A complete reference guide for Spendlab, the visual-budgeting tool for the grant-funded community.
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Groups & Rows
Spendlab’s interface uses several rows of graphs/trendlines to provide an intuitive budgeting experience. Rows are organized into groups for Funding Sources, People, etc.
Keep track of your startup funds, grants, donations, and other funding sources with color-coded blocks and trendlines.
Manage how everyone in the lab is being paid.
Indicate a person is working by double-clicking or dragging anywhere on the timeline. This results in blocks that are labeled by a percentage (rather
than a monetary value). These blocks can be edited and dragged at any time.
By default, the funding source is "unassigned," but can be specified later.
Assign funding sources for a person by selecting their block(s) and clicking on the resulting menu next to the block. You may choose any available funding source.
Split a person’s payment across multiple funding sources by selecting a block on their row and clicking the icon under the funding source menu on the right-hand side of the block.
You can add as many splits as you like. Change the percentage assigned to each split by directly clicking and editing the percent value or by dragging the middle dividers in the block.
Set a person’s total “percent effort” by directly clicking the percentage label or by vertically dragging the top of each block. For example, 100% means full-time and 50% means half-time.
Set a person’s salary by clicking and inputting its value into the corresponding field on the left-side panel of the row.
Adjust the salary unit by setting it to per month (default), per quarter, per year, or per hour.
These are simply shortcuts so that you don't have to manually calculate the value per month.
For example, if a person’s yearly salary is $60,000, selecting per year means that each month in a block represents $5,000. (Even if you don’t drag the blocks across the entire year, each block will still be worth $5,000.)
Adjusting the salary unit does not automatically create a yearly, monthly, or quarterly repeat. You need to create blocks manually to span the duration that the person is working.
Set a fringe rate (also known as "fringe benefit rate") by clicking and inputting its percent value into the corresponding field on the left-side panel of the row. A person’s salary does not include the fringe rate. Rather, fringe rate is added on top of it, and is
calculated by multiplying the rate by the salary. For example, a person with a monthly salary of $1000 and a fringe rate of 20% results in a $1000 + ($1000 × 20%) = $1200 expense for each month.
Set additional costs such as tuition (that are not already included in the salary or fringe rate) by choosing a definition for Other on the left-side panel of the row.
Unlike salary and fringe costs, "Other" costs are billed at 100% even when a block uses less than 100% total effort. This is because every lab we talked to said they were responsible for covering either all or none of the tuition for part-time students.
For example, the following two blocks charge different amounts to the orange NSF grant:
The first block models a part-time student who is fully funded by the grant. The grant pays 50% of the specified salary and fringe costs, and 100% of the tuition.
The second block models a full-time student who is 50% funded by the grant. The grant pays 50% of the specified salary, fringe, and tuition.
Learn about added customizability by referring to Indirect Costs and Definitions.
The Supplies, Equipment, Travel, and Other groups all function in the same way to provide a consistent way to plan your budget.
Optionally integrate indirect rates — also known as overhead rates, central office rates, or facilities and administrative (F&A) rates — into your budget.
To use indirect rates, start by setting an indirect rate for at least one funding source.
If you don't want Spendlab to automatically add indirect costs (whether because the funding source doesn't provide them or you just don't want to see them), simply use the default 0% indirect rate.
Specify that an expense is subject to indirect costs by choosing Add indirects below the expense’s name. (In most cases, this is selected by default.) Spendlab will then automatically add indirect costs for any funding sources used on the row that have a non-zero indirect rate. (For funding sources with a 0% indirect rate, the indirect costs are always $0, so "Add indirects" has no effect.)
The monetary amount shown on expense blocks always represents the direct cost ($1000 in the example above). Automatic indirect costs are represented by a checkerboard pattern above the block. The total cost (direct + indirect) is deducted from funding source balances.
For example, consider a supply row with a yearly expense of $50,000 paid from a funding source with a starting balance of $100,000 and indirect rate of 50%.
This means indirect costs are $50,000 × 50% = $25,000, so the total is $50,000 + $25,000 = $75,000. Therefore, since the starting balance was $100,000, the balance after a year will be $100,000 - $75,000 = $25,000.
What if you want more flexibility with indirect rates, or numbers and percentages in general? That’s where Definitions come in.
Define and re-use rates that change over time.
Indirect rates, salaries, fringe rates, and Other expenses such as tuition can all be defined and re-used via the ‘Definitions’ section at the bottom of the budget. This allows you to input the numbers once and then
use them across multiple rows. It also allows you to specify values that change over time instead of using a single, static value. Definitions appear at the end of a Spendlab file.
Assign a definition in place of a fixed numeric value by clicking on the downward-pointing arrow button next to any indirect rate, salary, fringe rate, or “other”. If no applicable definitions have been created, choose Changing over time to create and assign a new definition for that purpose. The page will scroll down to the new definition so you can edit it.
Create a new standalone definition by clicking the + button at the bottom of the ‘Definitions’ section of the budget.
Currency definitions ($) are used for salaries and “Other” expenses such as tuition. When used in calculations, they specify the dollar value to use at each point in time.
Rate definitions (%) are used for indirect rates and fringe rates. When these rates are used in calculations, the blocks specify what percent value to use at each point in time.
Specify a definition's value over time by adding blocks to the timeline, just like you would on any other row.
Automatic repeats — By default, definition blocks automatically repeat themselves every year, indefinitely into the future. Such “auto-filled” values appear in a lighter gray color to indicate that they were automatically created by the software. They will continue to automatically update whenever you make edits earlier in the timeline.
Specify an automatic yearly increase by editing the Yearly increase value in the left panel of a definition row. This will cause all auto-filled values to automatically increase each year by the percentage indicated. The
auto-increased values and the date of each yearly change are shown in the light gray value blocks.
Manually edit auto-filled values by double clicking on the lighter-gray block(s) you wish to edit. This will convert it from an auto-filled value to a normal block that you can edit like any other block.
Turn off automatic repeats by clicking on the arrow that appears when hovering over the field and selecting Turn off automatic repeats.
- Add indirects. If Add indirects is specified on a definition’s left panel, and the definition is applied to an expense row, and a block on the expense row is assigned to one or more funding sources that have indirect rates
specified, then Spendlab will automatically deduct indirect costs from the applicable funding source balances.
- No indirects. If No indirects is chosen, indirect costs will never be added to expenses defined in the definition row. In other words, the costs specified in the definition row will be treated as exempt from indirects even if
funded by a funding source that has a non-zero indirect rate.
Some useful features that make your Spendlab workflow more efficient.
For monetary values (salaries, funding, etc.), type
k for thousand or
m for million when editing. For example,
5k becomes $5,000 and
1.2m becomes $1,200,000.
The red ‘Warning’ icon indicates you have run out of money for the selected funding source, and will be visible in the Funding Sources section as well as all of the expenses sections
People). They also appear when the given funding source has reached its end date.
0-9: Start entering a new value for the currently selected block.
Enter: Confirm or start editing the value of the currently selected block.
Tab: Move between editable text fields.
Escape: Cancel editing and revert to previous value.
Privacy and security is built into the architecture of Spendlab.
Your budget files never travel over the internet, even though the Spendlab software operates in a web browser. All calculations are done on your own computer using modern client-side web technology.
When you click the Save button, your budget file is downloaded directly to your computer as a .slb file ("spend lab budget") — so you can store it however you’d like or share it with colleagues. It's not stored on our servers.
Spendlab also tries to autosave your most recent budget file in your web browser's local storage as a backup. You can disable this feature by browsing in "private" or "incognito" mode.
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