According to a report by the Project Management Institute, in 2021 62% of projects were completed within the original budget. The best performer in this ranking was China with 66%, while came Europe last with 57%. Poorly created project budgets are responsible for a fair share of failures in this regard. So how do you estimate costs in a project to increase the likelihood of its success?

Project budget – table of contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. What is and what makes up the project budget?
  3. How to estimate the cost of the project?
  4. Project budget estimation tools and methods
  5. Summary


Improper project execution results in a loss of $19 million for every billion of investment (PMI 2019), and only 34% of organizations usually or always finish projects within budget (Wellington 2021). To find out how to among this group, let’s take a closer look at what a project budget is and the ways and tools to prepare one.

What is and what makes up a project budget?

The project budget is the rough approved amount that the organization intends to spend on the project. It’s founded on estimated project expenses and it features in the budget of the entire organization.

The Project Manager should include in the project budget all costs related to the project, such as:

  • Direct costs – expenses needed to perform tasks directly leading to the realization of the project objective, i.e. materials, labor and tool costs, equipment and supplies,
  • Indirect costs – costs that cannot be directly attributed to the project, but which are incurred in connection with its implementation, such as administrative costs or, for example, project management costs.
  • Capital expenditures – costs associated with the acquisition of so-called long-term assets, such as buildings, equipment or machinery.
  • Operating costs – recurring costs associated with operating and maintaining the project, such as utilities, insurance together with maintenance,
  • Contingency reserves – funds set aside to cover unforeseen events or changes in the scope of the project.

How to estimate the project budget?

The projected cost of scheduled work is referred to as the Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled (BCWS) or Planned Value (PV). Both indicators denote the sum of funds needed to complete the work scheduled within a given period.

To estimate the project budget, the Project Manager should carry out several activities to get the most precise quotes. Firstly, the Project Manager should know all the requirements of the project, such as the scope of work, deadlines and resources that will be needed to complete the project.

The next step concerns investigating market prices for the resources and services to incorporate in the project, i.e. the price of materials, supplier services together with salaries for the project team.

After obtaining requirements and pricing data, the Project Manager can begin the process of first detailed budget estimation. Once it is completed, however, he should immediately review the budget with the project team. This will ensure that all costs have been included and that the budget is as realistic as possible.

What’s more, the project budget needs regular reviewing and updating to keep it on track and within budget.

project budget

Tools and methods for estimating the project budget

When estimating a project budget, an indispensable tool is the well-known and popular Microsoft Excel. Its main advantage is its accessibility and ease of use, as well as the ability to perform many calculations and analyses. The disadvantage, however, is that Excel does not have a function to automatically update the budget in real time.

However, it will work well for estimating the budget before implementation. For an ongoing review of expenses, we recommend project support tools such as Firmbee. The system allows team members to monitor in real-time the receipts and expenditures associated with a given project.

To create an accurate budget, you can use the following methods:

  1. Bottom-up estimation. This method involves estimating the cost of each project activity and adding up their costs to determine the total cost of the project. It is time-consuming and requires detailed knowledge of project activities. However, it provides a high level of accuracy and helps identify all necessary costs
  2. Parametric estimation. This method involves using statistical data to estimate the cost of project activities. It is much faster than bottom-up estimation, so it can be useful for estimating the budget of large projects, as long as the organization has a source of reliable data. Despite this, it may not provide a sufficient level of accuracy.
  3. Expert evaluation. The third method involves harnessing the knowledge and experience of project stakeholders, including the Project Manager and team members, to estimate the cost of project activities. It can provide a high level of accuracy, practical for complex projects. However, it relies on the expertise of individual stakeholders, so it may be biased and generate conflicts. In addition, it is difficult to account for changing business conditions, such as inflation or changes in the law.


Creating an accurate project budget is time-consuming and requires experience. That’s why it’s a good idea to try different tools and take advantage of available budget preparation methods, such as bottom-up estimation, parametric estimation or expert evaluation.

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How to create a project budget? | #42 Getting started with project management caroline becker avatar 1background

Author: Caroline Becker

As a Project Manager, Caroline is an expert in finding new methods to design the best workflows and optimize processes. Her organizational skills and ability to work under time pressure make her the best person to turn complicated projects into reality.

The most important questions

  1. How can the project budgeting feature as a tool to manage project risk?

    Project budgeting can feature as a tool to manage project risk by incorporating contingency plans and allocating funds for potential risks. This helps Project Managers create a contingency plan for unforeseen events, and the project budget can be adjusted accordingly. By regularly reviewing and updating the project budget, project managers can proactively manage risks and ensure that the project is within budget constraints.

  2. How can I apply project budgeting to foster better communication and collaboration among team members?

    Project budgeting can foster better communication and collaboration among team members by providing a common understanding of the project's resources and financial constraints. This information can be used to make informed decisions about project scope, schedule and resources, which can lead to better decision-making and accountability among team members.

Getting started with project management:

  1. What is a project?
  2. What is project management?
  3. How to manage projects?
  4. Project management methods
  5. Types of projects
  6. 4 examples of projects
  7. Prioritization of projects
  8. Areas of project activity
  9. Definition of success in project management
  10. Why use project management software?
  11. How to choose the best project management software?
  12. Overview of project management software
  13. Project life cycle
  14. What is the project vision for?
  15. Project goal. What is it and how to define it well?
  16. Project initiation phase - what to pay attention to?
  17. The domain of planning in project management
  18. What is a project schedule and what is it for?
  19. How to use milestones in a project?
  20. Project execution
  21. How to prepare a successful project contingency plan?
  22. Importance of project closure
  23. Project failure. 5 reasons why projects fail
  24. 4Ps of management: project, product, program and portfolio
  25. Most important tasks and responsibilities of the Project Manager
  26. Most useful project manager skills
  27. How to become a project manager?
  28. 5 books every project manager should read
  29. How to set up a project team?
  30. Work breakdown structure - how to delegate work in a project?
  31. How to lead a team during hybrid work?
  32. Challenges project managers face when working with a team
  33. Types of project meetings
  34. Project monitoring. What parameters to watch?
  35. How to write a compelling
  36. How to define the scope of a project and avoid scope creep?
  37. Feasibility study – can we implement this project?
  38. Risk analysis in projects and tools to facilitate it
  39. How to create a project charter?
  40. What is a stakeholder register?
  41. Gantt chart in project management planning
  42. How to create a project budget?
  43. Time management in project
  44. How to create a project risk register?
  45. Project risk management strategies
  46. Project marketing
  47. Sources and areas of change in the project
  48. Project management change models
  49. What's after Agile? Methods in project management