Budget Basics & Cost Categories

Direct & Indirect Costs

You should develop your proposal budget based on your best estimate of the financial support needed to carry out the proposed project. Budgets are composed of the below 2 categories.

  • Direct Costs: Costs identified that are specifically associated with a particular project or activity and can be directly assigned to that project or activity with a high degree of accuracy (i.e.: PI effort; Travel Costs; Supplies; etc.)
  • Indirect (F&A) Costs: University costs incurred for common or joint objectives that cannot be specifically identified with a particular sponsored project or activities (i.e.: electricity for lab/offices; building maintenance; libraries; administrators; etc.)

Direct Costs:

Personnel Costs

Salaries & Wages

Include UNT faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and other UNT personnel who will be working on the project. Salaries & Wages should be expressed in terms of an annualized effort percentage. Your budget should include the amount of time (% effort) to be spent by each person working on the project. Note: Some sponsors have limits on the amount of time that can be charged to a project. 

Budget Tools for assisting with calculating annualized percent efforts can be found in the Budget section of the GRAMS Pre-Award Training page. 

The Personnel Costs of the budget should only include UNT employees. Do not list non-UNT collaborators under Salaries and Wages. 

Sponsored activities may not result in any employees receiving compensation at a rate in excess of their authorized institutional base salary or academic rate. Additionally, no employee may be scheduled for activities in excess of 100% effort in any given month.

Salaried Graduate Research Assistants (GRA) should be budgeted for based on current Annualized GRA Salary rates which can be found on the GRAMS Pre-Award Training page. Salaried GRAs can be budgeted at half-time (10hrs/week) or full-time (20hrs/week). When budgeting for salaried GRAs, proportional tuition support should also be included for the GRA in the Other Direct Costs section of the budget.

Graduate and Undergraduate students may also be budgeted for in an hourly capacity. For assistance with calculating correct annualized salaries or effort for hourly individuals please use the budgeting tools available on the GRAMS Pre-Award Training page. 

Students may not work more than 20 hours a week when enrolled in courses. In summer sessions, if students are not enrolled in courses a student may be able to work 40 hours a week during that period.

Salary for administrative and clerical personnel are not normally allowable in proposal budgets since these are costs included as indirect costs. However, they may be included as a direct only if they are able to meet the below criteria:

  • Administrative/clerical salaries are integral to the project or activity 
  • Individual involved can be specifically identified
  • Costs are explicitly included in the budget or have prior written approval of the federal awarding agency
  • Costs are NOT also recovered as indirect costs

Fringe Benefits

Fringe benefits are a direct cost to a sponsored project, are clearly related to the salaries and wages to be paid, and are shown as a separate entry in the budget. Fringe benefit rates used in UNT proposal budget preparation have been calculated based on historical data. 

An average fringe benefit rate is used to estimate costs. The current rates can be viewed at the  Fringe Benefit Rates Page

Note that the actual costs for fringe benefits are charged (billed) to the sponsored project at the time the costs are incurred. The amount charged is based on salary, selected benefit package, and other variables applicable to the individual employee.

Capital Equipment (Exempt from MTDC)

Equipment means an article of nonexpendable, tangible property having a useful life of more than one year and an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more per acquisition.  

Estimate the cost of equipment using an appropriate cost estimation method such as vendor quotes or catalog prices. Make sure that sales tax, duty, transit insurance, freight, and installation charges are included in the estimated cost.

If equipment (as defined above) will be fabricated during the course of the project, the costs of material components (even if the individual components do not meet the definition of equipment) are exempt from facilities and administrative costs (F&A) and should be listed as equipment costs.

Note that laptops or other computers that do not reach the $5K threshold are not considered equipment for budgetary purposes and should be listed as expendable materials & supplies.


Travel costs should be presented in sufficient detail to determine the reasonableness of such costs. If travel is anticipated, the detailed information for the trip(s) should be provided in the budget justification. Breakout the costs for lodging, airfare, per diem, ground transportation, registration, etc. when possible. State the number of travelers for each trip, length of trip, and destinations (if known). 

Please note: Some sponsors require a high-level of detail to support the cost estimates for travel, including flight and lodging quotes, or estimates based on specific GSA per diem rates. So please be sure you prepare your budget with this in mind and appropriately justify and breakdown these costs in your Budget Justification. 

Foreign travel should be budgeted separately from domestic travel. For current travel policies and rates, refer to the current UNT Travel Guide and information:   

Current GSA per diem and mileage rates can be found online at the following website: http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/21287 

Other Direct Costs

Materials & Supplies

These are items with a unit cost less than $5,000. Normally, a research project will consume expendable supplies such as laboratory items, computer software, research supplies, animal costs, etc. This category also includes items such as computers, data storage hardware, and other small electronics costing less than $5,000.

Only materials and supplies actually used for the performance of the sponsored project may be charged as direct costs. The PI should be prepared to explain the basis for developing the cost estimate(s) included in the budget.

General office supplies (paper, copies, pens, ink cartridges, etc.) are not normally allowable in budgets (see Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR 200, Subpart E, for more detail). These are costs that are paid for out of UNTs F&A recovery so they may not also be direct‐charged to a grant/contract.

Publication Costs

Publication costs include costs associated with the publication and dissemination of research results. Costs can include printing, distribution, promotion, mailing, general handling, and page charges for professional publications (for current research findings).

Budget the anticipated cost of publishing the results of the research, keeping in mind that page charges may vary from journal to journal. Consider both page charges and reprint costs.


Consultants are individuals outside of the university, whose expertise and skills will add value to the project. UNT employees are not included as consultants on a proposal budget. They should instead be included in the Personnel/Salaries section and effort should be included as an annualized percent effort and the cost of their participation must be paid as regular salary with associated fringe benefits included in the cost.

Note: Individuals who have been an employee at UNT or UNT System within the past 12 months are not eligible to be paid as a consultant and must still be paid through the UNT Payroll office and therefore should be included in the Personnel section of the budget.

Normally, consultants are paid a consulting fee plus travel expenses. Whenever possible, identify in the budget the proposed consultant by name, indicate the number of days of work, and rate. Some sponsors may require documentation/letters of support to be included from consultants.

Computer Services

Automatic data processing (ADP) and other computer services can be included as direct costs but must be research-specific services such as reserved computing time, web conferencing, web services and secure storage of project data. Cost for Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC) services that are available through the DRI’s department of Research Computing Services should be included in this category.

Subrecipients (i.e.: Subawards/Subcontracts)

A subrecipient is a third-party organization performing a portion of a funded sponsored project to carry out a portion of the programmatic work as proposed. PIs preparing budgets that include funds for a subrecipient should include the subaward’s costs (direct and indirect costs) in the budget as a single line item.

The subrecipient institution should provide a statement of work (SOW), a detailed budget, budget justification, F&A Rate Agreement, and a commitment letter signed by the collaborator's authorized institutional representative. Documents should be obtained well in advance of any UNT internal deadlines.

Not all third-party work is considered a subaward and some third-party work is considered vendor or consultant services. To ensure you classify organizations/individuals appropriately, review the Subrecipient vs. Vendor determination page.

Facility User Fees

Facility User Fees for services obtained or for use of equipment may be included in this section of the budget. UNT has various service centers/facilities across campus with set rates for services or facility usage (i.e.: Materials Research Facility; BioAnalytical Facility; Genomics Center).

Participant Support/Trainee Costs (Exempt from MTDC)

Participant support costs (PSC) are direct costs for items such as stipends, subsistence allowances, travel allowances, and registration fees paid to or on behalf of participants or trainees in connection with conferences or training projects. 

A participant is defined as the recipient, not the provider, of a service or training associated with a workshop, conference, seminar, symposium or other short-term instructional or information-sharing activity.  Participants may include students, scholars, scientists from other institutions, individuals from the private sector, teachers, and state or local government personnel. Participants are not employees and are not required to provide any deliverable to the University.

UNT Employees are not eligible to receive participant support.

The intent of participant support is solely to provide direct financial assistance for participants to attend conferences/training events. Unallowable costs include speaker fees, facility rental, and expenses for the PI, project staff or collaborators to attend. 

Costs for hosting the conference or training event should not be included as Participant Support Costs and should be budgeted and charged to other applicable budget categories.  

Payments made to research subjects as an incentive for recruitment or participation in a research project are not Participant Support costs.

Participant Support Costs are excluded from the MTDC base for F&A calculation.

Graduate Student Tuition (Exempt from MTDC)

Tuition Support should be included for salaried GRAs budgeted for in the proposal budget. Tuition amounts budgeted must be commensurate with GRA effort and period on the sponsored project. Additional information regarding can be found in the Guidelines for Charging Graduate Student Tuition Remission on Sponsored Projects

Estimates for tuition costs can be generated at the below weblink or consult with department, college, or research administration staff. Some colleges may have standard tuition estimates published on their website that are used for budgeting.



Other costs not included in the categories indicated above and that directly benefit the proposed project, can be included in the Other category of the budget. Examples of other costs include, but are not limited to, the below.

  • Off-Site Facility Rental: such charges are exempt from F&A recovery
  • Research Subject Payments
  • Vendor Services
  • Animal Care Costs
  • Repair and Equipment Maintenance
  • Speaker Fees
  • Data Management & Sharing Costs

Indirect Costs: 

Facilities and administrative (F&A) costs must be included in proposal budgets unless the sponsor has a written policy or published guidelines on F&A rates applicable to all potential grantees. Sponsor guidelines limiting facilities and administrative costs must be provided as an attachment in your GRAMS proposal to document the F&A rate being used.

Additional information, including UNT’s current F&A rate agreement may be viewed on the Indirect Cost Rates webpage.