How to Reduce Funeral or Memorial Service Costs: 18 Ideas

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Funeral costs can cause sticker shock for a grieving family. In the United States, the average funeral costs $11,000. If the deceased didn’t carry life insurance or leave any inheritance, their family might scramble to figure out how to cover the cost of an expensive funeral. 

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There are several aspects to consider when researching funeral costs. This includes embalming or cremating, body removal, burial plot, service fees, headstone, casket, urn, flowers, a reception, and more. While this all may seem overwhelming, there are many ways to have a meaningful funeral on a budget.

1. Go Eco-Friendly

Not only is an eco-friendly funeral good for the environment, but it can also save you money. 

For example, planting ashes with a tree or plant is safe and beneficial for the environment. This will save you the cost of embalming, purchasing a casket, or buying an expensive urn.

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2. Consider DIY Options

Instead of buying an expensive urn online, consider creating one yourself for your eco-friendly funeral. Biodegradable urns are environmentally friendly as well as very cheap and easy to create. Consider making a tree pod, paper mache urn (biodegradable and water-soluble!), or seedling pot.

3. Negotiate with Providers

Funeral homes and other end-of-life service providers often have various options and pricing levels. Be clear on your budget and have an open discussion about what you can afford and what you are interested in. Sharing your budget early on in the process can help save time for both parties. 

Consider shopping around as well. While one provider might be out of your range, another might be able to work with you to realize your vision.

4. Decline Funeral Home Services

You may find that you don’t need to utilize funeral home services at all. Especially if you are skipping embalming, cremation, or finding an alternative location for your services.

5. Skip Embalming

You can choose not to embalm by opting for direct burial or cremation and cut some serious costs. Embalming is only necessary if you delay the burial or plan a service with an open casket or viewing. 

Did You Know?: Not only can skipping embalming help to cut costs, but it is also better for the environment! Embalming chemicals can leach into groundwater. It is also harmful to the human body and puts funeral directors at risk of cancer and other ailments.

6. Source Inexpensive Flowers

Rather than hiring a florist or counting on the funeral home to provide flowers, source your own inexpensive flowers. Options include a local flower warehouse or nursery, ordering flowers online, or even using flowers from your own garden. 

It is also an option to skip flowers altogether or to create flowers from paper mache. You might use family heirlooms or family pictures to decorate instead. It is also perfectly acceptable to have a modest affair and not decorate at all.

7. Host a Potluck Reception

Instead of spending a lot of money to cater a reception, host a potluck! Have family and friends bring food that reminds them of your loved one. Just make sure you know you’ll have at least one appetizer, entree, dessert, and drink. Let guests know how many people you will be expecting so they can cook accordingly.

Pro Tip: Assign someone to bring disposable plates, utensils, and cups. If you have enough of these items at home and want to make it eco-friendly, ask a friend to volunteer to stay and do dishes.

8. Crowdsource

If you’ve tried all of these cost-saving measures, and are still finding yourself short on funds, consider asking friends and family for help. There are many ways to crowdsource, including GoFundMe, Facebook Fundraisers, or even asking for direct Venmo or CashApp donations. 

You might feel embarrassed to ask for help, but we’ve all needed a bit of extra support at one time or another. You might be surprised to find that friends and family or more than happy to chip in. 

9. Donate Your Body to Science

Donating your body is both free and also an incredible gift for the future of medicine and science. This enables you to save thousands of dollars on transportation and on a cremation or burial. It can also help cut down on logistics for your grieving family members.

Did You Know?: If you are donating your body to science, you can still be an organ donor! Your viable organs will be removed and transplanted in the person receiving them. Then your body will be transported to be utilized by doctors and scientists. You could save a life!

10. Consider Direct Cremation or Burial

Skip embalming or a funeral home’s other services, and choose direct cremation or burial to save on funeral costs. 

11. Utilize Life Insurance

If your loved one had a life insurance policy, you can often use some or all of these funds to pay for funeral expenses. Funeral coverage is an excellent reason to look into supplemental life insurance. It ensures your family is taken care of after you’re gone. 

12. Pre-Pay For Your Funeral

There is also the option to pre-pay for your own funeral. Many providers offer the option to pay into your own end-of-life services while you’re still here. This ensures that all expenses are covered, and that your family knows the details of your end-of-life plan

13. Take Advantage of Benefits

If your loved one was in the military, you may be eligible for some funeral compensation. Inquire with your local VA (Veterans Association). 

You may also be able to use your loved one’s Social Security benefits to pay off some funeral expenses. 

If you are still struggling to make ends meet, look into local city or state assistance. If you can’t find anything that you are eligible for, you may be able to find a charity willing to help.

14. Host the Service & Reception at Home

Instead of paying for a venue, hold the funeral at your family home. Not only is this free, but it can also help you feel close to your deceased loved one. Pair this with a potluck to reduce costs even further.

15. Hold a Virtual Service and Reception

The pandemic has forced us all to get creative when it comes to celebrating and mourning. Zoom funerals have become a popular option. This can help you save on the costs of a big venue and feeding a large group. 

Virtual funerals have other silver linings too. Far-away family and friends who otherwise may not have been able to attend can join. Plus, people often feel more comfortable speaking freely and intimately without the stage fright of standing up in front of a lot of people.

16. Look Into Burial Alternatives

There are so many unique options for burial alternatives. These can help reduce costs, and you may also find a more fitting way to say goodbye to your loved one than a traditional burial.

Here are some ideas:

  • Water burial
  • Reef burial
  • Space burial
  • Tree pod burial
  • Sky burial
  • Composting freeze-dried remains

17. Utilize a Religious or Community Space

Churches, synagogues, and mosques are a great cost reduction option. If you or the departed are a member of a place of worship, then you may even be able to hold the funeral for free or at a reduced rate.

A local community center may also be free or inexpensive to use.

18. Invite Family Only

Instead of keeping the funeral open to everyone from your loved one’s life, limit the guest list to immediate family only. You can always live stream the services if you would like to include others, but this helps keep costs low. 

Make it Special

Just because you are planning a cheap funeral doesn’t mean that it can’t be beautiful, special, and meaningful. Money doesn’t have to equate to quality. Personalize the funeral to honor your loved one and their legacy.

Include the people who were special in their life, and ask everyone to write words of remembrance to share. It is the emotion and love that people will leave with and recall, not how expensive the flowers were. Plan from the heart and you can’t go wrong.

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