Guidance, examples, and resources for developing grant budgets

Find forms and learning guides (e.g. submitting expenses) @ research accounting

Getting Started

The budget is a listing of expected project costs divided into several major categories and subcategories -- it is an integral part of any grant application.

A poorly prepared budget can mean the difference between grant success and failure. Your budget should never be left until the last minute - it should be developed in tandem with the proposal itself. 

Carefully read all of the application instructions provided by the funding agency and:

  • adhere to all listed requirements; use any budget form or template that is provided; if no template is provided, be sure to pay attention to general formatting guidelines; use the specified format for the budget justification section.

Also, understand:

  • what expenses the funder will and will not support; the difference between research operating costs and infrastructure expenses; where to find more guidance.

Creating a Budget

Typical Budget Categories

  • Operating Costs: personnel, materials, supplies, services, travel, dissemination
  • Infrastructure: equipment, building/renovations
  • This document provides general guidance on developing budgets, a brief overview of common categories, and which budget items are typically included in each category (remember - not every funder will categorize budget items in the same way).

Please see the Budget Development Workshop video below for more guidance.

Budget Worksheet

Create a budget worksheet in a program such as Excel and fill in the details as you develop your research proposal. This very useful step allows you to:

  • Take advantage of formula functions to avoid calculation mistakes. (Although you should still double check everything manually, just to be sure!)
  • Easily add items or make adjustments to existing items.
  • Create separate sheets for different scenarios (e.g., project phases or budget years).
  • Use the final worksheet throughout your project to track expenses.

Use this blank budget template to help develop your budget. It contains the most common budget categories, space for justifying each item, and columns for summing items costs and category totals over multiple years. The personnel section includes example calculations. This template is set up for a two-year project; cell totals will auto-calculate for you. (If you delete or add years to this template, please be sure to update the formulas so that your totals will be correct.)

Download the UCalgary Finance benefits calculator to help determine your personnel costs.

Budget Justification

The budget justification document accompanies the budget worksheet, providing the rationale for each item included in the budget (e.g., travel costs, salaries, supplies, publication fees). 

The importance of a clear and comprehensive budget justification cannot be overstated.

  • A good practice is to explain your rationale for each budget item in the justification column of your Excel worksheet. When your budget is finalized, you can easily copy the justification column from Excel into a Word document. 
  • Please see this budget justification example.
  • After copying the justification statements from the Excel file to the Word document, some editing may be required to clean them up. 

Submitting a Budget

Funders have different requirements for formatting budgets (costs + justification). Some require a budget similar to an Excel worksheet, while others request a Word document or PDF - and some require a mix. Regardless, it’s recommended to start your budget in Excel so that costs can be easily calculated, edited, and updated during budget development.

Budget Development Workshop

Budget Development Workshop

Marc Hall