Funerals are a sad time. The unexpected torrent of emotions can be so much on top of what already needs to be dealt with day to day. Moreover, it is difficult to think straight in the emotional haze following a loved one’s death.
Financial realities like funeral costs add to the anxiety and the stress. Aspects like funeral arrangements and their costs require research and careful decision-making to ensure they don’t break the family financially. But, it’s too great an ask from people who are already distressed emotionally. (A fact that is sadly exploited by some funeral homes to overcharge.)
Overspending in such an emotional matter is very common. After all, we want the best for our loved ones. However, it is possible to provide a dignified funeral without breaking your budget. In fact, it should be more common place but isn’t because many funeral homes and cemeteries put profit ahead of saving family money.
The average funeral cost in America is more than $10,000. Optimizing for funeral costs is an important matter which shouldn’t be taken lightly. In this article, we want to make things easier for you by telling you common ways to save on funeral costs and common pitfalls to avoid. It’s every family’s right to be able to provide a respectable, dignified funeral to their loved ones without being fleeced off by exploitative agencies or overspending due to lack of knowledge.
We cannot ease your emotional pain, but hope to alleviate at least some of your financial burdens with our advice.
Without further ado, let’s look at the ways you can save on funeral costs without compromising the dignity of the funeral.
You can compare charges of different funeral homes to get an idea of a fair price. This can be done online, or offline. There are plenty of resources to help you with this research like funerals.org. Make sure to search for funeral homes in your area – generally, all of them will have their websites with prices posted online. You can also contact them and inquire about prices. You don’t have to reveal your personal information or commit to anything.
Buy Caskets or Urn Elsewhere
You can also purchase some items like caskets, or liners from third parties instead of the funeral homes. You may be able to get the same items with better savings. The funeral home cannot refuse to use the casket you bought elsewhere. (Source)
This is one of the most repeated advice online to save on funeral costs and rightly so. Routine embalming is not required for every death by law. Refrigeration is an acceptable alternative, in most cases.
With direct burial or cremation, you can avoid any sort of preservation arrangement completely.
Flowers and Wreaths
Contact local florists to see if discounted packages are available. Many funeral homes offer flowers as part of the total funeral package. A budget of $700 should suffice for an elegant display.
Similarly, with casket wreaths, the cost can vary depending on the florist and kind of wreath (flowers, size, etc.). Price-shopping here can save you a few hundred dollars. (Prices can range from $200 to $700-$800)
The cemetery is often separate from the funeral home and a cemetery plot can cost as high as $4000. Then, there are also opening and closing costs of the grave. In addition to these, some cemeteries might also charge a maintenance fee on a one-time, monthly or annual basis.
You should ask and clarify all these details beforehand and should keep these in mind while doing market research.
Know your Funeral Rights
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) introduced the “Funeral Rule” in 1984 to prevent funeral homes from pressuring people into buying goods and services they didn’t need or want. The rule makes it possible to avoid overspending and makes the funeral process transparent. Given below is a summarized list of rights under the Funeral Rule. Kindly read the full description here. These rules formalize and legally back some of the common funeral cost saving advice.
The Funeral Rule gives you the right to:
- Buy only goods and services you want.
- Get pricing information by phone without divulging your personal information.
- Get a written, itemized price list from a funeral home.
- See a list of casket prices.
- See a written outer burial container price list.
- Use alternative burial containers made of unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard, or cardboard.
- Be provided with a written statement prior to making any payments.
- Provide your own casket or urn.
- Skip embalming prior to a funeral.
Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal cemetery or crematory requirement that requires you to buy any funeral goods or services.
Home funerals are legal in America. The exact requirements for performing one may differ from state to state. (Some states require you to work with a funeral director). But, they are a cost-effective and a deeply personal way to bid your farewell to your loved one. In fact, before funeral homes became more common, home funerals were the preferred in a lot of families.
Home funerals can reduce the financial burden of a funeral and make decent funerals more accessible to all.
Cremation Vs Burial
Cremation costs can be cheaper, equal to burial costs, or more – depending on what services you opt for. If it is not against the deceased member’s religion, direct cremation can be cost-effective.
Some people also opt for cremations because they are quicker, environment friendly, and use less land (helping with the problem of overcrowding in cemeteries). Moreover, families get the time to decide about what to do with ashes – scattering the ashes at a place of significance, cremation art, etc.
If finances are right, a dignified cremation can be done for relatively low cost:
- The body is cremated immediately after death in a crematory bypassing a funeral home.
- The body can be cremated in a cardboard or wood container.
- Memorial service is skipped.
- Because there is no service, viewing, or wake, embalming or other preparations of the body are not necessary.
Assistance from Organizations and Government
There are organizations that can help families in bereavement. Not all will cover funeral costs but do provide some sort of financial assistance, if eligible.
Social Security Survivor Benefits paid to dependents of workers who meet eligibility requirements. (Source)
For Veterans, you should call Veteran Affairs office with your exact situation. They may have assistance programs relevant to you.
TAPS is another organization for bereaving families of soldiers.
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to assist families of fallen firefighters.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund to help the families of fallen law enforcement officers.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can assist to cover funeral expenses of natural disaster victims, subject to some predefined criteria. They also provide COVID-19 funeral assistance. (Source)
We hope this guide will help you and your family plan an affordable funeral. Always remember to do thorough research. There are government schemes, organizations, non-profits, and charities which can help you in these difficult times. In the end, we wish you more strength to come out of this phase more resilient than ever.
At Henzi.org, we are working to assist families with the funeral costs of children. If you are a reader who is not someone in need, please consider donating if you can. Each small contribution adds to The Frankie Fund and goes a long way in providing financial relief to parents who can’t afford to bury a child.
This year, take a minute to donate and spread a little of your light to those in their darkest hours.