What is a Purchases Journal?

Definition: A purchases journal is a record of all acquisitions made on credit during a period. In other words, this is a journal that keeps track of the orders placed using vendor credit or accounts payable as well as the current balance owed to each vendor.

What Does Purchases Journal Mean?

A typical purchases journal has several columns to record the date, vendor account, invoice date, credit terms, accounts payable balance, and other account balances. All of these columns use source documents that were acquired throughout the voucher system. For example, the invoice is used to input the price and the date. The purchase order is used to record the terms of the vendor’s credit.

Management typically uses this journal to track the status of each purchase, the amount owed to vendors, the due dates of each balance, along with the discount periods. The accounting department uses this journal to crosscheck and tie out the accounts payable subsidiary accounts at the end of each period. Let’s take a look at an example.


Buckley’s Bowling is a bowling ally with 37 lanes. It regularly orders food and supplies for its bar from various suppliers. When the kitchen manager places an order for $100 of inventory with a vendor, Buckley typically has 30 days to pay for the order. This credit transaction would be recorded by debiting inventory and crediting accounts payable for $100.

The purchasing journal would also record the transaction by debiting inventory, crediting accounts payable and recording the date, invoice, terms, and vendor. Every entry in this journal includes a credit to accounts payable. The debit typically goes to inventory, but it can also go to other accounts like supplies.

Since the purchases journal only records credit transactions, none of the cash transactions made during the period are posted in it. Instead, all cash inventory and supply purchases are recorded in the cash disbursements journal.