How to Plan an Inexpensive Funeral

Ben Allen  | 

The average cost of a North American funeral is around $7,000 to $10,000. In today’s economy, that kind of financial strain (especially if the death is unexpected) can cripple a person’s finances. That’s cost does not include any medical or hospital bills that might have been accrued before the person’s death, which could be a couple thousand on top of the funeral. If the deceased didn’t have their affairs in order, there might be extra expenses you’ll have to handle too.

The process of saying goodbye is hard enough, and your finances don’t need that extra drain. So, whether you are planning your own funeral ahead of time, or you are looking for a way to plan an inexpensive yet tasteful funeral for a loved, then here are some tips to help you.

Disposition: Handling the Deceased’s Remains

Depending on where you live, what beliefs you and your loved ones have, and the availability in your local area, there are a variety of ways to put somebody’s remains to rest.

Burial

The most common way of putting a body to rest is by burial (in a cemetery) in a casket. Sadly, this is also one of the most expensive ways the average person puts a body to rest. Many parts of a burial funeral cost thousands of dollars, including:

  • Buying a casket: $2,000
  • Buying a gravesite: $1,000
  • Digging the grave: $600
  • Buying a grave liner/outer burial container: $1,000
  • Embalming: $500
  • Buying a headstone: $1,500

These costs don’t even include the expenses of a funeral home or any type of extra events that commonly accompany a funeral service. There are ways to lower the costs of a burying a loved one though there are some costs you can’t avoid.

To start, don’t be afraid to do a little shopping around. It might feel like you have a time crunch if you aren’t planning ahead for a future funeral, but at least contact a few different places for each part of the funeral. Prices between different service providers can be hundreds of dollars.

Next, don’t feel like you have to get the best stuff, like an expensive casket or headstone. Lower costing models can accomplish the same job, and you’ll still be honoring your deceased loved one. Many sellers for these products will try to guilt you into buying expensive items, so stay strong and on budget.

Cremation

A great alternative to burial, cremation allows a person to avoid many of the more expensive parts to a funeral. The average cost is around $1,100, nearly $9,000 cheaper than a traditional burial. You’ll avoid expenses like buying a plot of land or casket, and the only new expense is an urn, which can be gotten for $20-$100.

Alkaline Hydrolysis

Similar to cremation, alkaline hydrolysis breaks down the deceased’s remains, but instead of using fire and heat, it is done in liquid. The composition of the liquid is 95% water and 5% potassium hydroxide, which is then heated under pressure to breakdown the body. All that is left are the bones, which is then crushed to resemble cremation ashes and given to the family.

Alkaline hydrolysis is usually a little more expensive than cremation, costing around $2,000, but depending on where you live, might actually be cheaper. It is definitely less expensive than a traditional burial though.

Planning a Funeral Service

There is more to a funeral than simply putting the remains to rest, but there are multiple different events that often accompany it. This includes: a burial service, a viewing, a funeral service, wakes, a memorial service, and whatever else the family and loved ones want.

Planning all of the events become a balance between the wishes of the family and what your budget can afford. Don’t put yourself deep in debt and risk ruining your credit score just to have an extravagant event.

Look for alternative venues to hosting these events outside of a funeral home. Many churches will host funeral services for much cheaper, or for free, while a funeral home might charge hundreds or thousands. People often want food as part of these events, but instead of paying for catering, reach out to family friends and guests to help provide food.

Flowers or Donations: How to Ask for Financial Help

It’s likely that many people who won’t be able to attend the services, or looking to show their support, will ask how they can help. Many will ask where they can send flowers or donations. If you are really trying to make ends meet with the funeral financially, it’s completely acceptable to ask for a donation to help pay funeral expenses. When sending out the invitations to the funeral, you can even place a note asking for donations to help pay for the funeral in lieu of flowers. If the bills are still to much too handle, consider asking family or close friends for a loan to help pay for the funeral.

As you work on planning the funeral, make sure to take some time for yourself, especially if you are in the midst of a loss in the family. Being extremely stressed while planning can result in making poor or expensive decisions just because you want to be done with it. Slow down, take a breath, and approach it like an informed consumer. Get through this, and then start working on all of the other stuff, like cancelling all of their accounts and figuring out the future.


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Ben Allen is a freelance content creator and digital marketer who believes in helping small businesses succeed. He spends his free time bragging about his two daughters, eating stuffed crust pizza, and playing video games.

This post was updated February 13, 2018. It was originally published January 26, 2018.