How to Find an Affordable Upright Headstone for a Grave: Step-By-Step

Updated

If you recently lost a loved one (or are pre-planning your own funeral), you know how costly end-of-life services can be. One large part of the expense is buying a headstone and a cemetery plot.  

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Headstones are sometimes purchased by those who chose cremation as well as burial. Those who choose to be cremated sometimes feel comforted at the idea of having a permanent resting place for their cremains. As a result, they purchase a plot in a cemetery where the urn can be buried. The urn may rest near a loved one’s casket (or even be placed inside the casket).

Others are fine having their remains scattered, but they still may want to purchase a headstone in a cemetery to give mourners a place to visit. No matter your choice, you can always choose to find a headstone for loved ones to visit and at an affordable price point.

How Much is the Cheapest Upright Headstone?

The cheapest upright headstone is around $800, but most upright headstones tend to cost between $1,000 and $3,000. 

For those who don’t know the difference, upright headstones are those that sit on a base and jut up perpendicular to the ground to mark the gravesite of a decedent. There are many different styles and shapes of headstones. If you are budget conscious, you may want to look into other more affordable kinds of monuments, such as flat markers--also known as grass-level markers--or beveled designs.

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Steps for Finding an Affordable Headstone

Sometimes funeral expenses must be paid for at the time of the service. A headstone, on the other hand, may be purchased months after the death. Some families use this time to reflect on the headstone design and text that best reflects their loved ones’ lives. Of course, this time can also be used to shop around for the best deal.

Here are the steps for finding an affordable upright headstone. 

1. Choose the cemetery first

Before you can shop for a headstone, you must choose and purchase the cemetery plot, as some cemeteries can have strict guidelines on the type of headstone allowed on the property. For example, some cemeteries only allow grass-level stones to make maintenance and upkeep easier for the grounds crew. There may also be size restrictions on the headstones. Other cemeteries may require that certain religious symbols appear on the monument. 

Since most headstone companies don’t allow for returns, you’ll either be out the cost of the headstone or the plot if you purchase one that doesn’t follow cemetery guidelines.

2. Consult with the staff of the cemetery about purchasing an upright headstone

Some cemeteries sell headstones as a part of their service. Purchasing a monument through them can have its advantages. For one thing, it may simplify the process of installation. Additionally, it is sometimes nice to interact with one company, instead of speaking with many people from many companies. You might find yourself talking not only to the person who makes and designs the headstone, but also to the installer and the staff at the cemetery.

However, you do not have to purchase the headstone through the cemetery. In fact, it is illegal for cemetery staff to say that there will be an additional (or higher) installation fee if you purchase a headstone from another provider. Consult Federal Trade Commission guidelines and your state laws regarding cemeteries if you are unsure.

3. Talk with a local headstone designer

Support your local businesses by visiting a nearby monument shop. Of course, visiting a monument designer who works near the cemetery may simplify the process since they will be familiar with all the cemeteries’ design and installation guidelines.

A monument designer is an invaluable resource for choosing the right headstone for your loved one. They will be able to walk you through all the options and discuss the pros and cons of each type of monument, alongside tips on how to clean a headstone which ones are more likely to last without breaking. 

Any cemetery designer can take the time to talk with the family about their deceased loved one. They learn about their interests, hobbies, and beliefs and use that knowledge to design a personalized headstone that reflects their lives. 

4. Consult online headstone stores

Yes, you can purchase a headstone online, in addition to caskets and urns. While it may seem a bit strange to buy a headstone online,

it could be an option if you know exactly what you want and have the details in mind, as well as an understanding of cemetery requirements.

5. Limit your choices to ready-made designs

Some headstone companies (both online and brick and mortar) create beautiful, customized headstones with intricate designs. While you may like to honor your loved one with such a legacy item, you may be hard-pressed to find an engraved one-of-a-kind monument on a budget. 

While you may admire the unique headstones created by artists, customized upright headstones may cost tens of thousands of dollars. 

6. Compare the costs between headstones

Once you have visited with the cemetery staff, funeral home staff members, local memorial designers, and online headstone companies make sure to compare the costs.

You must make sure you compare the same style, size, material, and quality of headstones. There are other “hidden” costs to consider, as well.

Engraving

Most companies charge per letter on the cost of engraving. For example, engraving your loved one’s name and birth/death dates can cost around $500. Of course, additional lettering, symbols, and images may add to the price. 

Shipping

You may find that online retailers sell headstones cheaper than your local memorial company. Make sure you consider the cost of shipping (and taxes) before comparing prices.

Installation

While the installation fee that you pay to the cemetery should be the same regardless of where you buy the headstone, you’ll also have to pay someone for the actual installation as well. If you buy a headstone from a local company, the installation cost may be worked into the monument’s price.

Make sure you ask before comparing their price compared to those charged by online retailers.

Taxes and other fees

Many people put an item in their online shopping carts only to realize that the deal they thought they were getting was not that great with additional taxes and fees. Do a reality check before purchasing a headstone online. Also, get an itemized quote from your local headstone company so that you can make a comparison of costs with no missing fees.

7. Ask for less expensive options

If the headstone designer knows that you are trying to purchase a memorial on a budget, they might be able to find something that fits. The designer might give suggestions on reducing the item’s cost, or they may feel generous and offer you a discount. It never hurts to ask.

8. Have a flexible timeline.

Check with the cemetery to see if they have any regulations on when headstones need to be placed. This may depend upon the weather in cold parts of the country, or they may require that monuments be placed within a certain amount of time of the burial.

If you have a flexible timeline (or you are pre-purchasing the headstone before it is needed), you may be able to get your product at a discount. Expect to pay more if you have a rigid deadline.

9. Purchase a family monument

Some family members choose to purchase cemetery plots next to each other. If the family members share the same last name, you may consider buying one upright monument for the family and choosing less expensive options for each individual. 

Buying one headstone for a married couple is another way to cut costs. 

10. Avoid emotional purchases

You may have had the most devastating experience of your life when you recently lost your loved one. Making financial decisions when you are mourning the loss of someone you love is never a good idea. While people are in this situation, they tend to forget about words such as “budget.” Instead, they say they want to give a proper send-off for their loved one, or they feel as if discussing costs may seem in poor taste during such a difficult time. 

Consider waiting a few months before purchasing a headstone if you are acutely grieving. Remember, everyone grieves differently. Your loved one probably would not want you to make a poor financial decision, and you may have a clearer head in a few months. You can also consider asking a friend who is not so close to the situation to help you decide on the headstone.

Waiting until all the medical and funeral bills are paid can enable you to understand better how much you have available to spend on a headstone.

Purchasing an Affordable Upright Headstone Is Possible

You may have visited cemeteries to see headstones that are hundreds of years old. As you consider the stones that may now sit cockeyed in a graveyard, think about your own headstone (or the one you are designing for your loved one.)

Hundreds of years from now, others may wander through the cemetery to see your or your loved one’s stone. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your headstone to say? What message, either through symbols or words, do you want to send? You can find a headstone that speaks to you, as well as a valuable memorial for your loved ones after you die.

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