The modern funeral is an expensive occasion.

According to The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the expected cost of a funeral is between $7,000 and $12,000. Some spend more than $25,000!

Many people fail to control the process and end up overspending needlessly. Giving your loved one a “decent sendoff” should not put you in debt.

When properly planned, funeral costs can be as low as $2,000.

1. Preplan Your Funeral

The single biggest mistake people make is failing to plan ahead. Planning ahead is the best way of protecting friends and relatives from the frustrating task of planning (and paying) for the funerals

Approximately 65% of Americans plan ahead and prioritize funeral preplanning.

Questions to ask when preplanning a funeral include:

  • Is burial or cremation is preferred?
  • Which provider to use?
  • Is embalming required?
  • Should visitations, viewings, or a memorial be held?

Answering these questions explicitly saves your family the agony of shopping with emotions. Write these down and share them with your relatives.

Funeral Director Kennedy Brian notes, “Avoid ambiguous words like ‘something simple’ and delve deeper into specifics.” A brief explanation prevents others from spending on what you do not want or missing what you would want.

2. Compare End of Life Plans for Various Funeral Homes

Funeral homes now market themselves like most other businesses.

When a funeral home has a slogan like, “We Make You Look Good Because God Hates Ugly?” be advised that some unnecessary expenses will be on the horizon.

Comparing costs from different funeral homes on sites like FuneralFide ensures money is saved.

3. Don’t Necessarily Shop Close to Home

Traditionally, mourners opt for a funeral home that is closest to home. In many towns, there may only be one funeral home in business. Moving the location some 10 miles may result in $1000s in savings.

4. Ask for the General Price List (GPL)

By law, when requested in person or over the phone, a funeral home must present a copy of their General Price List.

This often is accompanied with an explanation of how difficult it is to read and other caveats that, while possibly sincere, may distract you from the true cost.

5. Consider a Funeral Package

Some savvy shoppers may look online for a deal on a casket or urn.

While this may appear cheap in comparison, often times funeral homes have added fees for using a container that isn’t purchased in-house.

Federal law mandates funeral homes accept any caskets presented by consumers, but they often do so accompanied by the funeral home equivalent of a ‘corkage fee’.

6. Shop Around and Buy Online

Many people do not consider buying funeral products a form of shopping. It is, and you should treat the process like shopping for any other household or commercial items. Of course, many funeral homes market their products alongside their services. But you can acquire items such as caskets, hearse, urn, and vaults from elsewhere if costs are better.

Online shopping makes finding high-quality items cheaper and more convenient.

Phrases like “Our Coffins Are the Best, You Will Die to Have One” are only sales gimmicks. You can outsource less expensive options from anywhere.

7. Consider Direct Cremation

Direct cremations are less costly. According to federal law, every funeral home must have these services on its price list.

One of the advantages of using direct cremation is that you can use any funeral home, including those that are thousands of miles away.

Funeral homes will conveniently deliver or mail you the cremains of your loved ones. Thus, you end up saving on transporting the body.

In addition, cemetery space for cremated remains is less expensive than that for body burials.

8. Immediate Burials are Less Expensive

Like a direct cremation, every funeral home must have an immediate burial option on their general price list.

In an immediate burial (or direct burial) a body is buried promptly after death. As a result of no viewing, families can opt for a simple, less costly graveyard service.

Neither embalming nor a viewing is required so additional savings accrue.

9. Donate Body to Science

Planning a funeral is both messy and costly. And one of the simplest ways to get out of the nightmare is donating the body to science. You will end up saving costs as you contribute to research and medical training.

Many universities and medical schools will only require you to cover transportation to the institution.

Indeed, this is much less than what you would spend on a full-blown funeral program.

Typically, after two years of use, the medical institution will return the body’s cremated remains.

The anatomical donation program also covers both incineration and transportation costs.

10. Skip Embalming

The law does not compel you to embalm.

The procedure is only useful if you will have a long duration between the time of death and viewing. If you do not need viewing, you can skip this and plan your burial or funeral program within two days of demise.

Many states also allow refrigeration as an alternative to embalming, which is cheaper.

11. Host a Virtual Service

The novel coronavirus is still here with us, and most containment measures will remain. So, social distancing requirements will not ease anytime soon. Why not consider going virtual to avoid putting all the prospective mourners through unnecessary traveling expenses and COVID-19 risks?

According to a recent FuneralFide survey, 20% of Covid funerals had a virtual service.

Assuming you expect 100 people at a funeral, you will need a large venue to maintain the 6-feet social distance requirement. Since such a venue would be costly, you can go virtual. Many funeral homes now have virtual services in their packages.

Going virtual may also include digital obituaries instead of expensive printouts as well as avoiding the cost of funeral programs.

With the right technology and digital equipment, you can stream the funeral service to millions of mourners worldwide. Besides, most platforms are pretty safe and have secure logins.

Your guests may also appreciate a virtual service as they can avoid having to answer the tough question of what to wear to a funeral.

12. Plan Your Own Memorial Service

Memorial services can happen without bodies. A memorial service instead of a funeral service eliminates pressure too

It saves you money on fancy caskets, embalming, and refrigeration. Besides, there is are no costs for transporting the body to a religious institution, a funeral home, or the gravesite.

And if you value goodbyes and private visitations, these can happen at the place of death or home. And you can have them before you invite a funeral director.

There is no pressure of embalming or refrigerating the body. Thus, you can plan a formal or informal memorial service at home, in a religious institution, community center, club, or park.  These venues are either unrestricted or pretty affordable. Moreover, you do not need to hire any professional funeral home staff.

13. Do Not Select a Vault

Many cemeteries require vaults.

However, there is no state law or federal law that commits you to have one. Check around your neighborhood, neighboring towns, or cities for funeral homes that will not compel you to purchase vaults.

Using a grave liner instead of a vault is a frugal alternative.

Also, remember that a minimum alternative container is an option. This alternative container is important for keeping costs low in cremation since no federal, state, or local laws requires a casket for cremation. Further, any funeral home or crematory you choose as your provider must make an alternative container available.

Read more on the differences between burial containers

14. Review Funeral Officiant Fees

When it comes to pastors, priests and rabbis who regularly work with the funeral home you have chosen, the funeral director will either already know what the price for their services are or be able to find out on your behalf very quickly.

Prices can range from $100 to $1000 for the funeral officiant fee otherwise known as an honorarium.

15. Stick to Your Purchase Plan

Impulse shopping is prevalent among all. When we are grieving, we are even more susceptible.

When shopping with emotions, the chances are that you will end up overspending or buying what you do not need.

Always shop in the companion of a sensible friend who will help you stick to your plans. Together, you can make better decisions and get rid of what you do not need.

Conclusion

Planning a funeral is both difficult and costly. You should not fall into the traps of funeral homes and funeral directors and end up spending unimaginable amounts.

While funeral directors need to get paid for our services, some still believe that clients should not spend beyond their means.

Explore your options properly as a funeral consumer and determine the kind of funeral you want for yourself, kith, or kin. All your options should meet the needs of your family and friends.

Finally, shop around for a fair funeral home or an honest and understanding funeral director to coordinate the process.

Everyone deserves care and dignity even without breaking the bank.

About the Author: Kennedy Brian

With six years working in a funeral home, Kennedy Brian understands specific industry needs. Kennedy started as a Funeral Home Clerk and has risen through the ranks to be a Funeral Director. While he understands that funeral homes and staff are in business, he acknowledges that clients and prospective customers deserve accurate and honest information. Kennedy values fair pricing, high-quality and dignified afterlife service. He is a blogger and freelance writer, passionate about sharing his expertise and ideas.