What is a Sales Ledger?

B. Miller

A sales ledger is an accounting tool used in business to keep track of sales made or invoices sent to customers. A sales ledger can be very simple or complex, depending on the size and the nature of the business. Sales ledgers were at one time handwritten in notebooks, with various columns, but now it is much more common to keep track of expenses using an electronic spreadsheet or accounting computer programs, which are easier to organize, sort, and change if needed. Generally, this type of ledger will feature a number of different columns including the date, invoice number if applicable, a description of the product or service, and the amount received for it.

Sales ledgers were once handwritten in notebooks with various columns.
Sales ledgers were once handwritten in notebooks with various columns.

Keeping a thorough sales ledger is important for a business for a number of reasons. Not only does it help to keep track of profits and losses, but it can help to reveal purchasing trends, or other types of sales data that may give clues to successful advertising campaigns or store displays, for example. In addition, the ledger can be a helpful tool for preparing tax returns at the end of the year, and can also be invaluable for detailing profits and expenses if the company is ever audited.

Many stores are able to print a ledger of their day's sales through their POS system.
Many stores are able to print a ledger of their day's sales through their POS system.

Some businesses need to create a sales ledger for invoicing customers. In this case, a few different columns might be helpful; the standard date, invoice number, and description of service are generally important. The date the invoice was sent is also valuable, as well as the date payment was received and the amount of the payment. A description of the payment type, such as check, credit, or cash is important for accounting purposes as well. A sales ledger for physical sales might be slightly different, since these are generally paid for at the point of sale rather than billed later, though the general accounting principles are the same.

It is generally a good idea to update the sales ledger as frequently as possible, at least once per day if not with each sale. Automated point of sale software programs may be able to simply print a record of sales at the end of the day, which can make the process easier. Otherwise, businesses should be sure to sit down once a day and make a note of sales, and then balance the book as much as possible at the end of the week. This will help to ensure that costly mistakes aren't made.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - I think there is still a place for the good old pen and paper and I think businesses should definitely use it as a backup. Computer systems can fail, and databases can be wiped. Even power failures still happen on a common basis.

I mean, just last week the system had a problem and they weren't able to take my card at the supermarket. If they still used those old swiping machines, it wouldn't have been a problem, but as it was, I had to go and get some cash and go back.

If the problem was with the general ledger, their accounting team could have had a nightmare of a time sorting it out without paper receipts to fall back on.


Honestly, I don't know why anyone would use paper ledgers these days. Automated is the way to go, no matter how big or small your business. That way everything will be up to date in real time, without you having to worry about it.

If you get some decent accountancy software it will do almost anything you want, including alerts if something isn't adding up or whatever.

Don't become completely reliant on it, of course. Do have human checks as well. But generally, it should work fine and will save you time and money in the long run.

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