Purchasing consumables & managing your budget
At some point, responsibility for purchasing consumables from grants will fall to you. Spending such large sums of money can be daunting but will give you more control over the management of your grant and project. Here are our tips:
Find out whether the finance department/University run a course or can offer tuition on how to use their purchasing systems. Failing that, ask someone from your group to teach you and find out whether you need special authorisation. Find out:
- whether purchasing and approvals are restricted to certain days of the week
- roughly how long it is likely to take between purchasing and delivery
- where your deliveries will be received and the system for collection (including what happens if reagents arrive on a weekend/holiday/University holiday)
- whether your University purchases consumables at discount (e.g. through Science Warehouse)
- what to do if you need to purchase something directly from a supplier (e.g. if the item is not available through Science Warehouse)
Find out what’s classed as communal in your lab (i.e. purchased by the Lab Manager e.g. gloves, Dispo jars, sharp bins) and what you need to purchase yourself.
If someone else is using the same consumables as you, consider whether bulk purchasing or splitting consumable costs would be feasible.
Consider contacting company reps to ask if a discount is available.
Consider whether you need to purchase storage boxes to store consumables/samples.
Keep a record of:
- what you’ve ordered (print a screenshot or create a spreadsheet)
- charges including delivery charges (so you can compare these with your monthly grant financial statement)
- anticipated delivery date (so that you can follow up if an order doesn’t arrive)
If you will be away when the consumables are due to arrive, ask someone to receive them on your behalf and let them know where and how you would like them to be stored.
When the consumables arrive
When the consumables arrive, record this in your ‘purchasing record’. This is important, as it’s easy to lose track of the consumables you’ve ordered (especially if you’ve ordered a lot over several different purchasing orders). If your consumables don’t arrive within the time expected, check first that they haven’t been put away by someone else in the lab. If they haven’t arrived, check this with your finance department.
Label reagents with the date of arrival and your initials and place them into the appropriate storage. Check whether they first need to be reconstituted/diluted/aliquoted (to reduce subsequent freeze-thawing and risk of contamination). Would it be useful to label a shelf, fridge or freezer drawer with your name and keep your reagents in one place?
Create a spreadsheet/stock-count of your reagents. This will:
- help you to keep track of how much you have
- alert you to when you need to place another order (instead of waiting until you run out)
- save time/hassle rummaging in fridges/freezers
- alert you to when reagents have expired and should be disposed of
- arrival date
- expiry date
- lot number
- storage location
- volume used per sample in a typical experiment
- remaining volume
- purchasing details (company, product code, expected cost)
Managing your budget
Universities usually send monthly grant reports detailing the duration of the grant, the amount spent on the grant and the residual amount available. It is your responsibility to manage the budget: check these reports and cross-reference them with your purchasing (bearing in mind that there may be a delay before purchases appear on the grant report).
If you anticipate that you will require an extension to your grant, contact the funder and your finance team early to request this.
Check and fulfil the requirements of the grant. These may include:
- naming the funder on posters/publications
- publishing/presenting the work within a certain timeframe
- providing a report on the project outcome
- providing a report on the grant finances
- PPI engagement with the funder