A general ledger is a file or book in which a business records all of its financial transactions. At the start of each fiscal year, a new general ledger is started with an opening balance. During that year, the bookkeeper or accountant will enter every transaction, separated into assigned accounts. This is typically done using account codes assigned by the business. Not only does a general ledger help a business track where money has gone, but it also helps to forecast what will be needed in the coming fiscal year.

In the first cell of the spreadsheet, or the top left space in the hard-copy ledger, enter "G/L Code." This is where general ledger account codes will be entered. Each account code is assigned to a particular department or category, such as office supplies, postage or legal services.

In the second cell of the spreadsheet, or the second space in the first row of the ledger, enter "Invoice Date." In this column, the responsible person will enter the date the credit or debit occurred. Enter "Invoice Number" into the following cell.

In the next three cells or spaces, enter "Requested By," "Amount of Check" and "Paid To." The person responsible for maintaining the general ledger will enter who requested a check, for how much and to whom it was made out. In the following cell or space, enter "Purpose" to allow for a detailed description of the expenditure.

In the final cell or ledger space in the first row, enter "Balance." Enter the beginning balance for the fiscal year into the first cell of this column below the heading.

Enter a formula to automatically insert the remaining balance in the "Balance" column, if using a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. The syntax for this formula would be "=Last Balance - Amount of check." If using a hard-copy ledger, the balance will need to be manually calculated.


If the business uses multiple sub accounts under one G/L code, such as codes for office supplies charged to specific departments, use different worksheet tabs or ledger pages for each department using the balance of each department's budget.