With the cost of funerals on the rise, many families are looking for ways to save money. Though cremation is more affordable than burial, it’s still a costly way to say goodbye to your loved one. Is it possible to get a free or cheap cremation?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How Low-Income Families Can Get Free Cremation
- How Veterans Can Get Free Cremation
- How You Can Get Free Cremation By Donating Your Body or Organs
- How Infants Get Free Cremation
- How Pets Get Free Cremation
In the United States, the average cost of a funeral and burial is over $7,000. While a cremation helps keep costs down, it can still cost over $2,000 for the cremation itself. With costs like this, many families are struggling to make ends meet. Paired with the stress and grief of losing a loved one, this is a burden no family should have to carry.
The good news is there are many options to get a free or low-cost cremation. While you might have to be flexible, these options keep costs low so families can focus on what matters to them. Like all things in life, it’s not the cost that counts. It’s the meaning and feeling behind your actions, even when you’re saying goodbye to someone you love.
How Low-Income Families Can Get Free Cremation
If your family qualifies as low-income, you have options for getting a free or low-cost cremation. Many families of all backgrounds struggle to afford funerals. However, these burdens are even more challenging for families already trying to make ends meet however they can. Consider these low-income options below.
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1. Choose direct cremation
While not free, a direct cremation is significantly more affordable than a traditional cremation. What is a direct cremation? This is when the body is cremated as soon as possible after death. It’s not embalmed, and there is no casket. Because the body is cremated right away, there is no need to pay high funeral home fees for preservation.
Like a traditional cremation, a designated family member receives their loved one’s ashes after the cremation. Though this works in much the same way, it can result in thousands saved.
2. Apply to your county
Many counties and states have funds put aside to help low-income families pay for cremations. While these are typically only available if you’re below the poverty level, it’s always worth asking about qualifications. These counties partner with local crematoriums to perform low-cost or free cremations for those in need.
To learn if you qualify, contact your county clerk’s office. Ask whether funeral or cremation funds are available and how to apply. Like all things, it never hurts to ask about your options.
3. Ask crematoriums
Those working in the funeral business are often generous, compassionate individuals. There is a long history of funeral homes and crematoriums working for free or for a low cost. It never hurts to ask funeral homes and crematoriums whether they can lower or waive their fee for a family in need.
This is especially true for newer crematoriums. Because they’re focused on building business in the community, they might be willing to work with you in exchange for a positive review or referral. They’re also likely to offer opening specials and deals.
4. Seek help from charities
Did you know there are specific charities designed to help people afford a sendoff for their family members? While these typically focus on specific types of losses (children, parents, etc), you never know what you might find.
Charities that help with cremation costs usually cover expenses related to the cremation. This can include the cost of cremation, an urn, or a cremation casket. Every little bit makes a difference, so it’s always worth asking for help when you need it.
5. Create a fundraiser
Last but not least, don’t overlook the potential of a funeral fundraiser. Though it might seem uncomfortable asking your friends, family, and community for funds, many are willing and able to help.
When you create a funeral fundraiser, you can put the funds towards any part of the final expenses that you need help with. These fundraisers are easy to create, and they don’t require any tech know-how. A public platform might be just what you need to secure funeral funds for the cremation.
How Veterans Can Get Free Cremation
If your loved one is a veteran, he or she likely qualifies for funeral services or a free cremation. This is a great way to keep costs low for someone who served their country. Through the VA, all veterans are entitled to specific burial benefits. However, third-party providers often have free or low-cost veteran discounts as well.
6. Apply for the burial allowance
Through the VA, qualified veterans can receive what’s known as a burial benefit. This includes an allowance for burial (or cremation) and funeral costs, a VA plot in a military cemetery, and VA burial transportation. As a surviving family member, you must file for this burial allowance within 2 years after the burial or cremation.
While the numbers change regularly, the VA allows a maximum of $2,000 per burial allowance as of 2021. Check with your local VA office to get the latest numbers. Depending on the veteran’s status and situation, they may be eligible for up to the full amount.
7. Ask for a veteran discount
Many funeral homes and crematoriums offer discounts on their services for veterans. Because they understand the financial burden of funerals can be costly for families, they strive to make things easier for the servicemen and women who serve their country.
While not all funeral homes and crematoriums offer low or reduced-cost services, it’s worth asking. When you seek help from a funeral home, let them know upfront that your loved one was a veteran to see what options are available. They might also be able to help you file for your burial benefit through the VA.
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8. Get a free urn
Urns can be costly, especially when you consider the full cost of a cremation. Many urn retailers and craftsmen offer free or low-cost urns specifically for veterans.
For example, Free Urns for Veterans currently offers free urns to any current Minnesota Veteran that’s personalized for the individual's rank, service, and dates. There are many places you can get free cremation urns, so don’t be afraid to shop around.
How You Can Get Free Cremation By Donating Your Body or Organs
There are a lot of benefits to donating your body or organs after you die. Not only is this an act of compassion, but it also has financial benefits. Most organizations will pay for the cost of cremation after you donate your body or organs.
9. Science Care
Science Care is one of the most well-known and trusted options when it comes to body donation. Nearly everyone qualifies for this type of donation, and there is no upper age limit. When you donate, your body is put towards future medical advancements, doing a world of good from beyond the grave.
It’s easy to register for whole-body donation through Science Care. It takes just 5 minutes, and it’s a beautiful tribute to science and research. Your cremation is fully covered by Science Care once the research is complete, and your ashes are returned to your family.
10. Bio Gift
Another organization that accepts whole-body donations after death is Bio Gift. This organization partners with research facilities and nonprofits across the country to support medical research towards Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and more.
While you can register for Bio Gift while you’re living, your next-of-kin can also consent on your behalf. Once medical research is complete, your body is cremated and the ashes are delivered to your family. This is entirely free of cost.
11. Life Quest Anatomical
Finally, Life Quest Anatomical also offers free cremation after a body is donated to science. After the research is complete, cremated bodies are returned to families within 30 and 45 days at no cost.
Life Quest is a simple, easy way to do good after death. Each body is used to further medical research and education. Not only does this mean the world is a better place, but it also helps the family afford cremation without worrying about the cost.
How Infants Get Free Cremation
Losing an infant is one of the hardest things any family can experience. On top of the pain of this heartbreaking loss, families shouldn’t have to worry about paying for an expensive cremation.
12. Talk to your funeral home
First, don’t hesitate to talk to your funeral home. Many crematoriums offer free services for infants or stillborn babies. This is typically coordinated through your hospital, so ask about low-cost or free options. Everyone understands how difficult this process is, and there are many resources to ease the burden for parents.
13. Angel Names Association
After the unimaginable happens, Angel Names Association is here to help. This nonprofit was founded in 2001 after the stillbirth of Michelle and George Mosca’s first son. After going through this difficult loss, these parents strove to lessen the pain of families in a similar situation.
Today, Angels Names Association provides financial support for funeral, burial, and cremation costs. To apply, families must submit a request for assistance form and an itemized invoice from the service provider.
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14. The Tears Foundation
The Tears Foundation is a nonprofit that has served thousands of families in need after the loss of an infant or child under the age of 12. They offer both financial and emotional support for families after this type of loss. There are several grants listed on their website, each named in memory of a child.
15. Our Children’s Blessing
Lastly, Our Children’s Blessing is a non-profit that was founded by a group of couples who all experienced the tragedy of losing a child. Our Children’s Blessing provides emotional and financial support to families in need.
Parents of children between 20 weeks gestation up to 1 year of age can apply for assistance with medical bills, funeral expenses, and cremation expenses. To apply, email their outreach team or download an application online.
How Pets Get Free Cremation
Losing a pet is like losing a member of the family. It’s normal to wonder what to do after your pet dies. Like humans, they also need a final resting place, and this can be costly. Here’s how to get free pet cremation.
16. Talk to your vet
First, always talk to your vet about your concerns. They’re the ones who coordinate cremation for your pet, especially after euthanasia. Not only can they work with you to find a low-cost option, but they have the most community connections.
17. Visit your local humane society
Most local humane societies do more than shelter pets. They also offer free or low-cost pet cremations after the loss of a pet. Contact your local humane society to talk about options. For non-private cremations, the cost can be very affordable. If you qualify, you might also be eligible for a free cremation.
18. Talk to SPCA
Last but not least, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has locations across the country. This is an animal protection and rescue service, but they also offer vet and cremation services.
While costs vary across the country, their communal cremation rates start at just $20 for small pets. If you’re unable to afford this, talk to your local SPCA about your options.
Everyone Deserves a Dignified Sendoff
How do you say goodbye to someone you love? Creating a final sendoff that’s dignified and respectful is no small task, but it can also come with a big price tag. Cremation is officially more popular than burial in the United States, and this is mostly due to the lower cost. That being said, families still struggle to afford this less expensive option.
Luckily, as you see in this guide, there are a number of ways to ensure your loved one has a low-cost or free cremation. Depending on your financial situation, don’t be afraid to reach out to support organizations and resources. Nobody should have to take these next steps alone.
“How to Apply for a Veterans Burial Allowance.” US Department of Veterans Affairs. VA.gov.