Step 3: Prepare the Final Budget and Budget Justification

6 Budget Justification

Budget Justification

Gives rationale for items in the budget, including:

  • The basis on which each cost was developed
  • (i.e. identifies that a PI’s base AY salary is used to calculate one month of summer salary).

The project narrative should support what is in the budget. Otherwise, explain here why the expense is relevant.


Budget Narrative

  • Clarify expenses
  • Include calculations
  • Justify unusual costs
  • Use charts, tables, spreadsheets
  • Include within the narrative or as a specific section

Reviewers Look For:

  • How carefully you plan
  • How much attention you pay to details
  • How thoroughly you document and explain
  • How realistic you are
  • Assumes you manage time and personnel the same way you manage money

What are they looking for?

  • accuracy
  • compliance
  • necessity
  • reasonableness
    • agency’s available funds
    • proposed scope
    • project tasks


Who looks at the proposed budget?

  • The University
    • Chair, Dean, Provost
    • OSSP and Grants Accountant
  • The reviewers
  • The agency’s program staff
  • The agency’s grants & contracts financial department

Ask yourself:

  • Does the size of the budget match the size of the project?
  • Is the addition correct?
  • Is everything included?
  • Is every item justified?
  • Is the budget in line with similar projects
  • Is the budget comparable to others awarded by the funder?



Budget items and calculations for each item should be summarized on worksheets.

  • reminder how the numbers were developed
  • assists with funder discussions and reporting

Do not under or over estimate

Project your expenses as accurately as possible.

  • Be certain that the expense estimates are neither too low nor too high.
  • If underestimate costs -may not able to operate within the budget.
    • have to go back to funders already supporting the project and ask for additional assistance or underwrite part of the cost of general operating funds.
  •  overestimating costs can mean returning unexpended funds

Don’t Forget

  • Check your calculations
  • Make sure any $$ changes are reflected in the narrative and/or budget justification
  • Link narrative and budget
  • Explain any unusual expenses


Budget and Justification

  • Be realistic for the scope of the project
  • Explain costs in justification
  • Take extra care with subawards
  • Address cost share requirements
  • Contact for budget assistance:
Rachel Depenbush 628-4454


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Budget Basics for Grant Writing Copyright © by Leslie Paige and Misty Koonse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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