Tracking cash flow, assets, expenses, and revenue is one of the most important activities in any business, although many would argue that sales and revenue are the most important. Of course, sales and revenue are extremely important; however, if you are unaware of whether you have sufficient funds in cash accounts to pay salaries and purchase raw materials and other expenses, your company may be in financial jeopardy. Investors want to know if you are making a profit and whether expenses are under control.
Companies use a variety of financial accounting tools to help them accomplish this task, and generally, it is the general ledger using a double-entry approach. General ledgers allow company owners and investors to track gains, expenses, changes to assets, and much more. In this post, we will explore more details about the use of a general ledger in small businesses.
What is a General Ledger?
A general ledger is a financial tool used by business owners to maintain records of their assets, revenue, and expenses. All business transactions are organized into balance sheets and income statement accounts. Typically, the general ledger is displayed in a single document for review. Details about the business’s equity, assets, and liabilities are in a balance sheet. Income statement accounts list gains, losses and revenue, and expenses. Company managers can monitor important indicators such as cash flow, cash on hand, and other factors that are important to the success of the company.
What Is a General Ledger Template?
There are many different styles of general ledger templates available to business people. The type you select is based on the needs of management and investors. A template standardizes your record-keeping system and provides a document where you fill in transactions, and the appropriate reports are created for you.
The various types of general ledger templates include:
- Financial ledgers
- Business ledgers
- Accounting ledgers
Reports that are important to review and monitor are:
- Accounts receivable
- Accounts payable
- Accounts receivable – monitors the money owed to your business
- Accounts payable – monitors the money your company owes to other businesses
- Cash – monitors the amount of cash or liquid assets your company owns
- Inventory – monitors the purchases and sales affecting your business
General Ledger Templates & Examples
Why do You Need a General Ledger?
Monitoring what is going on within your company from a financial perspective is an extremely important activity, whether your company is a small one-person consulting company or one with many employees. Financial health is everything and will determine if you are successful, support tax filings and audits, assess if you need to rein n spending, and more.
A general ledger provides:
- A detailed record of all transactions
- Balance your books – cash, assets, debt
- Makes tax filing much easier
- Helps to manage spending and control expenses
- Identifies unusual transactions
- Monitors fraudulent transactions
- Assist in preparing financial statements needed for investors, banks, loan applications
Essential Elements of a General Ledger Template
A general ledger template consists of accounts and data entry components that contribute to the general ledger. There are typically seven different account types in a general ledger, and there may be sub-ledgers as well; however, we will only cover the main accounts. They are:
- Assets – or resources that have a financial value, whether they are tangible or intangible and short or long term investments
- Liabilities – are obligations the business has, again tangible or intangible and short or long term in nature
- Equities – is the value of the business at any given point in time by subtracting the liabilities from the assets
- Revenue – tracks value earned from selling goods, products, or services. In addition, revenue can be increased by gaining assets or decreasing liabilities
- Expenses – include the cost of day-to-day operations, leases, utilities, salaries, etc.
Each entry into the general ledger should involve the following elements or data points:
- Account Name – is the name of the account usually at the top of the ledger
- Account number – is given to each account name
- Date – add a date column to enter the date of each transaction
- Explanation – add an explanation column to provide details for each transaction
- Reference number – links your transaction to your general journal to find the recorded transaction
- Debit – record changes to increase assets, expenses, or decreases to your liabilities or assets
- Credit – record changes to increases to your liabilities or equities or decreases to your assets or expenses.
- Balance – the opening balance is listed at the top of the page and modified as you enter debits and credits.
Why Prepare a General Ledger Template?
Preparing a general ledger template may take some valuable time initially to set it up and enter all of the initial data. Select a standard template and make the modifications you need to customize it to your needs. Once the template is set up, the amount of time it saves in generating the reports you need to help manage your business will be significant.
Once you have a general ledger template prepared and begin entering data, the benefits will quickly become apparent:
- A detailed record of all transactions – which you can search as needed to address client questions, confirm payment and check overdue accounts.
- Balance your books – is a required activity for all company’s reporting year-end results to owners, investors, and financial institutions that may lend you funds from time to time.
- Makes tax filing much easier – all the required tax entries will be at your fingertips, and auditable should the tax department decide to audit your company. In addition, there is the confidence that you are only paying the actual tax you need to based on revenue minus expenses.
- Helps to manage spending and control expenses – cash flow is king in any business. Spending more than you take in only creates problems for any company, requiring more debt to be taken on or, in the worst case, failure to pay creditors, including employees.
- Identifies unusual transactions – monitor and question unusual transactions
- Monitors fraudulent transactions – with many employees, peace of mind for any owner is knowing that fraudulent transactions can be identified and action taken
- Assist in preparing financial statements – to support investors, banks, loan applications
How to Create a General Ledger Template?
Creating a general ledger template is a four-step process, which can be simplified by using an existing template and making the needed modifications to suit your company’s needs.
The steps are:
- Understand the parts or pages of the ledger
- Understand the parts of each general ledger page
- Decide which bookkeeping method to use
- Create your general ledger
- Keep your ledger up to date
- Understand the parts or pages of the ledger – as discussed earlier in this post, the pages of the general ledger are Assets, Liabilities, Equities, Revenue, and Expenses
- Understand the parts of each general ledger page – every page should have the Account name, the account number, a date column, an explanation column, a reference number column, a debit column, and a credit column. These were also discussed earlier in this post.
- Decide which bookkeeping method to use – at one time, all ledgers were physical, requiring manual entries and calculations. Today’s systems use computer programs to create and maintain your company’s books.
- Create your general ledger – download a computer program or template and make the necessary modifications needed to name accounts, enter company information, and customize sub-ledgers if needed.
- Keep your ledger up to date – enter data as transactions occur, at the end of the day or once a week, depending on the type of business and quantity of transactions. Balance accounts regularly to uncover errors and transactions you want to investigate further.
The following frequently asked questions are asked by many readers involved in developing and preparing general ledger templates:
A general ledger account will have two sides to the account, the debit side and the credit side. The debit side is on the left side of the account, and the credit side is on the right-hand side. Each side will have four columns.
All transactions are typically entered into one of five accounts in the general ledger. These accounting items include assets, liabilities, the owner’s capital, revenues from sales, and all expenses associated with operating the business.
The balance sheet and the general ledger are not the same, even though they include similar information and recording methods are different for each.
All transactions are entered into the general ledger from the daily journal in the form of debits and credits. Every transaction is tracked. A balance sheet is recorded in less detail. The balance sheet is a picture of a company’s financial health in considering assets and liabilities at a point in time.
The general ledger is the main set of accounts used by companies to manage the financial elements of a company. All transactions are entered into the general ledger. The trial balance is a report run at a specific point in time, usually at the end of the week or month, to ensure that the total of all credits equals the total of all debts.
A ledger is a main and principle form of an account. It may also be referred to as a sub-ledger to the general ledger. General Ledger has all the accounts included and the individual ledgers.
Key-points, Conclusion, or Final Thoughts
A general ledger is one of the main tools business owners can use to manage the financial success of their business, monitor cash flow, fraud, and profit. All transactions are entered into the general ledger or into a general journal to be summarized to report results for assets, sales, revenue, changes to debt and credits, and many other reports of interest to business owners.
General ledger reports are also useful in managing tax statements and providing information to investors and lenders.
While it takes dedicated resources to maintain an accurate, up-to-date general ledger, it is the tool most business owners utilize to provide them with a snapshot of the financial health of their company.
Many companies take advantage of a general ledger template, which they customize with their company information and needs. They save time and ensure they are following standard accounting processes.