How Journal Entries Work in Accounting

Accounting is the language of business, providing a systematic way to record, classify, and analyze financial transactions. At the heart of this financial communication lies the concept of journal entries. Journal entries serve as the foundation of all accounting processes, enabling businesses to maintain accurate and transparent records of their financial activities. In this article, we will explore what journal entries are, how they work, and their significance in the world of accounting.

What are Journal Entries?

A journal entry is a formal record of a financial transaction entered into an accounting system. It involves recording the financial impact of an event, such as a purchase, sale, payment, or receipt, in a chronological order. These entries are the primary source of information used to create financial statements, perform financial analysis, and make crucial business decisions.

Every time a business sells or purchases goods or services, the finances of the business change. Journal entries capture those changes.

Each journal entry has the same pieces that are used to capture those changes:

  1. Date: The date when the transaction occurred.
  2. Accounts: The names of the accounts affected by the transaction.
  3. Debit: The amount entered on the left side of the journal entry.
  4. Credit: The amount entered on the right side of the journal entry.

The total debits and credits in a journal entry must be equal to keep the fundamental accounting equation in balance: Assets = Liabilities + Equity.

Double-Entry Bookkeeping

Journal entries are based on the principles of double-entry bookkeeping, a system developed in the 15th century by Luca Pacioli, an Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar. According to this system, every transaction has two sides: a debit and a credit, each impacting different accounts.

Let’s take a simple example: A business purchases office supplies for $500 in cash. The journal entry for this transaction would look like this:

DateAccountsDebit ($)Credit ($)
2023-08-01Office Supplies500

Here, the “Office Supplies” account is debited with $500, representing an increase in the asset (office supplies), while the “Cash” account is credited with $500, signifying a decrease in the asset (cash).

The double-entry system ensures that the accounting equation remains balanced after each transaction, providing a safeguard against errors and ensuring the accuracy of financial records.

Types of Journal Entries

Journal entries can be classified into several categories based on the type of transaction being recorded. Some common types include:

Revenue Entries: These entries record the income generated from the sale of goods or services. Revenue accounts are credited, while an offsetting debit is made to an appropriate account (e.g., Cash or Accounts Receivable).


DateAccountsDebit ($)Credit ($)
2023-08-01Accounts Receivable1,000
Sales Revenue1,000

Expense Entries: These entries capture the costs incurred in running a business. Expense accounts are debited, while an offsetting credit is made to an appropriate account (e.g., Cash or Accounts Payable).


DateAccountsDebit ($)Credit ($)
2023-08-01Rent Expense1,200
Accounts Payable1,200

Asset Entries: These entries involve changes in the company’s assets, such as purchases or sales of equipment, inventory, or property. The affected asset account is debited, and the corresponding account is credited.


DateAccountsDebit ($)Credit ($)
Mortgage Payable200,000

Liability Entries: These entries record changes in a company’s obligations, such as loans or payments to suppliers. The affected liability account is credited, and the corresponding account is debited.

DateAccountsDebit ($)Credit ($)
Mortgage Payable200,000

Importance of Journal Entries

Journal entries are the backbone of accounting because individual transactions are the basis of creating financial statements, including the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement. These statements provide crucial insights into a company’s financial health.

Accurate journal entries make for accurate financial statements. This helps businesses to make informed decisions, meet regulatory requirements, and show financial transparency to stakeholders, investors, and auditors.

Caroline Grimm

Caroline Grimm is an accounting educator and a small business enthusiast. She holds Masters and Bachelor degrees in Business Administration. She is the author of 13 books and the creator of Accounting How To YouTube channel and blog. For more information visit:

Recent Posts