How Can You Get a Free or Cheap Cremation? 6 Ways


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The costs of traditional cremation funeral services are steep and can be a massive burden for grieving families. Unexpected funeral costs can especially throw a family’s financial plans into chaos. Incurred debt, or an inability to fulfill your loved one’s last wishes, is a major stressor. What can you do? Why not opt for a free or cheap(er) cremation for a loved one?

Opting for a traditional funeral service means you’ll have to pay for a laundry list of items. A burial plot, a casket, preparing the body — the list goes on. That list is drastically shortened when you cremate your loved one. Depending on your loved one’s wishes, you may only need to pay for cremation and an urn.

But traditional cremation is still quite expensive. It depends on your location, but most estimates typically run around $5,000. That’s an expense many families simply can’t handle. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

  1. Donate Your Body to Science
  2. Direct Cremation
  3. Donations for Funeral Expenses
  4. Military Funeral
  5. Medicaid Funeral Assistance
  6. Investigate Their End-of-Life Plan 

On the other hand, you might also try to put together an end-of-life plan for yourself. You may feel uneasy about it, particularly if you’re not financially stable. You may wonder how your loved ones will pay for your funeral.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives that can bring you peace of mind. Whether you’re interested in direct cremation or donating your body to science, here’s a diverse list of options for what to do with your body when you die. 

1. Donate Your Body to Science 

Donating your body to science means you can educate medical students about the human body. Since the medical profession’s crude beginnings, cadavers have been instrumental in learning about the human body. 

Some programs and organizations cover cremation costs. Others return your remains to loved ones. 

Organ donation still leaves your remains in your family’s hands. Free cremation is offered through medical schools. If you donate your body, a school will preserve it and use it for up to three years. Once this time period is up, the school pays for cremation and your ashes are returned to loved ones. 

Mortuary schools and forensic body donation programs can also take your remains. Nothing is returned to your family if you go through a forensic program, however. This is because the purpose is to observe natural decomposition. 

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2. Direct Cremation

Things you that weren’t even on your radar beforehand can break the bank. A traditional cremation service includes all sorts of little costs. The viewing, funeral services, and more are all small costs that add up.

However, direct cremation means your body is cremated almost immediately after death. You pay for two things: cremation and an urn—and it only costs between $700–$900. 

Perhaps you would also like a piece of cremation jewelry or memorial diamond that holds a portion of the cremated remains or use the ashes to create a beautiful stone that can be used in a piece of jewelry or decor. Eterneva is one company that makes this possible, transforming cremated ashes into real diamonds in a matter of months. You can also solidify your loved one's cremains into 40 to 60 cremation stones, which you can divvy up however you'd like, with Parting Stone

3. Donations for Funeral Expenses

Sometimes, you just can’t get the costs covered. Let’s say a loved one left a costly specific end-of-life plan. It’s natural to feel obligated to follow it to the letter. Respecting your loved one’s last wishes may be quite important. But what if you simply can’t do it? There are a few ways you can solicit donations.

You may want to start with your family members so you’re not solely responsible for covering the entire funeral. Remind your family members that in this situation, everyone could consider adding money to make sure a family member gets the best send-off possible. 

If family members can’t or won’t contribute, consider local organizations and religious groups. Was your loved one part of the Freemasons? Was he or she a devout churchgoer? If so, these types of communities might be willing and able to help foot your loved one’s funeral costs. 

Consider crowdfunding options if you have no alternative support networks. You can set up a campaign on GoFundMe or another crowdfunding site.

Set up your campaign with a name, goal, and time constraints. Explain why you need the money and why people should give. Write a short paragraph or two about your loved one and your financial situation. You can also add a picture so people can put a face to your loved one’s name. 

4. Military Funeral

A military funeral is a time-honored tradition. A military funeral is a heart-stirring way to honor members of the military who served. But not everyone qualifies.

Find out whether your loved one served—it’s the first step. Was your loved one dishonorably discharged? Did he or she serve less than one term? If the answer to either of those questions is no, your loved one won’t qualify for a military funeral. 

Your loved one qualifies for a military funeral if he or she was a member of the Armed Forces and was honorably discharged. You can request this from the government. And if your loved one meets all the qualifications, the government is legally obligated to provide it for you.

But they might not pay for all of it. It’s important to investigate through the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs often gives allowances in the form of a stipend or a reimbursement. Make sure to account for it if a reimbursement works for you. 

5. Medicaid Funeral Assistance

Medicaid assistance is often associated with hospital expenses, not end-of-life expenses. But in some states, Medicaid covers both. It depends on the state and the leadership of the time. Medicaid policies often change depending on who is in charge at the time. Location is the biggest dictator, though. 

For example, if you live in Michigan, the government pays $455 to a funeral home for cremation. You’ll get $145 for other cremation expenses. Maine will pay $785 to the funeral home. If you choose an option like direct cremation, this may cover all cremation expenses. 

Other Medicaid programs don’t run by each state — they’re dictated by individual counties. Some Alabama counties provide up to $400. You can use this money for other burial traditions instead of cremation if you wish. 

6. Investigate Their End-of-Life Plan 

You might not be intimately acquainted with your loved one’s personal affairs. What were your loved one’s end-of-life plans? Did he or she think ahead to the future? The answer might be no. Some people are afraid to plan for the inevitable, while others assume they can’t afford anything. Leaving it in the hands of their loved ones might seem, to them, to be the best option. 

One beneficial option might be life insurance. Did your loved one have it? If so, investigate who was named as the beneficiary. If your name is on the insurance policy, you can use it to help pay for funeral expenses. If not, you’ll need to contact the beneficiary. 

Investigate other plans if he or she didn’t have life insurance. Is there a will? If so, you might be able to find something there. Let’s say your loved one dictated that his or her house or other valuable possessions be sold and the money used for a funeral. You can go ahead and execute your loved one’s wishes — it can be a great option. 

Some people prefer to do things even more simply. There might not be a will or a life insurance policy. Your loved one might simply have a savings account earmarked for his or her end-of-life wishes. If that’s the case, you can rest easy and know that your loved one planned for the future. 

Brainstorm Affordable Alternatives 

Finding a way to pay for your loved one’s cremation can be stressful. During an emotional time, dealing with these practical details might be too much. Luckily, there are lots of options available. Even if you’re not eligible for a military funeral, for instance, other choices will likely help a lot. And not all options will be completely free. Looking for a way to simply reduce your costs to a manageable level might be the best way to go about it. 

But sometimes you simply can’t pull off the best possible plans. There may be no feasible way to fulfill your loved one’s end-of-life wishes. If that happens, an incredible amount of guilt may weigh on you. Remind yourself that the important thing is that you tried your best — with heartfelt effort. Remember, that’s likely exactly what your loved one would have wanted.

If you're looking for more ways to save on funeral expenses, check out our tips for planning an affordable funeral, guide to the cost of urns, and guide to headstone costs.

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