The most basic way for a business to keep track of their finances is to use a general ledger, which divides accounts, essentially, into a debits (amounts owed or paid) and credits (amounts taken in as income, credit or positive income flow). This bookkeeping system can be as detailed or as stripped down as is appropriate for the needs of the business, but ultimately provides the data needed to create a balance sheet and an income statement.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Ledger notebook (available at office supply stores)
Open the ledger notebook. Looking at the columns from left to right, there should be columns marked for the date, transaction description, debit transactions, credit transactions and activity total (balance).
Enter today's date in topmost date column.
Enter in the phrase "opening balance" under transaction description on the same line, and then list the business's total assets under credit transactions and activity total. This allows you to begin to track future credits and debits in the ledger.
Record financial transactions regularly in the ledger by entering the date of the transaction under date, a description of the transaction, and the total gained or spent under either debit or credit transaction as appropriate. Calculate the balance and write in the activity total column.
Tips and warnings
- You do not have to use a physical ledger book. You can create a ledger out of any blank book, or use computer software to create a spreadsheet. There are a number of commercial bookkeeping programs also available.
- Most businesses track five different categories of finances -- assets, revenue, liabilities, owner's equity and expenses -- in separate ledger books or pages, as well as one main ledger book that combines all these categories into one master book.
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