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.
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.
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1. Ask for the price up front
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 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.
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.
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