What is a special journal?

Definition of a Special Journal

A special journal (also known as a specialized journal) is useful in a manual accounting or bookkeeping system to reduce the tedious task of recording both the debit and credit general ledger account names and amounts in a general journal.

Example of a Special Journal

One example of a special journal is the sales journal which is used exclusively for a company’s sales of merchandise to customers that are allowed to pay at a future date. The sales journal will have only one column in which to enter the amount of each sales invoice. At the end of the month the total of the column is debited to Accounts Receivable and credited to Sales. Throughout the month, the individual sales invoices will be posted to each customer’s record found in the company’s subsidiary ledger for Accounts Receivable.

The benefits of using a special journal instead of the general journal for the repetitive transactions have been eliminated with today’s inexpensive yet powerful accounting software. For example, when a sales invoice is prepared by using accounting software, both the general ledger and subsidiary accounts will be updated instantly and accurately.

More Examples of Special Journals

In addition to the sales journal (used for recording sales on credit), there are other special journals which were popular in manual accounting systems. The following special journals were more efficient than recording all transactions in the general journal:

  • Cash disbursement journal for recording checks written.
  • Cash receipts journal for recording cash sales and other money received.
  • Purchases journal for recording purchases on credit of goods to be resold. (Cash purchases are recorded in the cash disbursement journal. Purchases of items such as equipment are recorded in the general journal.)