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Columnar Pads: The Excel Program of the Past

Accounting forms serve a critical role in bookkeeping -- even in our computer-savvy age. Before Microsoft's Excel spreadsheet program came along with its fancy columns and spreadsheets, accountants depended heavily on columnar pads and general ledger books to keep track of the financial health for their employers.

But do these manual accounting forms still serve a purpose? Absolutely! Understanding and using manual accounting principles strengthens your understanding of the financial picture of the business. Even though accounting software has evolved far beyond what Excel has to offer, many businesses -- especially small businesses -- still depend on the manual ledger books.

A columnar pad works like a checkbook register (remember those?) except you have more categories. Using columnar pads before entering ledger amounts into your accounting software can help you ensure you have all of your information correct before putting into the computer, and, gives you a back-up should you need it.

Here is an easy explanation for using a columnar pad for simple accounting:

  1. Write your list of headers across the top of each column on the pad. Usually this includes date, description, account number, debit, and credit. It also includes a balance column to show the account balance following the transaction.
  2. Fill out the columnar pad using the specific company information. All entries should have the date, description, account number and then the dollar amount for the debit or credit.
  3. Below the journal entry, complete your calculation. This can keep your math on track and help you identify any errors more easily.
  4. Use the pad to support your journal entries and other adjustments made to the general ledger.

As you can see, using columnar pads for accounting is not a difficult process. Many accountants use the manual process to prepare preliminary financial statements. The worksheets serve a great purpose in preparing the information to go into the general ledger.

The general ledger is the main accounting record for a business. It includes the collection of the group of accounts that make up the financial statements for a company. A company can have several accounts, depending on the number of subsidiaries. As such, we offer our clients columnar pads that range from 4 up to 16 columns to work from.

Columnar pads and worksheets can serve many other purposes outside of accounting functions. Keeping track of stocks, bank accounts, preparing budgets, and other itemized figures are all made easier with this basic office supply.