Help with Budgets

Research project budgets guide project spending and therefore must be based on accurate information and match sponsor eligibility requirements.

Getting Started

There is no magic formula available to develop a budget. Here are basic steps to developing a good budget:

  1. Determine the eligible expense categories and maximum amount allowed by the sponsor.
  2. Define project tasks, timelines and milestones and determine the actual resources and costs required to complete these. Consider whether contingencies are needed (and confirm they are eligible expenses).
  3. Categorize these costs (i.e., salaries, supplies, equipment), per year.
  4. Ensure that project scope and budget match.
  5. Include indirect costs of research (ICR) as permitted by sponsor and required by university policy.

Consider the following:

  • Budget justifications in applications and proposals are often considered by reviewers as a good indicator of the feasibility of the research.
  • How accurate or how flexible does the budget need to be? Can funds be spent across budget lines (actual expenses can fall within the total budget estimate), or must they be spent exactly as budgeted? Does the sponsor allow carry over of unspent funds from one year to the next?

U of A resources and information that can help you with your budget:

  • Supply Management Services (SMS) can assist with budgeting costs and acquiring equipment, including customs brokerage fees
  • Current salary and benefit rates for student and/or staff to be paid from the project. Collective agreements for support staff and trust research staff and graduate students are listed on the Human Resource Services Collective Agreements and Handbooks page.
  • Current university rates for indirect costs or overhead; and/or
  • Current rates for services provided by central units or department facilities to be used in the research, for example:
    • Animal services
    • Vehicle travel and per diem expenses
    • Current university rates are available from the Travel Management division of SMS
    • User fees (if applicable) for use of core facilities, equipment, etc. Contact department/faculty that operates the facility or owns the equipment for user fee rates.

An Exemplary Budget Will Include:

  • Well justified expenses
  • A brief description of trainees and employees that outline their roles in the project
  • Budget calculations that are clearly illustrated and easy to follow
  • Budget overlaps with other grants clearly explained
  • Contingency for the unexpected (experiments may need to be run more than once)
  • Only eligible expenses
  • Expenses that are linked to specific research objectives, milestones or aims
  • A justification section that follows headings in the budget itself

Related links
Human Resources Agreements, Salary Scales and Benefits
Postdoctoral Fellows