How to Have a Cheap Funeral or Burial: 25 Tips

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Do you know how much a funeral costs in this day and age? The price for an average funeral runs at about $11,000 or more, and this cost is on the rise. Luckily, you don’t have to commit yourself (and your family) to such an expensive event. Depending on who is responsible for funeral expenses, you might want to take matters into your own hands. 

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Whether you’re starting your own end-of-life planning or you’re helping with a family member’s funeral, there are ways to keep costs low. The focus of any funeral is to honor and respect the person who died. This doesn’t need an extravagant budget. These 25 tips will help you plan a cheap or affordable funeral. 

What Elements Make Up the Cheapest Possible Funeral or Burial?

If you’re hoping to have a cheap funeral, some elements can keep costs lower than others. The more you understand these different elements, the better equipped you’ll be to stay within your budget.

  • Direct burial/cremation: First, if you choose to have the body buried or cremated directly (without embalming or visitation), you can greatly reduce your overall costs. 
  • Inexpensive casket: A low-cost casket can save you thousands of dollars. For a low-cost option, choose a natural material like cardboard, plywood, bamboo, fabric, or softwood. Alternatively, you can rent a high-end casket for the viewing or funeral but choose a cheaper option later. 
  • Cremation: When choosing between cremation vs. burial, cremation is almost always more affordable since you don’t need a casket, plot, or headstone. 
  • Funeral size: The size of the funeral also impacts the price. A large funeral needs a larger, expensive venue, whereas a smaller one can be held at home, outside, or somewhere less expensive. 
  • Burial plot: A low-cost burial plot might be in a less desirable location, but it could be a cost-saver if you choose burial. After all, the burial plot is one of the most expensive parts of the process. 
  • Funeral home: Lastly, many people don’t realize that the funeral home typically charges a basic service fee, which can cost several thousand dollars. Shopping around for different service providers can help you find a less expensive choice. 

If you consider these main elements above, you’re likely to seriously cut down on the overall cost of the funeral. With costs rising, more people are choosing these budget-friendly alternatives. Remember, it’s possible to honor your loved one no matter how much you spend. Funerals are about memories, not price tags. 

How Much Can the Cheapest Possible Funeral Cost?

With that in mind, how much can the cheapest funeral actually cost? Though the price depends on several factors, such as where you live, cremation vs. burial, and how you wish to honor your loved one, the cheapest funeral costs around $500

This type of funeral would be a simple direct cremation in which the body is cremated soon after death, and the funeral is held at the family’s home for free. If you wish to hold a funeral service at a venue, you’ll need to pay for this on top of the direct cremation. Alternatively, if you donate the body to science, cremation is typically included for free.

The cheapest possible funeral and burial would start at $1,000 for a green burial. Compared to traditional burials, green burials are much more cost-effective. They don’t require an expensive casket, embalming, headstone, or burial vault. While these can be added if you wish, the starting price is much more affordable. 

If you’re willing to get creative and think outside of the box, there are no real rules about the cost of a funeral beyond a basic cremation or burial. The funeral service itself can be as small or as large as you wish, depending on your budget. It’s also important to note that you’re not required to hold a funeral service. Many families opt not to hold a funeral, instead choosing to honor their loved ones in a different way. 

If you’re experiencing a recent loss, it can be difficult to know what steps to take next. Our post-loss checklist is here to guide you every step of the way, regardless of your funeral budget. 

Tips for Saving Money on a Funeral Service

Now, let’s discuss the best tips for saving money on a funeral service. Whether you’re planning a loved one’s service or helping someone through this process, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at the growing price list. The tips below are designed to suit any budget and help make sure your loved one gets the sendoff they deserve. 

1. Ask for the price upfront

First, don't be afraid to shop around. Depending on your location, there might be several funeral home options near you or your loved one. 

By law, funeral homes must itemize their charges. It’s acceptable to call and ask for this general price list. From there, you can compare all of the costs accurately and easily. 

2. Be eco-friendly

Green funerals aren’t just a trend. They’re an effective way to keep the funeral from negatively impacting the environment. 

Modern funerals aren’t very sustainable. Choosing a green burial or cremation likely saves you money overall. Do good for the planet and your wallet all at once. 

3. Choose a direct burial or cremation

A direct burial or direct cremation is less expensive. For this, the body is buried or cremated soon after death. There’s no embalming or visitation. 

This process avoids extra fees for a graveside service, embalming, or other services. If you only want to have a simple ceremony, choosing a direct burial or cremation is the way to go. 

4. Opt for cremation

In general, cremation is more affordable compared to burial. The number of cremations is growing each year, and this is one of the main reasons why. 

Choosing cremation also allows the family to store the ashes in an urn, and this can be a powerful memento. 

5. Don’t fall for fancy caskets

While an extravagant, fancy casket might look stunning, it ends up in the same place. The right funeral director is there to help you find the casket that fits your budget. This might mean choosing a simpler one. Either way, it serves the same function. 

Beware of upselling in funeral homes. If the funeral director pressures you towards an expensive casket or another costly option, it’s okay to say no. 

6. Purchase your own urn

The more you can purchase yourself for the cremation or funeral, the more savings you’ll receive. In this case, BYOU (bring your own urn). 

If you intend to scatter the ashes, you might not need an urn at all. However, if you’re planning on storing the ashes in your home, you don’t need to purchase any urns from the crematorium or funeral home. There are a number of affordable containers or urns online. 

7. Skip embalming

Embalming isn’t a necessary part of the burial process. If you don’t plan to have an open-casket service or viewing, you don’t need to pay the extra embalming expense. Not only is embalming bad for the environment, but it’s harsh on the deceased’s body. 

8. Host an at-home funeral

Who said the funeral had to take place in a funeral home? While a professional space is nice, it’s also impersonal. Hosting a funeral or memorial at home is actually an old tradition. For centuries, people of all cultures hosted their funeral practices at the family’s home. 

Reclaim once-common death practices by hosting an at-home funeral. This not only saves you money, but it’s also a much more intimate event. 

9. Host the funeral at a church or religious space

If you’re hosting a large funeral or you’re unable to have the service at home, there’s another affordable option. Churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues are usually less expensive than the typical funeral home. If the deceased was a member of the congregation, the space might even be free. 

Note that it’s customary to donate to the church. This can be given on behalf of the entire family, and the amount is usually flexible. 

10. Donate the body to science

Many people find comfort in knowing their body continues to have value even after death. A “whole body” donation is when your body is donated for scientific research. Scientists will use your body for a number of purposes, including education, research, and medical practice. 

Most medical facilities cremate the body for free. Though not for everyone, a “whole body” donation is a generous act of selflessness. Read our guide on free or cheap cremation for more.

11. Learn about Veterans Affairs benefits

If you or your loved one served in the armed forces, benefits might be available through Veteran Affairs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs often pays certain funeral allowances

There is also a free flag presentation for the family. These are truly an honor for any veteran and free for those who qualify.  

12. Use Social Security help

If you or your loved one is a surviving child or spouse, you might be eligible for a lump-sum payment from the Social Security Administration. 

Like with the VA benefits, there are specific eligibility requirements for this payment. However, having some extra cash to put towards funeral expenses is always welcome.

13. Choose a low-cost plot

There is often some variation in the cost of burial plots. Real estate really is everything. When talking to the cemetery director, ask about low-cost burial plots. While this depends on the specific location, it never hurts to ask. 

14. Supply your own flowers

Flowers are often a large part of the funeral. These flowers range in symbolism, and they add a touch of color and life to any event. However, you don’t need to go overboard with these flowers if you’re looking to keep costs down. 

All of those arrangements add up quickly. Instead of getting your flowers through the funeral home, go to a local florist. It’s also common for guests to gift flowers to the funeral home for the service. 

15. Bring your own clothing

If you’re burying the deceased, it’s common to dress them well. While the funeral home has clothing for this purpose, you don’t need to use the ones they provide. 

You can always bring your own burial clothing to save on this cost. Why not dress your loved one in his or her favorite outfit? 

16. Research assistance programs

There are a number of federal, state, and local assistance programs. These aim to make funerals more affordable. 

While there’s no guarantee you’ll qualify for assistance, it doesn’t hurt to search for grant or aid programs in your area. 

17. Create your own invites and thank you cards

Invites and funeral thank you cards are a memento in themselves. While you can find these at almost any card store, they’ll cost you a pretty penny. Instead, make your own invites and thank you cards for the funeral.

You can easily create these using free online templates or programs. If you’re skilled with penmanship, you might even craft them by hand. This is a much more personal (and affordable) way to reach out to loved ones. 

18. Don’t cater

While serving a meal or small plates for guests after the funeral is a great way to bring people together, you don't have to splurge on a fancy meal. 

Why not cook some favorites at home or ask guests to bring a few plates? A potluck keeps the focus on the family, and it’s much less expensive than a catered event. 

19. Crowdfund

It’s not uncommon for families to crowdfund to raise money for the funeral. If you or your family are struggling to afford the service, starting a digital fundraiser is a way to invite others to help in your time of need. 

20. Limit your invites

A large funeral isn’t the only way to prove a life well-lived. Inviting only close family to the service or memorial keeps the entire event intimate and personal. Reflecting and mourning with close friends and family keeps costs low while also focusing on the deceased.

21. Negotiate

While funeral homes aren’t car dealerships, you are allowed to negotiate. The funeral director isn’t guaranteed to accept your push for a lowered price, but it is still within your right to ask. Don’t be afraid to speak openly about your budget and limitations. 

22. Choose a funeral alternative

Common funeral alternatives include celebrations of life, tree planting ceremonies, or even outdoor activities. 

These are personal, inexpensive ways to bond with your family after the death of a loved one. There are no rules, and you’re free to choose any type of event that feels right to you. 

23. Make a budget

It’s easy to feel rushed into making a decision, especially if you’re planning an unexpected funeral. To help avoid any poor financial choices, make a budget and stick to it. 

Present your budget to the funeral home to make sure you don’t go over what you’re comfortable with. 

34. Keep it simple

Funerals don’t need to be extravagant events. The main focus of the service is to reflect on the life and impact of the deceased. This doesn’t require a lot of glamour to accomplish. 

Keeping the service simple is the best way to keep funeral costs low. Not only will you just choose the things you need, but you ensure the day is all about the deceased. 

25. Pre-plan in advance

The best way to keep costs low is to start planning early. While it’s not always easy to think about your own demise, the more thought you give to this process, the better. If you fail to prepare, this burden falls to your family members. 

Creating a funeral plan and fund is the best way to avoid any worry about funeral costs. When you and your loved ones know what to expect, everyone feels better. 

Cut Funeral Costs with Confidence

The process of planning a funeral is often complicated, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. While it might not seem possible to pay for a funeral with little money, you have more flexibility than you think. 

The funeral is a chance to find support as a family and offer your final goodbyes to the one who died. Both of these are possible no matter the size of your budget 

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