business’s books balanced, showing exactly where money is going and coming from.

Why are journal entries important in accounting?

Importance Explanation

Journal entries are crucial for keeping a clean financial record. They help small business owners and accountants track every penny, whether it’s for buying supplies, paying employees (payroll expense), or getting insurance (prepaid expenses). This detailed recording makes preparing financial reports, like the income statement and balance sheet, much simpler. By looking at these entries, you can see the financial health of a business, what it owns (assets), owes (liabilities), and its overall worth (equity account). It's the backbone of financial reporting, ensuring that every dollar is accounted for properly.

Types of Journal Entries

Journal entries are like the different brushes an artist uses to paint a picture, each one serving a specific purpose in the masterpiece of accounting.

What are the different types of journal entries?

In the world of accounting, there are several types of journal entries. The most common journal entries include regular entries, which record daily transactions like sales and expenses; compound entries, which involve more than two accounts if, say, you buy supplies and pay with both cash and credit; and adjusting entries, made at the end of an accounting period to update the records before creating financial reports. Special journals are used for recurring transactions, like sales on credit, and they help in organizing entries related to specific activities, such as purchases or payroll.

How to create a journal entry for a cash account?

Creating a journal entry for a cash account is like updating your piggy bank balance. When money comes in, you increase (debit) your cash account. For example, if you sell a product for cash, you record that increase. If you spend money, say on supplies, you decrease (credit) your cash account. The entry includes the date, a description of the transaction, and the amount. It's a simple way to keep track of all the money that flows in and out of your business.

Examples of journal entries for expenses accounts

When your business incurs an expense, such as buying supplies or paying for utilities, you make a journal entry to reflect that. For instance, if you purchase machinery, you debit the machinery (asset) account because your business assets have increased. Simultaneously, you credit the cash account or a payable account if the purchase was on credit. This keeps track of how much money is going towards running and growing your business.

Using Accounting Software for Journal Entries

Accounting software is like a smart assistant that helps you manage your business's money with ease and accuracy.

How can accounting software simplify the journal entry process?

Accounting software automates the process of making journal entries. When you record a transaction, like receiving a payment (credit to the cash account) or purchasing supplies on credit (debit to supplies account), the software automatically updates the relevant ledger accounts. This reduces the chance of errors and saves time, making it easier for businesses to keep accurate financial records.

What are the benefits of using accounting software for recording journal entries?

Using accounting software for journal entries comes with many benefits. It makes recording transactions faster and more accurate, helps in tracking the financial health of your business in real-time, and simplifies creating financial reports. It also helps in managing receivables and payables efficiently, ensuring that you have a clear understanding of your business's income and expenses at all times.

Step-by-step guide to making a journal entry in accounting software

Making a journal entry in accounting software is like playing a simple video game where you follow the steps to win. First, choose the type of transaction you want to record, such as an invoice payment or a purchase. Then, input the relevant details like the date, amounts, and accounts affected (e.g., cash, receivables, supplies). The software will show you a preview of the debit and credit entries. After reviewing, confirm to record the entry. It's a quick and error-free way to ensure your business's financial transactions are always up to date.

Double-Entry Accounting and General Ledger

Let's dive into the world of double-entry accounting and discover how it keeps track of a business's money moves, making sure everything adds up perfectly.

What is double-entry accounting and how does it apply to journal entries?

Double-entry accounting is like having two buckets for every transaction: one for what comes in and another for what goes out. For every action (like selling something or buying supplies), there's a reaction (money received or spent). This method uses journal entries to record these actions and reactions. Each entry involves at least two accounts to make sure the buckets stay balanced. If you buy machinery, you add (debit) to your machinery account and subtract (credit) from your cash or bank account.

Understanding the role of the general ledger in recording journal entries

Think of the general ledger as a big book that stores all the bucket entries, making it the heart of a business's accounting system. It's where all journal entries go after being recorded. This ledger is like a detailed story of everything the business does with its money, showing all the debits and credits from every transaction. It helps keep track of how much money is in each account, making sure everything matches up.

How are adjusting journal entries used in double-entry bookkeeping?

Adjusting journal entries are like the tweaks you make to your project before turning it in, ensuring everything is just right. They're used at the end of an accounting period to update the records for things that aren't recorded daily. This could be expenses that have built up but haven't been paid yet (accrued liabilities) or sales that were made but not yet paid for (accounts receivable). These entries help make sure the financial statements reflect the real situation, like adjusting for bad debt or recording depreciation on equipment.

Journal Entry Examples for Practice

Now, let's get our hands dirty with some practice, seeing how all this theory works in real life with some common examples.

Example of a journal entry for recording a sale transaction

When a business sells goods, it makes an entry to record this sale. Let's say you sold toys for cash; you would increase (debit) your cash bucket and increase (credit) your sales revenue bucket. If you sold the toys on credit, you'd increase (debit) your accounts receivable bucket instead of cash. This entry shows that your business earned money, adding to your income.

Creating a journal entry for an expense payment

Paying for expenses, like buying office supplies, is another transaction that needs recording. If you pay with cash, you decrease (credit) your cash bucket and increase (debit) your office supplies expense bucket. This entry reflects that your business has spent money, which decreases your overall income.

Recording a journal entry to adjust accrued expenses at the end of an accounting period

At the end of an accounting period, you might need to account for expenses that have accrued (built up) but haven't been paid yet, like utility bills. You increase (debit) your utility expenses bucket and increase (credit) your accrued liabilities bucket. This adjustment ensures your financial statements accurately show the expenses incurred during the period, even if the cash hasn't been handed out yet.

Further Reading: Equity And The Balance Sheet. Here’s What You Should Know

Key Takeaways:

  1. Journal Entry: Writing down a business transaction in the accounting books. It’s like noting in your diary that you bought a snack.
  2. Date: The day you write down the transaction. It tells you when you bought the snack.
  3. Description: Explains what the transaction was. It’s like writing that you bought an apple.
  4. Amount: How much money the transaction was for. This is writing down that the apple cost $1.
  5. Debit and Credit: The two parts of your entry, showing where the money came from and where it went. You might write you took $1 from your savings (credit) and used it to buy the apple (debit).

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Tickmark, Inc. and its affiliates do not provide legal, tax or accounting advice. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal, tax or accounting advice or recommendations. All information prepared on this site is for informational purposes only, and should not be relied on for legal, tax or accounting advice. You should consult your own legal, tax or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. The content on this website is provided “as is;” no representations are made that the content is error-free.

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March 22, 2024


Antonio Del Cueto, CPA

Antonio Del Cueto, CPA


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