One way to avoid expensive funerals is to stay alive forever. If you’re human, however, it seems that this option isn’t a reliable one. If you pre-plan your funeral, then, you may learn that funeral costs often fall immediately behind homes and automobiles as the third most expensive item that most American families will make during a lifetime. But, the cost of most funerals are going down in response to the desire for less expensive funerals. In fact, you may not need a funeral home for that funeral.
Funerals often are held from public community centers, a church or a VFW Hall. The ability to hold a funeral someplace other than a funeral home can significantly reduce the average cost of a funeral. But, you may still need to hire a funeral director. Many funeral directors now operate independently in efforts to reduce costs. In some jurisdictions, a licensed funeral director is required for the finalizing of paperwork and to be present at a burial.
The average cost of a traditional funeral currently runs about $7,500. How can you reduce this cost, and how much will you save? Here are a few tips:
- Shop around: The cost of a funeral will vary, depending upon where you live. Shop around, especially if you’re pre-panning your funeral, to compare costs. A casket sells for the same price wholesale nationwide, but you may find that same casket costs thousands more in Washington DC than it does in LaGrange, Kentucky. This is your bargaining chip, if you prefer a casket, to reduce the cost by thousands of dollars. You can use Consumer Reports’ benchmark price list as a guide.
- Use a local chain funeral home: Ask if the funeral home is independent, part of a local chain, or part of a national chain. Often, the only way you’ll know is to ask. Consumer Reports’ price survey found that local chains generally offered the best value, a choice that often saves hundreds of dollars.
- Cremation: The cost of cremation is significantly less than the cost of a traditional burial. You can avoid a casket, and many states allow simple containers for ashes rather than expensive urn models. This option alone could save up to $5,000 or more on that $7,000 funeral. Although this site may offer some slightly biased information (they sell urns), you might find some great ideas on how to cut costs on anything from urns to burial plots (you actually don’t need one if you’re cremated).
- Avoid embalming when possible: According to the Federal Trade Commission, funeral homes cannot charge you for embalming if you did not choose a funeral arrangement that required it (such as cremation) or if state law didn’t require it. Knowledge is power – if you don’t want to pay for that expense, be forewarned and check state laws regarding this procedure. You can save hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars by forgoing embalming and cosmetology (try a closed casket).
- Ask for a green funeral: Many funeral homes now offer a ‘green’ funeral option that eliminates embalming, provides a less expensive casket or that offers to scatter ashes. Learn more about your options from this story about a couple seeking a green funeral in Chicago.
- Leave out the frills: When you pre-plan your funeral, you can stop Aunt Meg from embarrassing you after death with the release of dozens of doves or hundreds of balloons. The cost of those frills can run into hundreds or thousands of dollars, money best spent elsewhere.
- Don’t buy into the ‘package’ plan: According to the Funeral Rule set by the Federal Trade Commission, a funeral provider cannot refuse you service if you only buy one thing from them, and they can’t offer you one item only on the condition that you buy another – so if someone tries to convince you otherwise, they’re in violation of the Funeral Rule. You can save hundreds or thousands of dollars if you pick and choose funeral services from various sources.
- Donate your body to science: When you donate your body to medical science, it is the best way to avoid costly funerals. Usually the only costs incurred by this method are transportation costs, usually a couple hundred dollars – and, sometimes the facility you choose to donate to will cover these costs. And in most cases, if specifically requested, cremated remains can be returned to the family once the research has been completed. Some facilities offer money to help defray costs for memorial services, too.