How to Record an Expense Accounting Entry

by Kirk Thomason; Updated September 26, 2017

In accounting, an expense is the recognition of a period cost. Companies expend cash on items necessary to run a business, such as utilities, wages, maintenance, office supplies and other items. Companies must record expenses in each accounting period. Journal entries typically follow the same format to record transactions in a company’s general ledger. Double-entry accounting requires both a debit and credit in each expense accounting entry. Companies may incur expenses through cash or credit purchases.

Items you will need

  • Invoice
  • Highlighter
  • General ledger
  • Computerized accounting system

Background Information

Step 1

Gather information relating to the expense transaction. Accountants need to prove transactions through invoices, payment receipts or other documentation prior to recording journal entries.

Step 2

Determine if the company paid cash or used credit for the transaction. This will change the credit portion of the journal entry.

Step 3

Write the journal entry to record the expense. Include the transaction date, account number and title, dollar amount and a brief description. List debits first and credits second.

Example

Step 1

Review your company’s recent purchase for office supplies based on the invoice. Highlight the transaction date, invoice dollar amount and due date. For example, Widgets, Inc. recently purchased $100 in office supplies with cash on March 17, 2011.

Step 2

Write the journal entry using a pencil and paper. Using the previous example, the transaction date is March 17, 2011. Include the general ledger account number and title (specific to your company), debit office supplies expense for $100 and credit cash for $100. A brief description may be “purchased office supplies.”

Step 3

Enter the journal entry into the general ledger. If you use a paper ledger, hand write the entry into the ledger. For a computerized accounting system, follow the software’s instructions for entering journal entries into the ledger.

Tips

  • Expense accounts have a natural debit balance. The only credits that should appear in them report a refund from vendors or suppliers.

References

  • "Fundamental Financial Accounting Concepts"; Thomas P. Edmonds, et al.; 2011

About the Author

Kirk Thomason began writing in 2011. In addition to years of corporate accounting experience, he teaches online accounting courses for two universities. Thomason holds a Bachelor and Master of Science in accounting.