How do I get better at journal entries (accounting journal entries)?
December 31, 2022 3:24 PM   Subscribe

I just got promoted into a job I'm not technically qualified for (it's fine, they know), but the one thing I'm super insecure about is that I can't do a basic journal entry without googling it first, and I don't know how to learn this. I have an accounting degree, I do get the concept, but how does it get to be second nature?
posted by emumimic to Education (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How long have you been doing these? How many do you do? How do you do them? (I work with a specialized financial system so while my JEs may contain the same info as yours, my process is probably different.)

I too have worked my way up through positions of increasing responsibility to do some accounting stuff. I do not have an accounting degree; I've taken some accounting classes and know my credits and debits.

I had a system where I was able to create a template for different kinds of JEs and just fill it in. Can you do something like this? I had a large but not infinite number of JEs to create.

I actually keep a lot of stuff bookmarked for my job - I have our chart of accounts, several critical policy documents and some other stuff in my bookmarks toolbar and actually keep most of them open in tabs all the time. I also use the sticky notes feature on my desktop to make little lists of financial notes. I have a folder on my computer for instructions and policy PDFs and download everything relevant that isn't well-formatted for bookmarking.

In general, just reading all this stuff over has helped to have it sink in. However, honestly, every single good accountant I know checks policy constantly, even policy they think they know. It's not a bad thing to just look stuff up all the time. There's a lot of fiddly little stuff to remember, and while you learn much of it, some of it just doesn't sink in real well.

I think that if you are able to do the majority of your work at an acceptable level of accuracy in a reasonably timely manner, you're doing fairly well for a new position. If they expected a fully formed accountant fresh-sprung from Zeus's head, they would have belted up, recruited one and paid the necessary amounts.
posted by Frowner at 4:43 PM on December 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Practice. Templates. Save copies of stuff you know you'll do more than once.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:42 PM on December 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It depends a little bit what you are struggling with. If you can find the answers on the internet I’m going to assume it is conceptual and not the specifics of your company’s COA or policies.

To get the conceptual things to become 2nd nature I’d actually go back to bookkeeping practice books and just do a bunch of practice on the items you are most likely to need for your job. Flick through some to find the right starting point. Focus on JEs you have to do frequently/at least monthly. Then get quarter end ones under your belt. If something is an annual adjustment having to google it and having to remind yourself next year is fine.

I’ve been a qualified accountant for many years and I absolutely have to look up things I have to do infrequently.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:53 PM on December 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I really like the videos by Accounting Stuff on YouTube for info about journal entries. I'm not sure if they would be too basic for you, but lots of people said they studied accounting and the videos helped them finally really get it. I've only taken one accounting class and they helped me pass a test I had to take to get my job.
posted by Eyelash at 6:59 AM on January 1, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been doing accounting for 4 years, I even have a certification in Financial Accounting from Harvard Business School, and I still look stuff up all the time.

Once you get to know the recurring JEs for your company it will get easier bc you can search for them or save a screen shot somewhere. One-offs you may need to look up. It's ok :)
posted by ananci at 7:18 AM on January 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I learned an astronomical amount about journal entries from a 100 page bookkeeping book I took out of the library (when I was out of college and freaking out about not understanding anything in my first accounting job despite my accounting degree, hah!). I don't remember the book title, but it walked you through a fictional company and how its day-to-day transactions would flow into journal entries and how the journal entries flowed into financial statements. And the concept of the general ledger and subledgers and the trial balance, and how assets, liabilities and equity (and income) have to balance out. Almost everything clicked into place from reading this book over a weekend. Maybe check out your local library to see if they have something similar.

Also a simple thing I have to remind myself of when thinking out a journal entry, is what the end effect should be to the relevant account or financial statement. Once I get that side, I can figure out what the second side should be.
For ex:
1. a credit improves the P&L (so an asset probably increases),
2. a debit to record expense (so a liability increased or an asset reduced),
3. we owe someone, and I have to credit a liability (so an expense increased)
4. our inventory value decreases so we reduce the inventory asset by crediting the inventory reserve (so increase the corresponding expense on the income statement)
posted by watrlily at 9:00 AM on January 1, 2023 [2 favorites]

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