15 Things to Do With Money Given at a Funeral


Regardless of your wishes or situation, it’s always possible to be given money at a funeral or memorial service. Losing a loved one is hard enough on its own. When you factor in the cost of the funeral and final disposition, it can be downright overwhelming. This is why many are asking for donations for funeral expenses in lieu of flowers. 

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However, even if you don’t ask for money to help with funeral expenses, you might still receive monetary gifts from family and friends. Since more people are aware of the rising costs of funerals, it’s becoming more commonplace to give these types of gifts. It’s a sign of respect, and in some cultures, it’s even expected. 

If you receive money at a funeral or memorial, what do you do with it? There’s an etiquette to be aware of when handling funeral sympathy gifts. Not only do you want to honor your loved one’s memory, but you want to make sure you’re making the most of this monetary gift. In this guide, we’ll explore the things you can do with the money given at a funeral or memorial service so you can decide what’s right for you. 

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Do You Have to Spend Funeral Donations a Certain Way?

First, is there a specific way you need to spend funeral donations? In short, the answer is no. Unless someone specifically requests for their money to be put toward something or a donation, don’t feel obligated to do any specific thing. 

Arranging a funeral is expensive. People understand that there are a lot of different costs, and these costs add up quickly. The money is typically given to help cover the costs of the funeral service. This could include things like catering, flowers, decorations, or venue space. 

However, if the funeral is already paid for, you don’t have to give the money back. You can apply the funds toward another practical purchase, like a donation. It’s generally in poor taste to spend the money on yourself, though you could use it to reduce your own financial burden during a loss. For example, purchasing necessities or food is a way to reduce your emotional and financial burden. Conversely, it wouldn’t be appropriate to spend this money on a new pair of shoes or a fancy upgrade. 

If you’re not sure how someone wishes the money to be spent, ask them. You might see if there’s a specific cause they care about or if they have any requests. Not only does this include them in the memorialization process, but it also makes this decision easier for you. 

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Practical Ways to Spend Money Donated at a Funeral or Memorial Service

Whether you have a funeral fundraiser website or someone gives money out of the blue, there are many practical ways to spend it. The goal of these funds is to make your life easier, whatever that means to you. Consider these inspirational, practical ideas below. 

1. Funeral expenses

Of course, the most obvious way to spend the money is on funeral expenses. Funerals can cost upward of $2,500 or more. You can use these funds to cover the cost of the funeral home package, casket, cremation, or anything else. While many rely on savings and insurance to cover final expenses, this isn’t always possible.

2. Reduce the financial burden

Outside of funeral expenses, there are other financial burdens of loss. Things like utility bills, home maintenance, groceries, and more become more complicated. Using money donated to help pay for bills or living expenses during the hardest parts of grief can be a lifeline when you need it the most.

3. Funeral catering

Many people choose to have food and drink at funerals as part of a reception. This is an informal opportunity for guests to gather, share memories, and express condolences to the family. However, catering isn’t cheap. Any money donated to the cause can go toward paying for food and refreshments, reducing the burden for the bereaved family. 

4. Memorial products

Next, memorial products are a way to honor someone’s memory. This includes things like decorative urns, memorial jewelry, cremation diamonds, and so much more. If someone gives you money after a loss, it could easily go toward a special memorial item to honor your loved one’s memory. If you’re wondering what to do with cremation ashes, this could be it. 

5. Flowers

Funeral flowers are a symbol of life, grief, and remembrance. However, they don’t come cheap. Funeral flowers can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. While it’s common to give funeral flowers as a form of sympathy, you can also use donated money to purchase flowers through a local florist or your funeral home. 

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6. Educational expenses

Another common way to use donated funds that aren’t needed for a funeral is for education expenses. If you’re attending college, this can be a heavy financial burden. Losing a loved one might make this even more challenging. It’s common for memorial fundraisers to be set up to cover a child or loved one’s educational expenses in the future. 

7. Gravesite decorations and maintenance

If your loved one is buried at a physical gravesite, you can also use these funds to maintain his or her grave. Not only does this mean placing decorations like flowers and flags, but you can also keep the grave in good condition. Many cemeteries require an ongoing fee to keep the grave maintained as a whole. This can be expensive long-term, so consider putting money aside for this purpose. 

8. Travel expenses

Last but not least, sometimes families need to travel for a funeral. Whether this means last-minute flights or long road trips, it can add up quickly to quite the pretty penny. Any donated funeral money can go toward unpaid travel expenses, making it possible to bring loved ones together no matter the distance. 

Ways You Can Spend Donations to Memorialize Your Loved One

Alternatively, you might decide you don’t need to use donated money on yourself, your family, or any existing funeral expenses. If this is the case, you can still put the funds to use by making a donation or creating a unique memorial. 

9. Donate to charity

One of the best ways to put funeral money to good use is to donate in someone’s name. Not only does this make the world a better place, but it also creates a lasting legacy. You can donate to a cause that was meaningful for your loved one, making a beautiful tradition of compassion. 

10. Plant a tree or greenery

Another beautiful way to honor someone’s life is to plant a tree or beautiful greenery in his or her memory. This helps the environment, and it’s also somewhere you can return again and again. There are so many plants to choose from. Why not symbolize new life with something green?

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11. Create a scholarship

If your loved one had a favorite institution or was an academic, create a scholarship in his or her honor. A memorial scholarship keeps someone’s memory alive, and it’s a gift that continues to give back to the community. This positive impact is something you’ll smile on for years to come. 

12. Donate to a place of worship

Similarly, if your loved one was an active member of a community or religious group, make a donation. This is a thoughtful way to celebrate what was important to them. Since this was a place where they gave so much time and energy, they’re sure to appreciate what a gift it is. 

13. Host a dinner or party

Why not throw a party in your loved one’s honor? Hosting a dinner as a form of remembrance is a modern way to celebrate life. Though your loved one might be gone, his or her memory is still alive and well. Hosting a dinner or party for friends and family is a chance to reconnect and come closer together. 

14. Design a memorial diamond

Did you know it’s possible to turn your loved one’s cremation ashes into a beautiful diamond? It’s true thanks to memorial diamond providers like Eterneva. These professionals use a process similar to the one found in nature to transform ashes into real, stunning diamonds. Now, it’s possible to wear your loved one close to your heart every day. 

15. Plan a scattering ceremony

Last but not least, releasing your loved one’s ashes somewhere special can bring peace after a loss. Whether you want to visit your loved one’s hometown or explore a National Park, this can be expensive. Using donated funds to achieve this goal is a beautiful tribute, and it creates a memory you’ll never forget. 

How Will You Remember Your Loved One?

Ultimately, there is no protocol when it comes to handling money given during a funeral or memorial service. If someone takes the time to give you funds as an act of kindness, treat this as an opportunity to give back. Whether you donate to a worthy cause or cover the cost of the funeral, this is something to remember. 

After a loss, it’s okay to lean on your community for help. You’re never alone. Though it’s hard to accept help when you need it, you’re all in this together.

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