Funerals are expensive. Not only must you pay for the funeral itself, you must pay for the hearse rental, purchasing the casket, hiring a funeral officiant, and pay for the plot, but then you have the expense of the headstone itself. A headstone is the final piece to a funeral, and is placed after the casket is lowered, covered, and the cemetery gives approval for placement.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 7 Tips for Finding an Affordable Headstone
- Finding the Cheapest Headstone: Frequently Asked Questions
Along with the headstone, most cemeteries offer installation services, adding another expense to the final costs associated with burying a family member or loved one. By the time you’re ready to buy a headstone, you could very well need an inexpensive option that fits into the remainder of your budget. If that’s the situation, don’t despair. You’ll find plenty of options for cheap headstones if you know where to look.
Here are several tips to help you pay honor and respect while keeping your loved one’s final tribute budget-friendly.
7 Tips for Finding an Affordable Headstone
With some careful planning, you can do a few things to reduce the overall cost. Here are several tips to help make end-of-life expenses more doable on a tighter budget.
1. Choose the right headstone
You don’t have to sacrifice quality when searching for a less expensive option. There are several types of grave markers that provide excellent quality and personalized designs for less than you might imagine.
Flat grave markers are the least expensive headstone option for both single and companion markers. Simple flat grave markers in gray granite with the name and dates of a person laser-etched will be your least expensive option, starting around $200. If you have a budget of up to $500 to work with, you can choose more elaborate designs and etchings, in addition to more unique colors and some specialty granite options.
Don’t let the price tag fool you. Flat grave markers are high quality and can include extras such as free shipping, a built-on vase, and etching that goes above and beyond the standard names and dates.
2. Buy online
No matter what type of headstone you want to purchase, buying a headstone online will always provide you with the best prices available. Why? Because online companies often have far less overhead and expense than a traditional brick-and-mortar business and when they sell direct, they pass the savings on to you.
There are a few caveats, however, when purchasing your headstone online. First, it’s crucial that you don’t believe every website out there. Unfortunately, some scam sites prey on people who are making end-of-life decisions. To be sure you’re buying from a reputable website, check the rating on places like Google reviews, TrustPilot, and the Better Business Bureau. If you can’t find any feedback on an online business, steer clear.
Second, always talk with a representative of the company. Whether you talk to someone through a live chat option or via a phone call, get all questions answered before you proceed with ordering.
Finally, ask for a proof or mockup of your design. Every reputable company will show you the design you’ve requested before entering it to be etched into the stone you choose. If the company hesitates to show you a mockup of the design, walk away and find a different company.
3. Require less personalization
As with anything in life, the more customized or personalized you want something, the more expensive it will add on to the final price tag. Headstones and grave markers are no different. If you have your heart set on a specific color or type of stone that fits within your $500 budget but personalization pushes it over the limit, figure out which elements you can do without.
Is the color of the stone more important than the wording? Can you keep engraving or etching needs down to a minimum? What symbols can you do without? Ask yourself questions like these and determine where your priorities lie. The less customized you go on the grave marker, the less it will cost in the end.
If you’re having trouble figuring out which options will save you the most money, talk to the grave marker manufacturer you’re considering purchasing from and ask them to show you where you can save money. Many will have a cost breakdown that you can examine to determine where you can cut down on the expense. For example, most engravers charge $2.50 for each letter or character. That adds up quickly!
4. Choose standard granite colors
The standard granite colors are grey and black. As a result, these two colors will almost always be the least expensive options.
Choosing a standard color instead of a specialized option can be one of the quickest ways to reduce the expense of the grave marker.
5. Size down
Headstones and grave markers are priced largely according to the headstone's size or shape. The larger the stone or marker, the more you should expect to pay.
To reduce your cost, keep the size of your headstone or grave marker to a minimum. Consult with the cemetery to determine the smallest sizes that are allowed and then shop around for stones that fit within that range.
6. Shop around
It’s always beneficial to shop around when buying a headstone or grave marker. No two websites or shops are the same, and each will charge different prices. You’ll also find that each shop includes different options with their final price. Some will offer free shipping while others offer free etching and shipping, as well.
A few places might offer a color upgrade if you choose to pick up the stone for local customers or extra designs in place of a color upgrade. Some companies even have a price-matching policy, so you’re guaranteed to get the best price around.
Find out what each place offers and come up with your top two or three locations to purchase from before deciding to order. The more information you have, the better informed you’ll be regarding prices and included services.
7. Create your own
Depending on the cemetery rules, you can also opt for a unique headstone and DIY a memorable tribute to last for a lifetime. There are numerous kits available, including kits to create a memorial bench or a headstone out of cement.
For the right personality, these options are even more fitting than a polished granite headstone as a final tribute to their life and memory.
Finding the Cheapest Headstone: Frequently Asked Questions
Finding a headstone that fits your budget and serves as a lasting tribute to a loved one can be tricky. Here are a few answers to frequently asked questions about the process.
Typically, what’s the cheapest headstone?
Flat grave markers are the cheapest option out of all headstone choices. On average, you can find flat grave markers starting anywhere from $200 to $400.
Doing your homework is always important as you determine how much a headstone costs, so be sure to compare prices and shop around for the best value.
How can you get a free headstone?
If you are a member of the armed forces, or you’re laying a member of the armed forces to rest, you can apply for a free government headstone or marker.
If the military member is being laid to rest in a military cemetery, then the headstone must conform in size and style to the headstones already present within the cemetery. If buried in a non-military cemetery, you may be able to choose between flat grave markers in granite, marble, and bronze, upright headstones in granite or marble, and niche markers in bronze.
If the person is buried in a national cemetery or a base cemetery, the setting and installation of the headstone is provided free of charge by the cemetery staff. State veteran cemeteries may charge a small fee to set the headstone.
If opting for burial in a private cemetery, the installation fees are the responsibility of the person who applied for the government-issued headstone.
Spouses and dependents are ineligible for a free marker or headstone unless they are buried in a national cemetery, a state’s veteran’s cemetery, or a base cemetery.
How can you save money on installation and engraving?
Depending on the stone you need to install, you can DIY the installation process. Flat grave markers and small headstones are both doable to DIY if the cemetery allows. If you need to hire a monument installer for a larger bench or another grave monument, get a quote from two or three monument installers around your area for the best price.
When it comes to engraving, the fewer characters, the less expensive your total cost. Most engravers provide a set amount of characters for a flat fee. Anything above that amount is typically subject to per-character pricing. Staying within the character amount allotted by the engraver is one way you can reduce your overall expense.
The least expensive marking method is laser etching. Completely computerized, this method gives you the option of personalizing a grave marker or headstone with names, dates, symbols, and even a picture of your loved one. Even when laser etching, remember that the less customization, the less you’ll pay overall.
Remembering Your Loved Ones
A headstone or grave marker doesn’t have to be incredibly high priced to be beautiful. By purchasing strategically and deciding on your priorities, you can stay well within budget and purchase a fitting tribute for the one you loved.
If you're looking for more on headstones, read our guides on headstone design ideas and the best stones for a headstone.
- “Headstones, Markers, and Medallions.” National Cemetery Administration, Department of Veteran Affairs. 6 February 2018. cem.va.gov/hmm/#:~:text=The%20Department%20of%20Veterans%20Affairs,of%20their%20date%20of%20death.
- “General Information Sheet.” Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Veterans Affairs. December 2017. files.nc.gov/ncdmva/documents/files/cemetery_program/headstone-or-marker-order.pdf