Budget Categories

Main Content

Standard budget items are grouped in different ways by different funding agencies. Here are the most common, along with the considerations they involve. As the principal investigator, you'll need to address these questions before the final budget can be prepared. They must be worked out in relation to two overriding concerns: (1) the funding limit imposed by the sponsor, and (2) the project time frame and goals. 


Category Description

Salaries & Wages

Note that base salaries of current faculty and staff may be adjusted for future budget years for reasonable inflation, subject to Board of Trustees approval (recommended 3%). 

Faculty: Cost is expressed as monthly salary X percentage of time X number of months on the project. The percentage of faculty time committed on grants and contracts, whether charged to the agency or contributed by SIUC, cannot total more than the percentage of time approved by their department and college for research activities. This percentage of effort should be based on the size of the project, and should be agreed upon by the chairs of the departments/units involved. Emeritus faculty/retired employees salary must be budgeted at their last monthly rate of pay before separation from the University. The percentage of time cited in the budget for all project personnel is a legally binding, auditable commitment.  

Administrative/professional staff: Includes researcher/scientist classifications and other types of positions. Cost is expressed as monthly salary X percentage of time X number of months on the project.

Civil service staff: Cost is usually expressed as an hourly rate X number of hours per month X number of months on the project.

Postdoctoral fellows: Compensation for postdoctoral fellows varies depending on the salary level agreed upon by the unit and post-doctoral fellow, but can be no less than the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher. Cost is expressed as monthly salary x percentage of time x number of months on the project. Although a fellow may work on more than one grant, postdoctoral fellowships are 100%, 12-month appointments (i.e., there are no part-time postdoc positions).

Graduate assistants: Salary rates vary by level (master's vs. Ph.D.) and by unit. Graduate students on grants are paid the rate set for the principal investigator's department. Cost is expressed as monthly salary (100% salary in column D of the Excel spreadsheet) X number of months on the project X percentage of time (50% or 25%; put 0.5 or 0.25 in column F of the spreadsheet).

Student workers: Cost is expressed as hourly wage X number of hours per week X number of weeks on the project. (Student workers may not exceed 29 1/2 work hours per week and are usually limited to 20.)

Minimum Wage Escalation Rates:

ED 1-1-2020    $9.25             ED 1-1-2023    $13.00
ED 7-1-2020    $10.00           ED 1-1-2024    $14.00
ED 1-1-2021    $11.00           ED 1-1-2025    $15.00
ED 1-1-2022    $12.00

Extra-help:  Cost is expressed as hourly wage x number of hours per week x number of weeks on the project.  

Fringe Benefits



Fringe benefits must be budgeted in grants for all faculty, A/P staff, civil service staff, postdoctoral fellows, extra-help employees, graduate assistants and retired SIU employees who have salary being charged to the grant.  

Fringe benefits are not provided to student workers.

If the consultant is not an independent contractor, add a fringe benefits percentage (6.6%) to cover Social Security and Medicare contributions.


Make sure that equipment is an allowable expense under the grant program guidelines.

If so, give exact specifications for any equipment that must be purchased or leased to carry out the project.

On federal grants and contracts, equipment or equipment components costing less than $5,000 are categorized as commodities.

The equipment threshold on nonfederal grants and contracts may be lower and varies. Check the program guidelines.  


If travel will be included, you must consider:

  • number of trips
  • length (day trips vs. overnight)
  • destinations (domestic vs. foreign travel, metropolitan vs. rural areas)
  • type of transportation
  • number of persons traveling.

Domestic travel reimbursement limits are posted on SIUC's travel web portal and OSPA’s Budget Rates page. International per-diem/lodging limits are posted on this State Dept. web page. Note that the figures given are maximums. If you're familiar with the country you're traveling to, use figures that you know to be more realistic (and affordable).

Commodities (materials and supplies)

This category includes costs incurred for materials, supplies, and fabricated parts necessary to carry out the proposed project. It also covers equipment up to a certain cost threshold, depending on the grant (see "Equipment," above).

Only materials and supplies actually used for the performance of a sponsored agreement may be charged as direct costs.

Office or general purpose supplies are considered to be indirect costs and are normally not allowable.  

Other Direct Costs

Included in this category:

  • Software
  • Photocopying
  • Postage (project specific, not general use)
  • Long distance telephone service
  • Fees for research facility services
  • Lab testing fees
  • Payments for participants in research experiments
  • Fees for external consultants - Payment is expressed as daily compensation rate X number of consulting days. On agency budget forms, external consultants generally are included under "Contractual Services," "Consultants," or "Other."  
  • Page charges for journal articles
  • Subcontracts
  • Tuition

Note: On agency budget forms, this category often is headed "Other Direct Costs" or "Other Expenses." 

Indirect (F&A) Costs

SIUC's federally negotiated facilities and administrative (F&A) cost rate, more commonly referred to as indirect costs or overhead, is applied to funding requests made to external sponsors. The F&A rate varies depending on whether the project is for research/training or for other activities and whether its primary activities will take place on or off campus.

If the agency's standard allowable rate is lower than the relevant institutional rate, you must provide OSPA written documentation of the agency's official public policy on F&A costs reimbursement. OSPA project specialists do not negotiate modifications to SIUC's F&A cost rates; approval to modify the rate for a specific project can only be given by the OSPA director or Vice Chancellor for Research, please see SIUC Indirect Costs Guidelines.

In the case of full F&A cost recovery, the relevant institutional rate is applied on the proposal's modified total direct costs (MTDC), which exclude the following budget items: equipment, space rental costs, capital expenses, stipends, tuition waivers, and subcontract amounts in excess of $25,000. If the agency's reimbursement rate is lower than SIUC's federally audited rate, no budget items are excluded from total direct costs unless the agency's policy stipulates otherwise.

Budget Justification

Most funding agencies require that a budget justification accompany the budget. This section of the proposal gives the rationale for the requests made in the budget. It explains the need for the items budgeted in terms of the planned project activities. The budget justification enables the agency reviewer to determine if projected costs are adequate and reasonable. It's a good idea to use the same categories on the justification pages as the agency uses in its budget forms.