10 Ways to Save on Funeral Costs
Anyone that has had to plan a funeral knows how exhausting it can be. It likes throwing a big party, but you have to guess what the guest of honor would have wanted. Planning for a funeral prior to death can help prepare your family and allow them to begin the grieving process.
- Shop with a clear head or find someone that will
While grief is a natural process, when someone dies it can leave a grieving person susceptible to being talked into only “the best” for their loved one. If a beautiful, but cost-effective, funeral is what you are looking for, and you don’t think you are capable of making practical decisions with a clear mind, find a friend or family member to help you. By law, funeral homes have to give quotes over the phone, and removing the visual appeal of floral arrangements and glinting caskets, can help to find the right funeral home easier.
- Shop around
Not all funeral homes are created equal. Think of funeral homes as clothing brands. A t-shirt from Walmart is likely different than a t-shirt from Banana Republic or The Gap or Nike. There will be variations in price, style, customer service, availability, and the quality of the product. The same goes for funeral homes. Visit the facility, meet some of the staff, and get a pricing guide. By law, funeral homes have to give you pricing over the phone, which can help with making practical financial decisions, or may exclude funeral homes you don’t want to use. Learn the terminology to understand what to ask for with this helpful article, “Understanding a Funeral Home’s Price List”.
- Inform others of your wishes
The process of choosing the best type of service can start long before death occurs. Tell your family what your final wishes are. This could save your loved ones time, money, and frustration. Choose the funeral home ahead of time and the type of service you want. Giving your family even some inkling of what you want, or don’t want, for your final arrangements will help ease some of the stress during their grief. An addendum to a will would be sufficient to point them in the right direction.
- Pay before you die
Prepaying for a funeral will take the financial burden off your family. Payable-On-Death (POD) accounts are payable to a specific person at time of death with proof, such as a death certificate. If you choose to have a POD account, make sure that your family knows about it. Funerals can cost anywhere from a couple thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the services requested. Prices for burials and cremations have been increasing steadily over time. Therefore, a POD that was set up 10 years ago, may no longer be sufficient for the services you want.
Other sources of financial support include prepaying for your funeral and life Insurance payouts.
- Direct cremation
There are different types of cremation services. A “cremation with traditional service” is the most expensive. The remains are embalmed and available for viewing before the cremation is performed. A “cremation with a memorial” does not require the body or the cremated remains to be present so it costs less, but still has a service similar to a funeral service. With a “direct cremation” the remains are taken to the crematory without viewing, visitation, or embalming and typically without a service or a private service the family hosts. This is the least expensive type of cremation service.
- Have services on your own
Funeral homes have the benefit of a venue. If the family would like others to be able to view the deceased person at a funeral home it may be the best option because moving a 200 pound casket is more than a little burdensome. If a viewing or visitation is not necessary then there is no reason why you cannot host your own memorial service. A memorial service is a gathering of family and loved ones to remember the deceased person. It does not have to be right away and it does not have to be an over the top event. It can be whatever the family needs it to be. Many are held at a family member’s home, but larger venues can be rented for larger gatherings.
- Bring your own casket/container
The funeral home will have a selection of caskets and urns to choose from, but during the grieving process, bargain hunting is not usually on the family’s mind. Funeral home caskets and containers are convenient, but there is also mark-up for that convenience. Providing your own container is an option that the funeral home may not tell you about. If the remains are cremated, the family does not need to buy an expensive urn. The crematory has generic containers that they put the cremains in. If you are going to scatter the ashes or have them on display, an urn may not be necessary.
- Skip the embalming
Embalming is a process that helps to preserve the body. An unembalmed body can be refrigerated and viewed for a day or two, but not much longer. The embalming process also gives more natural coloring to the skin and makes them appear more life-like. If the plan is to have extended viewings and visitation, embalming is the way to go. If a viewing is not planned, especially if cremation is the chosen option, embalming is not necessary. A closed casket visitation does not require embalming, and, in fact, embalming is not required by law. Embalming is a cost that can be eliminated if the family is not insistent on viewing the remains.
- Donate the body to science
Whole body donation is an option for those that would like a free cremation in exchange for their donation. Although your family will not get the ashes for some time, a memorial service can still be done to celebrate your life. Often times, whole body donation needs to be arranged prior to death, due to the number of requests received. A great resource for places that accept whole body donation can be found at Donate Life NC.
- Choose a “green burial”
A green burial means there are no impervious containers, embalming, or vaults. It allows for the natural decomposition process to take place and the body to return to the earth. This option negates the cost of caskets, embalming, and vaults, reducing the cost for you and your family. There are cemeteries devoted entirely to green burials. For a list of places that offer this service in NC, as well as other states, visit Green Burial Project.