5 Steps to Managing the Costs of a Funeral

No matter how inevitable death is, many of us are still caught off-guard when it’s time to make funeral arrangements for a loved one.

When we plan funerals, we are often under time pressure. Also, as can happen with weddings, there may be social pressure to honor the deceased with an opulent event.

What can you do to plan a funeral at a reasonable price? Consider these ideas:

1. Shop

Federal law is on your side. Funeral homes must disclose the prices of their services, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Many providers have menus that lay out costs for various services and options, and they should share these prices with you whether you’re meeting in person or inquiring by phone.

However, don’t let your guard down. Although price disclosure is a federal law, a 2014 survey found that about 25 percent of funeral homes don’t comply.

Go online to compare local services. Parting.com lists prices from providers, and the site is searchable by ZIP code. The price listings may not be exact, the site notes, since they do change over time — but they can save on legwork and haggling during an already-difficult time.

2. Prioritize

What is the most important element of the funeral? Is it a coffin and vault? A large headstone? An elegant wake? Weigh your options and preferences, and then plan how to allocate your money.

You can purchase caskets from Costco or other retailers that are likely to be less expensive than buying from a funeral home. Urns are available from a wide array of retailers, including Walmart, Sears, vendors on Amazon and elsewhere online. And you may be able to bury a person on privately owned land and avoid paying for a cemetery plot, but be sure to check local ordinances.

Understand that these options might involve trade-offs. You might need to pay delivery fees for the casket you bought at a big-box retailer. And you may be able to bury a body on your property, but it could impact your property value.

3. Mix and match services and goods

Just because you go to a funeral home doesn’t mean you need to buy a package of services. In fact, you might mix and match services and goods, such as purchasing a casket at Costco but the liner from the funeral home.

The advantage of using a funeral home — whether for a traditional burial or cremation — is that funeral directors and their staff typically take care of many details at a time when your energy level might be low due to grief. These include placing obituaries, accepting flowers and other gifts for the family, coordinating vigils and even coordinating with the church for meals after the service.

4. Consider a DIY funeral

A growing number of people are returning to at-home funerals, the New York Times reported a couple of years ago. These intimate end-of-life rituals are usually conducted by family members, who may also have assistance from funeral directors, clergy or home funeral guides.

They are usually much less expensive than mainstream funerals — typically costing under $200, compared with $8,343 for the average professionally directed funeral, according to the nonprofit National Home Funeral Alliance.

The NHFA, which provides support and resources for families seeking this alternative, emphasizes the spiritual, environmental and therapeutic benefits of the home funeral.

Families who choose to care for their own report a sense of completion, a feeling of having done their best for those they love, and a stronger connection to their friends and family and community. Having something meaningful to do to help others through a crisis or sorrowful time is usually empowering for all involved.

The NHFA notes that laws governing home funerals vary, and provides a state-by-state breakdown of requirements.

5. Look into pre-need funeral options

As the name implies, pre-need services usually allow you to design and pay for a funeral and burial before those services are needed. If you choose this option for yourself, you could be doing your family a great favor by lifting from them the burden of planning and making your wishes clear.

The pre-need approach allows you to discuss and choose services and goods, sometimes without paying for them in advance, according to AARP. There are also pre-need agreements that allow you to pay in advance for a funeral and burial services you request.

If you opt for a pre-need agreement, verify that the price paid locks in the cost of services and goods. You can also buy pre-need insurance to cover predetermined costs of your funeral and burial. (Note: This is different from life insurance that allows beneficiaries discretion over how to use the funds.) Each of these plans can have limitations buried in the fine print. Be sure to research them carefully.

What’s your experience handling the memorial and burial costs for a loved one? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Ways to Slash Your Internet Bill
8 Ways to Slash Your Internet Bill

No matter what price you are paying for internet service, taking these simple steps can lower it.

5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs
5 Ways Your Phone Can Slash Grocery Costs

These free apps and websites can help you get cash back on groceries, shop more efficiently or squeeze the most from the ingredients you have on hand.

15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home
15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home

These free movie streaming sites offer thousands of movies and TV shows, including recent releases and beloved classics. If you love free movies, online sites are where you need to look for the best list of features that are just one easy click away.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Generic products are a great way to save money, but sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect
Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect

Your third coronavirus payment will be the biggest yet — and possibly even bigger than you realize.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles
The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.