All financial transactions for any organization are eventually posted to the general ledger in one way or another. When a computer program is used for accounting, most financial data is posted to a sub-ledger—like accounts payable or accounts receivable—which automatically posts to the general ledger. However, some entries must be posted directly to the general ledger. Transactions that are often posted directly to the general ledger are capital expenditures, accruals of interest, accumulation of depreciation, adjustments that will be reversed in the next accounting period, and other account adjustments that cannot be made through a sub-ledger. When posting to the general ledger, extra care must be taken to be accurate, since correcting mistakes with multiple general ledger entries makes for messy accounting records. Aside from that, though, posting to the general ledger is not complicated.
Assemble all documents related to the entries you need to post to the general ledger. These may include purchase agreements, lease or loan agreements, amortization schedules and depreciation schedules.
Prepare a spreadsheet on your computer or on paper, detailing each general ledger entry that needs to be posted. Include a complete description of the general ledger entry, the precise account to be debited and the amount, and then the corresponding account to be credited and the amount. Keep your debit amounts in a column to the left and credits in a column to the right.
Total the debits and credits for all your general ledger entries, and make certain that your debit and credit totals are the same. If you have prepared your spreadsheet on your computer, print it out for reference while you enter the data into your general ledger module.
Access your general ledger module in your accounting program on your computer. Verify that the date for your general ledger is set to the period in which you wish to post your entries. This is important because entries are often posted to the general ledger after the end of the period has passed. For instance, while the current month may actually be February, you may be posting general ledger entries for January, so in this case, make sure your general ledger date is set to January.
Key your general ledger entries into your general ledger module according to your accounting software user manual.
Print a report of your unposted general ledger entries. Proofread your general ledger entries, checking against your spreadsheet (and adding machine tapes, if necessary) you have already prepared. Make any necessary corrections to your general ledger entries. Do not post to the general ledger yet.
Make a computer backup of your general ledger data. Label your general ledger data backup clearly and store it in a secure location.
Post your general ledger entries according to your accounting software user manual. Print a complete record of the entries you have posted to your general ledger. Store these in the appropriate files or ledger books as part of your permanent accounting records.
Always thoroughly document any entries you post to the general ledger, since you can never be sure that you'll be available to explain your general ledger entries later. Store your documentation securely as part of your permanent accounting records. If you do not use a computer, but instead do your accounting on paper only, manually record or post the general ledger entries precisely in your books in a generally accepted accounting format, making certain to update the balances of all affected accounts. Always document your general ledger entries thoroughly, and store your accounting records in a very secure location.