How to figure out journal entries

When you're facing an unfamiliar bookkeeping situation where the journal entries aren't clear, try this:

  1. Write down the real world events to be modelled, in detail

  2. Write down the things you want to know

  3. Start with a simpler version of the scenario if necessary. If you get stuck below, return here and simplify more.

  4. Discover which accounts and transactions are needed to model the situation in the most principled and correct way. Take one event at a time, and try to write the journal entry for it, using hledger to check that each transaction is balanced and the account balances make sense. If needed, return to step 3. Or consult books or the internet for ideas - but carefully, since their terminology and examples will often be different and confusing.

  5. Experiment and discover reporting commands that show the things you want to know. If it seems not possible, you may need to revisit steps 3 or 4.

  6. Now consider, are there simpler accounts/transactions/reports that might be more convenient, yet still good enough ?

  7. Choose one approach. Document it if necessary so you'll remember. Save or automate the reporting commands so you'll remember those.

  8. Put it into practice and refine over time to improve clarity and usability.