What Are the Four Accounting Journals?

by Diane Stevens; Updated September 26, 2017

Four accounting journals are often referred to as "special journals." They are used to record the same type of transaction, one that happens frequently. It is an accounting timesaving method because, at the end of an accounting period, the totals of each ledger can be posted to the company’s general ledger instead of multiple postings throughout the period.

Purchases Journal

The purchases journal lists all purchases that are bought on account rather than paid for at time of receipt. A credit is made to accounts payable and a debit to the asset account. Column labels in this journal typically include date of entry, supplier name and invoice amount. There might also be a column for each asset account, such as supplies or inventory.

Cash Payments Journal

Sometimes referred to as a cash disbursement journal, any transaction that results in the decrease in cash is recorded here and a credit is posted to the cash column. If the payment is for items that had been bought on credit, the accounts payable column is debited. Typical column headings are date, check number, general ledger account name, and amount.

Sales Journal

The sales journal records only those sales made on account. A debit is made to accounts receivable and a credit is made to sales. The sales column is sometimes broken into two columns: one for the actual sale with another column for sales tax. The journal might include additional information such as the date, customer and invoice number.

Cash Receipts Journal

The cash receipts journal records all cash transactions that increase cash, such as cash sales. When cash is received for payment on account, a credit is posted to accounts receivable while the debit is posted to cash. If the cash received is for a sale, the credit is posted to sales. Typical column headings include date, customer name, a reference number and the amount.

About the Author

Diane Stevens' professional experience started in 1970 with a computer programming position. Beginning in 1985, running her own business gave her extensive experience in personal and business finance. Her writing appears on Orbitz's Travel Blog and other websites. Stevens holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from the State University of New York at Albany.