Tips That Work: How Do You Pay For A Funeral With No Money?


You never know when a major life event will happen, these things come suddenly and unexpectedly. Some events like losing a loved one can hurt most of all and if you are unemployed or short on cash this can be an exceptionally hard time.

What are some tips to help you pay for a funeral with no money?

When planning a funeral with little to no money you need first what type of funeral you want to have. You then need to do the research to fit your situation & know as much about the deceased’s work, life, and medical history.  After you have figured out all of there wishes you can estimate the cost.

There are many factors to take into consideration when trying to plan a funeral. After you have done your due diligence about what the deceased wishes were, you will need to locate organizations and charities that can and will help you out.

Even though some compromises may need to be made, you can still give the deceased a fitting funeral to honor their life and their impact on the lives of others.

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Below are some tips that will guide you along this path during this trying time.

What happens at a funeral?

To properly plan a funeral you will need to know what happens at one. If you have not planned one before this will be your first step.

There are generally three parts to it; preparation of the body, having the ceremony and having the funeral. This is not all-encompassing and you will need to figure out a lot of things such as do you want embalming and/or cremation? Do you want to go with a funeral home or have a DIY ceremony at your home? Who will be there? Will you have a viewing?

These are just a few and you can check here for my checklist on what happens at a funeral and ways you can delay one without losing crucial planning time.

Do I really have to pay?

As a general rule of thumb, it is only the person who signs the contract with the funeral home or other organization who is responsible for payment, but it’s not always that simple. Check out my more in-depth article on who pays for the funeral when there is no money.

What are some tips for planning your own funeral?

By understanding how to plan your own funeral will help with planning someone else’s.

The steps are basically the same and you will see that if you plan ahead it will not only save a lot of money but a lot of stress for your loved ones. Not all of these may be applicable to your situation as the costs of these and what you can afford will vary.

You want to start with these steps before you even look for places to get money from since the less money you are looking for the easier it will be to acquire it. There will probably not be one thing that covers it all and by combining these steps with funds from charities and organizations you should be able to cover your costs.

Here are some tips that will help you plan your own funeral in a cost-effective way.

Plan Ahead

While not the most pleasant thing to think about or plan for everyone should have a will or a written set of documents that state what you want in the event of your death. Not only do you have these documents, make sure that it is known where they are and easily accessible, even if something happens to you.

I can recommend USLegalWills.com which allows you to write a will, power of attorney or living will for a very low fee (Click here to get 15% off). Just answer the simple questions to create your legal documents online. You can also make updates at any time free of charge. I’ve checked and it’s even lawyer approved but at about one-tenth the cost.

This will streamline the funeral process and make things easier for everyone. Sometimes family members may not know or have very different ideas of what you may want for your funeral, or even if you want to have one at all.

Pay upfront

No matter what you want for your funeral, by paying for the costs up in the end you will save a lot of money. Most funeral homes will let you lock in prices at that time so you will pay the cost at today’s prices, even if you are young.

You will have more time to shop around and get the best prices as well. If you want to make sure this is taken care of you can set up a payment plan and have it taken out of your bank account or check each month over time to ease the burden. 

I recently looked into getting a loan and I’ve actually had a good experience with Supermoney.com. For me, it was a car loan but I spoke to them about a dedicated funeral expenses loan, which is one of the services they offer, and was quite impressed. To see if you could qualify, check out my link here.

Get a policy

This one is not accessible to all, but it could be a good investment if you are ill or have the means to pay for it.

There are many different types of policies and some are included in your regular insurance if you have it. Also, there may be options for you to contribute to this fund through your work, you may just have to ask about it. If you are working in a high-risk environment you should definitely look into this. Feel free to learn about my recommended brokers here.

Do it yourself

While not a new trend, but one that is gaining popularity is to no only plan your own funeral. Also to make such things as the casket, headstone, and all the other things that go along with it.

You can find a lot of information now on the web about how to do this. They have step-by-step plans that are easy to follow and very cheap as well. You don’t have to make everything yourself but parts of it, here are some tips for a DIY funeral. By doing this you can also be more eco-friendly as well.

Go green

You may or may not be worried about the environment but either way, having a green funeral can save you some money. There are many different “shades” of a green funeral and the main idea of a green funeral is to do it simply and with as little waste as possible.

The less that you need the less it will cost. You can read more about green funerals here to see what things you can incorporate in your funeral to make it cheaper and greener

Keep it simple

As with all things, the simpler it is, the cheaper it is. If you opt-out of a green or DIY funeral you want to have it as simple as possible. You can rent a casket or even have a cardboard one (see my article).

One way to lower the cost is to have a direct cremation when the body gets released from the morgue, it gets cremated as soon as legally possible. This saves costs in almost all ways and if you supply your own container (urn) you can save even more costs.

Give back

Donate your body to science or your organs to another. After you have died you can choose for your body to go to a university or a lab for students to study and practice on.

If that is not for you if you are healthy enough upon your death and your body is in good condition your organs can go to those in need. This is a great way to help society while saving on funeral costs. In most states, you just have to sign off on this when getting and renewing your driving license or ID.

Memorial society’s

These are nonprofit organizations that will offer price surveys of local funeral homes and help in planning a funeral. Lots of these services will negotiate discounts for members. The cost is around $50.00 and is actually a lifetime membership but each one is different. You can check the Funeral consumer alliances website for more information here.

Shop around

Call and visit as many funeral homes as you can, you usually won’t find the prices online. But by law, they will have to tell you and or show you the prices of the cheapest options by Federal Trade Commission rules and regulations. They do not have to give prices by email or online. The website Funeralocity.com  has some of the funeral homes around the country’s prices on what they offer.

Affordable caskets from Titan Caskets

Planning a funeral for someone else

After you have gone over the steps above there are a few differences from your own funeral to planning another’s funeral. Some things are very similar but you need to change to follow the wishes of the deceased.

  • Check the insurance policy– Check to see if they have an individual insurance policy or one through work. If they do have one make sure to comb through it well to determine whether some or all of the funeral/burial costs are covered. There should be a number that you can call for assistance from an agent. The agent can go over the limitations, stipulations and finer details on what is included in the policy and what is not covered. If they do have insurance, often a majority of the costs will be covered under it.
  • Call their former employer. – Calling the HR department at their former place of employment and enquiring about their policies and insurance coverage would cover some of the costs. This is especially true if they were in a union, those often have benefit packages for their employees.
  • Low-cost options– When you cremate someone it is often less expensive than burying the individual. There is also no federal law that states you have to embalm a body and by not doing this can save some money. If you choose to have a casket, not having a vault will also cut down on costs. When you go to the funeral home, by law they must give you a list of all the prices of everything that they offer, all you have to do is ask.  For questions to ask and more ways to save on a funeral go to my article here.

If you are reading this and thinking, wow maybe I should get some cover, then feel free to learn about my recommended life insurance brokers here.

I want to follow their last wishes, but don’t have enough money.

This is for when you have exhausted all your resources and gone through all options but still want to follow the last wishes of the deceased.

Finance for a funeral is not an easy thing to get and in some cases, you just can’t. The sad reason for this is if someone defaults on the loan they can’t repossess anything so before you get a loan to think about these options. 

Ask your family to help- You should not have to shoulder the responsibility of paying for everything on your own. Think about asking your family members for help. When doing this try to be as open and specific as possible.

Tell them what the costs are, where the money will go and why. Being open with them will help and knowing how much to ask from each one is considerate as well. All of your family members don’t make the same amount of money and taking that into consideration can make this task easier.

Having a google doc or place where you have all the costs and everyone can see what is paid for and is also a good idea.

A fundraising event– This may not be your idea of fun, but it can give back to the community while making money for the funeral. Having something as simple as a car wash, a bake sale, or even a walkathon is a nice way to give back while getting something in return.

If you hold an event such as a walk for the same cause that the person died from could be a way to give back as well as make a legacy for that person. People are much more open to give when they are receiving something in return no matter how small it is.

You could even have businesses donate the products to run the event in exchange for promoting their services or products. 

Crowdsource-  If you don’t want to or don’t have a lot of family, a newer effective technique is crowdsourcing.  While this may seem unorthodox it is a community-building activity that brings people together from all over the country and world.

Often we read about the death of an old friend or loved one on social media after the fact. With this, it can be a nice way to see that people care and are sharing in the grief (Speak to a professional today from the comfort of your home).. This can also be like the memorial book at the service, loved ones and friends can share their memories, photos, and stories about the deceased.

Again by having some types of rewards and itemized lists of where the funds will go will greatly increase your returns.  The top 2 platforms for this are Indiegogo and Kickstarter, which will usually take 3-10% of the funds that you raise. 

What should I NOT do to get the money?

The idea of a funeral is to honor the deceased. It is a time for all those that knew the deceased to come together and remember their life.

They would not want you going into crippling debt to do this, as funerals are pricey endeavors and cost on average around $7,000.

While no one is advocating going into debt to pay for a funeral, it may be the only option.  Here are some ways to pay for it but please use these as a last resort. 

  1. Get a loan from the bank –  There aren’t a  lot of places that you can get a loan from and some places have specific loans for this situation. Your local bank or credit union would be good places to ask if you have reasonably good credit and are comfortable taking on the loan.
  1. Purchasing plans from funeral directors. – Not all but some funeral directors may be predatory during this trying time. They may offer you a financing plan and add their own fees and premiums to somethings that otherwise would be cheaper.  This is why it is good to go to the funeral home with a plan and a budget. Also, having someone there with you to help you make the right choices. 
  1.  Cash advances- Try to avoid taking out a cash advance on your credit cards because you will be paying very high-interest rates and charges that could add up over the months or even years. 
  1. Payday loans- For some these are a necessity of life and daily living. But again these are predatory and your loved one would not want you spending your hard-earned money on this instead of the essentials. 
  1. A 2nd mortgage/ reverse mortgage- While this sounds crazy with funeral costs that can be easily over $10,000 for a nice casket and full service some people will do this. Even if you have paid off your first mortgage, you don’t want to be paying it again if something else arises. 
  1. Pawn Shops- When someone dies they often leave behind stuff either for people or just in their residence. If it is something that you care about bringing it to the pawnshop to get a loan or just cash is something that you might regret later if you cannot get it back

I recently looked into getting a loan and I’ve actually had a good experience with Supermoney.com. For me, it was a car loan but I spoke to them about a dedicated funeral expenses loan, which is one of the services they offer, and was quite impressed. To see if you could qualify, check out my link here.

Will Medicaid help pay for the funeral?

These are not considered medical expenses by Medicaid, they will not cover the cost of a funeral. There are some states that allow for exceptions. A Medicare Advantage Plan is where you put aside your own money, they do not match it or give you any. 

I am on welfare or social services can I get help? 

They call it indigent burial for those that are in need of services from the state. These services on what they will cover vary from state to state and even more in your country or city. 

This also covers people that are wards of the state and are mentally handicapped and cannot take care of this themselves. It usually is the direct cremation of the body and disposal of the ashes. You can learn more about your state’s services here.

If you cannot find it all there or need more financial support in your area, you would need to check with your local city/ county human services or social services department. 

Will Social Security cover any expenses? 

Not really but it will help.  There is a $255 lump sum Social Security death benefit for those who qualify. They will still need to make a claim and if you are going through a funeral home they can help you. claim. 

Monthly benefits could be available if you meet the eligibility requirements. You can contact and learn more here or by calling 1-800-772-1213.

To do this check you will need the dependents Social Security number and death certificate. 

My loved one was a Veteran

All veterans are entitled to free burial in a national cemetery which includes a gravesite,  headstone or grave marker, opening/closing of the grave and maintenance of the site.

This is for an honorably discharged veteran, spouse, or dependent child. The Veterans Administration will also pay a burial allowance to cover other funeral expenses such as flowers (see my recommended florists) or transportation.

If you need to order flowers for a funeral then I can really recommend BloomsToday.com as I had an excellent experience buying from their site. You can check out the deals they have here, but when I ordered it was 25% off! Fingers crossed!

For more information, you can visit the National Cemetery Administration and can contact the Veteran’s Affairs Office on 1-800-827-1000 for more information. 

Victim of crimes compensation fund

In each state, there are funds set up to financially assist the victims of crime to cover their funeral expenses. You can check with your state here or contact your local Crime Victim Compensation Program to find out what kind of help you can get. The state that the crime was committed is where you would receive the funds from. 

Benefits from FEMA

If your loved one departed during a crisis or major disaster emergency you might be eligible to apply for money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). They pay for things like urns, caskets, burial plots, death certificate costs, etc.. To find out if it is possible, visit: www.fema.gov.

My loved one had a disability, is there funding for them? 

In the case of a disabled spouse or loved one, planning and paying for the funeral will be even more of a challenge. If they never were mentally or physically able to tell you what they wanted you are starting from scratch.

It will be even harder since you will most likely have been helping them with loving costs since in America disability checks rarely cover all expenses.

Also, in most cases, this means they don’t have enough if any savings to cover even the most basic funeral services. After you have checked all the above steps, go to www.fns.usda.gov to see if you qualify. Then check with organizations that help out with that specific disability to see if they can help or point you in the right direction. 

For more information, please read my full article on finding help with funeral costs for a disabled person.

Where to get help from charities 

There are some charitable organizations that specialize in this depending on your situation. When looking for organizations it is best to start with governmental ones first then go to the specific ones.

As with looking for funds start with the bigger national ones and work your way down to the local ones. The larger ones will tend to have more funds and/or can put you in touch with a local chapter that will assist you.  You can check my article here to see which ones may suit your situation.

What if I don’t have and can’t get any money?

Go to the local coroner’s office if you can’t come up with the money to pay for cremation or burial costs, you have a final option.

You can sign a body release form from your county coroner’s office. It is a document that states that you cannot afford to bury the family member or loved one. By doing this the state or county will bury or cremate the body. If it is a cremation, you may have to pay a small fee to claim them. 

When do you pay for a funeral?

Most funeral homes will require that you make the payment upfront. This is why some people put it on their credit card (see my recommendation) or have a service that will cover the payments while the insurance company is sending you the money.

Most funeral homes now have an option to be connected with your insurance company to receive direct payment and skip you altogether. 

Do churches, mosques, and houses of worship help? 

Yes, a lot of places of worship will perform burials and services for reduced costs or even free for those who can’t afford it.

Check with your local place of worship to find out if they offer any services or benefits for you or someone that needs it.  These places usually offer large discounts on the funeral and services to local members of the community.

If you are not a person of faith or even of a different faith still check with local religious organizations. They are a forgotten source of funding for those trying to deal with high funeral costs and might be willing to help. 

Do I pay the Pastor, Rabbi, organ player, usher, etc?

Although it’s not mandatory, it’s customary to give them a small donation. If you are really strapped for funds, just explain the situation to them to be polite, don’t worry these things happen and they have seen it before. 

Know your rights 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)  Has rules and regulations on what funeral homes can offer and how they can charge you. Make sure you read over them and know what they can and cannot do. Go to www.consumer.ftc.gov to learn more. 

Need an affordable casket?

Buying a casket online is a real possibility these days and for this, I really recommend Titancaskets.com who can offer some really affordable yet beautifully crafted caskets. Prices start from as little as $699.

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