Develop a Budget

What do I need before I can begin?

A good understanding of the following.

  • The financial needs of your proposed research project
  • Eligibility of research expenses as defined by the sponsor and U of T
  • The difference between direct costs and indirect costs

Additional helpful information includes the following.

Important: This page is not intended for those applying for large-scale research infrastructure projects through programs offered by sponsors such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) or Canada Research Chairs (CRC).

Common Costs

All individuals involved with facilitating research funding provided to Principal Investigators (PIs) at the University of Toronto (U of T) should familiarize themselves with costs that are commonly included in a research funding application/agreement budget.

Below is a list of common costs, each with a detailed explanation.

Compensation: Students & Postdoctoral Fellows

The vast majority of sponsors encourage student and/or postdoctoral fellow engagement in research under the PI’s supervision and guidance, and as a result, allow salaries or stipends for their time. 

For specific rules or guidance on compensation for students and postdoctoral fellows, review the sponsor’s guidelines. Once you have estimated the level of student and/or post-doctoral fellow involvement and time required for the project, obtain the current compensation rates for students and post-doctoral fellows in your department or division from the Business Officer or Financial Services officer.

If the sponsor requires that you justify your total student and postdoctoral fellow compensation request, then you can provide a description of the following.

  • The kinds of tasks you think each student or post-doctoral fellow will undertake
  • The time anticipated for those tasks
  • The cost based on time multiplied by the hourly rate

Some sponsors may set maximum amounts, or offer the choice between salary and stipend. Reviewing the guidelines carefully will help you establish your proposed budgetary needs for engaging students and postdoctoral fellows and to provide a rationale for your request if needed.

Compensation: Non-Student Personnel

Some sponsors may allow compensation for non-student personnel (e.g. project manager, dedicated administrative resource, research assistant, etc.)

Please note that non-student personnel are normally hired as employees of U of T. Hiring employees requires that you follow all human resources policies and procedures, which includes any relevant collective agreements.

When planning to hire non-student personnel, it is recommended that you consult the Business Officer and/or Human Resources Officer for advice on current salary and benefit rates. Information on the current benefit rate for appointed (unionized) staff and non-appointed (non-unionized) staff can be found on the Standard Benefit Rate table.

Once you have the compensation rates in hand, including benefits, you can then calculate the compensation amount for the non-student personnel you wish to hire for the project.


Travel for research purposes is a common expense permitted by the majority of sponsors.  Some sponsors have very specific guidelines and limitations regarding travel expenses. For example, many sponsors require that airfare is the most economical available, and do not permit business class. It is important that you review the sponsor’s guidelines regarding travel when developing your budget. It is also helpful to familiarize yourself with the University’s policies and guidelines on eligible and ineligible costs for travel, particularly for those sponsors who defer to University policy. You can review the University’s policies at Travel and Other Reimbursable Expenses.

Equipment, Supplies & Specialized Expenses

Always review the sponsor’s guidelines around the eligibility of requests for equipment, supplies, and other expenses beyond compensation and travel.

Most sponsors do not allow items that are normally provided by the University (e.g. paper, pens, etc.) but will consider specialized items that are necessary in order to undertake the research project. If specialized equipment or other items are required for your proposed project, be sure you are able to justify how that equipment or other items are essential.

Depending on the value of the equipment or supplies or other expenses, it may be important to obtain quotations to demonstrate due diligence in estimating the reasonableness of the cost for the requested item(s). For guidance on estimates, you can contact your Business Officer or Procurement Services.

Justify Your Budget

Many sponsors will ask that you provide a rationale for the total cost amounts that you are requesting in your budget. The more succinct your budget can be, recognizing that it is an estimate at the application or initial agreement stage, the more likely the sponsor will observe that your budget has been thoroughly planned out and rationalized.

Forms & Downloads


  • Provide information and clarification about sponsor's guidelines regarding expense eligibility

VPRI Contact

Find the appropriate VPRI staff member to assist you by checking our staff directory. You may search by discipline area (e.g. Social Sciences, Health & Life Sciences, Natural Sciences or Engineering, etc.) or funding agency name.