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Sample Budget Breakdown for Research Proposals

When you’re putting together a research proposal, one of the most important parts is the budget. It’s like planning how to spend your allowance, but for a big project!

This guide will help you understand how to break down your research budget into different parts, making it easier for you to plan and for others to understand where the money will go.

Why is a Budget Breakdown Important?

Before we dive into the details, let’s talk about why having a clear budget is so crucial:

  1. Shows you’ve thought things through: A well-planned budget tells people you’ve really considered what you need for your research.
  2. Helps you stay on track: Once your project starts, a good budget helps you keep an eye on your spending.
  3. Makes it easier to get funding: When people or organizations see a clear, detailed budget, they’re more likely to give you money for your research.
  4. Helps others understand your needs: A breakdown helps explain why you need certain amounts of money for different parts of your project.

Now, let’s look at the main parts of a research budget:

  1. Personnel Costs

This is often the biggest chunk of your budget. It covers the money you’ll pay to people working on the project.


a) Principal Investigator (PI) and Co-Investigators

  • This is you (if you’re leading the project) and any other main researchers.
  • Include how much of their time (usually as a percentage) will be spent on the project.
  • Calculate their salary for that time.

Example: Dr. Jane Smith (PI) – 30% time for 12 months Annual salary: $80,000 Budget: 30% of $80,000 = $24,000

b) Research Assistants

  • These are people who help with various tasks like data collection or analysis.
  • Include their hourly rate and estimated hours.

Example: Research Assistant – $20/hour, 20 hours/week for 40 weeks Budget: $20 x 20 x 40 = $16,000

c) Consultants

  • Experts you might need to hire for specific tasks.
  • Include their fee and estimated time needed.

Example: Statistical Consultant – $100/hour, estimated 20 hours Budget: $100 x 20 = $2,000

d) Student Support

  • If you’re involving students in your research, include their stipends or wages.

Example: Graduate Student Assistant – $1,500/month for 9 months Budget: $1,500 x 9 = $13,500

  1. Equipment and Supplies

This covers all the physical items you need to buy for your research.


a) Major Equipment

  • Big, expensive items that are crucial for your research.
  • Include the full cost, including any shipping or installation fees.

Example: High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) Machine Cost: $30,000 (including shipping and installation)

b) Minor Equipment

  • Smaller items that cost less but are still important.

Example: Digital scales (2) – $500 each Budget: $500 x 2 = $1,000

c) Consumables

  • Things you’ll use up during your research.
  • Estimate how much you’ll need for the whole project.

Example: Lab chemicals – $2,000 Glassware – $500 Office supplies – $300 Total: $2,800

d) Software

  • Any special computer programs you need to buy.

Example: Statistical analysis software license – $1,200/year Budget for 2-year project: $1,200 x 2 = $2,400

  1. Travel

If your research involves trips to collect data, attend conferences, or meet with collaborators, include these costs.


a) Field Work

  • Trips to collect data or conduct experiments outside your usual workplace.
  • Include transportation, accommodation, and daily expenses (per diem).

Example: Field trip to Amazon rainforest:

  • Flights: $1,500
  • Accommodation: $100/night for 14 nights = $1,400
  • Per diem: $50/day for 14 days = $700 Total: $3,600

b) Conferences

  • Costs for attending meetings to present your research.
  • Include registration fees, travel, accommodation, and per diem.

Example: Annual Ecology Conference:

  • Registration: $500
  • Flights: $400
  • Hotel: $150/night for 3 nights = $450
  • Per diem: $75/day for 4 days = $300 Total: $1,650

c) Collaboration Meetings

  • Costs for meeting with research partners at other institutions.

Example: Visit to partner lab in Germany:

  • Flights: $800
  • Accommodation: $120/night for 5 nights = $600
  • Per diem: $70/day for 6 days = $420 Total: $1,820
  1. Facility Costs

If you need to use special facilities or rent space for your research, include these costs.


a) Laboratory Space

  • Fees for using lab space, if it’s not provided by your institution.

Example: Lab rental at local research center: $500/month for 12 months = $6,000

b) Specialized Facilities

  • Costs for using equipment or spaces you don’t have regular access to.

Example: Use of Electron Microscope facility: $200/hour, estimated 20 hours needed Budget: $200 x 20 = $4,000

c) Field Station Fees

  • Costs for using research stations in remote locations.

Example: Mountain Research Station fee: $100/day for 30 days = $3,000

  1. Participant Costs

If your research involves human subjects, you might need to pay them or cover their expenses.


a) Participant Compensation

  • Payment for people’s time in participating in your study.

Example: 100 participants at $20 each Budget: 100 x $20 = $2,000

b) Participant Travel Reimbursement

  • Covering transportation costs for participants to come to your research site.

Example: Estimated average travel cost per participant: $15 100 participants Budget: 100 x $15 = $1,500

c) Refreshments

  • If you’re providing snacks or meals during long study sessions.

Example: Snacks and drinks for 100 participants at $5 each Budget: 100 x $5 = $500

  1. Publication and Dissemination

These are costs related to sharing your research results.


a) Open Access Publication Fees

  • Costs for making your research freely available online.

Example: Estimated fee for open access journal: $2,500

b) Printing Costs

  • For creating posters or handouts for conferences.

Example: 50 color posters at $30 each Budget: 50 x $30 = $1,500

c) Website Development

  • If you plan to create a website to share your research.

Example: Website design and hosting for 2 years: $1,000

  1. Indirect Costs

These are overhead costs that your institution might charge for managing your grant.


a) Facilities and Administration (F&A) Costs

  • A percentage of your total direct costs that goes to your institution.
  • This rate varies by institution and funding agency.

Example: If your total direct costs are $100,000 and your institution’s F&A rate is 52%: Indirect costs: $100,000 x 52% = $52,000

b) Cost Sharing

  • Some grants require your institution to contribute a portion of the costs.
  • This isn’t a cost you include in your budget request, but you need to show it’s covered.

Example: If the grant requires 10% cost sharing on a $100,000 project: Cost sharing amount: $100,000 x 10% = $10,000 (to be provided by your institution)

  1. Miscellaneous Costs

This category covers any other expenses that don’t fit neatly into the above categories.


a) Insurance

Example: Field work insurance for 3 researchers for 2 weeks: $600

b) Shipping

  • Costs for sending equipment or samples.

Example: Estimated shipping costs for samples: $800

c) Communication

  • Phone or internet costs specifically for the project.

Example: Satellite phone rental for remote fieldwork: $10/day for 30 days = $300

  1. Contingency

It’s wise to include a small amount for unexpected expenses.

Example: 5% of total direct costs for contingency

If your total direct costs are $100,000: Contingency: $100,000 x 5% = $5,000

Putting It All Together

Once you’ve calculated all these parts, add them up to get your total budget. Here’s a simplified example:

  1. Personnel Costs: $55,500
  2. Equipment and Supplies: $37,400
  3. Travel: $7,070
  4. Facility Costs: $13,000
  5. Participant Costs: $4,000
  6. Publication and Dissemination: $5,000
  7. Indirect Costs: $52,000
  8. Miscellaneous Costs: $1,700
  9. Contingency: $5,000

Total Budget: $180,670

Remember, every research project is different, so your budget might not need all these categories, or it might need additional ones. The key is to think carefully about everything your research will require and account for it in your budget.

Tips for Creating Your Budget

  1. Be realistic: Don’t underestimate costs, but don’t pad them either.
  2. Do your research: Get real quotes for big expenses.
  3. Explain your calculations: In a separate budget justification, show how you arrived at each number.
  4. Follow the rules: Different funding agencies have different budget guidelines. Make sure you follow them.
  5. Get help: Your institution’s research office can often help with budgeting.
  6. Plan for the entire project: Think about costs that might come up in later stages of your research.
  7. Be specific: Instead of a large “misc” category, try to break costs down into specific items.
  8. Consider inflation: For multi-year projects, factor in potential cost increases.
  9. Double-check your math: Small errors can make a big difference!
  10. Align with your proposal: Make sure your budget matches the activities you describe in your research plan.

Related Articles

Mastering the Art of Writing: How to Write a Grant Proposal

How to Write a Comprehensive PhD Research Proposal in Sociology

Sample Proposal Budget Example


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: What if I’m not sure about exact costs? A: It’s okay to estimate, but be sure to explain your basis for the estimate in your budget justification. Use phrases like “based on current market prices” or “average of three vendor quotes.”

Q2: Can I include my own salary in the budget? A: This depends on your situation and the funding agency’s rules. In many cases, yes, especially if you’re not already fully funded for the time you’ll spend on this project. Always check the specific guidelines for the grant you’re applying to.

Q3: What’s the difference between direct and indirect costs? A: Direct costs are expenses specifically for your project, like salaries, equipment, or travel. Indirect costs (also called overhead or Facilities and Administrative costs) are expenses that benefit your project but also other activities at your institution, like building maintenance or administrative support.

Q4: Should I ask for the maximum amount allowed by the grant? A: Not necessarily. Ask for what you genuinely need to complete your project successfully. Inflating your budget unnecessarily can hurt your chances of getting funded.

Q5: What if I need to make changes to my budget after it’s approved? A: Most funding agencies allow some flexibility, but major changes usually require approval. Always communicate with your program officer if you need to make significant changes.

Q6: Do I need to include quotes or price lists with my budget? A: It’s not usually required in the initial proposal, but having this documentation can be helpful if you’re asked to justify your costs. For very expensive items, including a quote can strengthen your proposal.

Q7: How detailed should my budget be? A: Your main budget should be a clear summary, but you should be prepared to provide a more detailed breakdown if asked. Many proposals require a separate budget justification document where you can provide more detail.

Q8: What if I forget something in my budget? A: That’s why it’s good to include a contingency amount. If you realize you’ve forgotten something major before submitting, see if you can revise your budget. If it’s after submission or approval, talk to your program officer about options.

Q9: Should I round my numbers? A: For smaller amounts, rounding to the nearest dollar is fine. For larger amounts, you might round to the nearest $10 or $100. The key is to be consistent and make your budget easy to read.

Q10: How do I handle in-kind contributions or cost sharing? A: These should be mentioned in your proposal and budget justification, but they’re usually not included in the main budget you’re requesting from the funding agency. They show additional support for your project.

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