Proposal Budgeting


Preparing Accurate Budgets and Thorough Budget Justifications

calculatorExplore this section of the guide for helpful resources related to the following:

  • Creating budgets that are the best estimate of how we will accomplish our project goals
  • Writing budget justifications in sufficient detail to explain project costs

The first section on developing and managing sound budgets is important since we are generally required to adhere to the budget’s structure for the life of the project. Budget revisions can be requested, but there are no guarantees that changes will be approved by the sponsor.



Read the Solicitation

spa-rfp-akaThe solicitation usually contains guidance on the budget requirements as well as any other restrictions mandated by the sponsor.

The following items are examples of the types of restrictions or guidance found in a solicitation that could affect the budget:

  • Limits on the amount of funding and start/end dates allowed
  • Allowable and unallowable costs related to salaries, equipment, and other budget categories
  • Limits on certain costs (including salary, equipment, indirect costs)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Requirements or restrictions that affect the budget may be found in various sections, so do your best to review all of the solicitation to avoid missing any important information that could affect the budget.


Check Financial Compliance Standards

Whether you are helping prepare a budget or reviewing a budget, be sure to check all entries to verify that they follow sponsor requirements and meet university compliance and pre-audit responsibilities.

Make sure that you are familiar with all of the rules outlined in the Sponsored Programs and Regulatory Compliance (SPARCS) and Contracts and Grants (CNG) sites. Pay particular attention to the budgeting section of the SPARCS web site and the Cost Accounting Standards section of the CNG site. Click on both of the screen shots below to review each site and be sure to bookmark any sections that you want to check periodically as you work with budgets.



SPARCS Budgeting Guidelines

Click the screen illustration below to open the Budgeting Guidelines section on the SPARCS site. Click through all of the Budget menu items on the left side of the screen to thoroughly review each section.

SPARCS Budgeting Guidelines Page



C&G Cost Accounting Standards Page

Click the screen illustration below to open the Cost Accounting Standards (CAS) section on the C&G site.

Review the content now and you will also find more detailed information in Section 6: Financial Compliance of this SPA Guide.

CAS page

More Information on Computers and Peripherals

You may also want to review FAQ’s on Computers and Peripherals, a 2010 handout from a Q&A session conducted by the Office of Contracts and Grants. You may also e-mail if you have any further questions about the allowability of any charges.



Check the Math and Current Rates!

calculatorThis simple advice will go a long way toward easier award management.

Watch out for the top four mistakes made here on campus related to proposal budgets:

  • Using an incorrect fringe benefit rate
  • Using an incorrect F&A/indirect rate
  • Not calculating the correct F&A/indirect base
  • Not double-checking the math calculations

To make sure that our budgets have the correct rates, be sure to continually check the following rate sites for revised rates rather than relying on printed copies that may be out-of-date.

You may also want to save the Proposal Budgeting Checklist linked below as a reminder to reduce errors in your review steps.


SPARCS Link to Current Fringe Benefit Rates

Click the screen illustration below to access and save the SPARCS page containing the latest fringe benefit rates.

SPARCS Fringe benefits page


SPARCS Link to Current F&A Rates and Base

Click the screen illustration below to access and save the SPARCS page containing the latest F&A rates and base calculations.

 SPARCS Indirect Costs



Budget Samples and Templates

Take a look at the following samples and templates for your use. If you have any budgeting tools that you use in your college, please share the information or sample tool with us.

SPARCS Templates

Click the screen illustration below to access and save the SPARCS budget template page. You can click on the templates from the SPARCS page or scroll down further here to open the Excel versions from this page.

 SPARCS Budget Templates Page


You may use the following budget templates as starting points to build or revise your own. Be sure to verify the latest rates online before relying on any of the pre-filled percentages.

Click the first two Excel spreadsheet illustrations below to access university wide Excel Workbook budget samples created by the Office of Contracts and Grants. There are two versions: one for Colleges opting to budget at the detail level and one for those opting to budget at the summary level.

University Detail Version:

Budget Template - Detail Version


University Summary Version:

Budget Template - Summary Level


College Templates

Click the two Excel spreadsheet illustrations below to access other Excel budget samples created by two Colleges here at the University. These will need to be updated with current rates before using.

College Template #1

College 2011 Budget Template


College Template #2

2011 College Budget Template


Budget Sample

Click the budget illustration below to access and review a sample University sponsored project budget in Excel format. Or click here to access PDF version. (Please remember that this is a sample budget only and may contain out-of-date rates such as travel, fringe, and other rates that can change periodically.)

 2011 Budget Sample


Budget Justifications

Budget Justifications are an important component of a successful proposal. The justification must provide a thorough explanation of how the anticipated costs will support the project objectives and include details on how these costs were derived.

For example, if attending a conference is not part of the original proposal, including a PI’s related conference registration fees to attend a conference must be explained in the Budget Justification. Since conference registration fees must be in direct support of a project, it should specify that the PI’s attendance includes related activities such as presenting the project’s results or gathering information related to the project’s outcomes. (In addition, all costs associated with the conference must be verifiable and the registration receipt and conference itinerary detailing events and meals served must be retained for verification.)



Budget Justification

Click the screen illustration below to access a Budget Justification Sample. After clicking the image to open the document in Word, you can click the document links to go directly to the related SPARCS web pages for related rates and other information as you review the sample.

Budget Justification Sample


Click the screen illustration below to access a Budget Justification Template that includes instructions and formatting that you can use in preparing your own Budget Justifications.

Budget Justification Templtae



Proposal Budgeting Checklist

You may find the following checklist helpful in managing the budgeting part of the proposal process. Click the screen illustration below to access this checklist.

Proposal Budgeting Checklist



Clock WatcherRush Reviews Cause Errors

Do your part to seek required approvals with enough lead time to avoid rush reviews at all levels.

As presented in Section 2: Proposal Development, using and managing the deadlines in a workable Project Plan is essential for avoiding budgeting and other errors.

If you have a good method or software package that you use in your college, please share the information or sample tool with us.




  • Send an e-mail to a University expert if your College Business Office cannot help on related questions.
  • Send an e-mail to the webmaster for this site if you discover broken links or want to make suggestions for improvement of this guide.


Last Update: August 15, 2013