As funeral costs continue to rise. Many people don’t have the information they need to save money. In this article, I’ll cover the most important things I think everyone needs to know about planning and paying for a funeral today.
My aim is to tell you how to protect yourself from unnecessary costs and how to set up a funeral plan to help cover the costs that you might leave behind.
Let’s get started.
Why are funerals so expensive nowadays?
It’s no secret that funerals can be expensive. The average American funeral can cost anywhere from $9,000 to $10,000, and go up to $20,000. If you have a more expensive service or casket or burial plot. So you might be asking yourself, where does all that money go?
Where does it go? Well, here’s a basic financial breakdown of a traditional American funeral.
Basic service fee $2,000. This is the price you pay to even get in the door as a client to pay for filing the death certificate, permits, coordinating the funeral, and overhead for the. You can’t decline this fee for transportation of the body (around $325), embalming (around $725) preparation of the body, washing, hair styling, makeup,(around $250) management, and staff for the viewing (about $425) management of a funeral ceremony.
Yeah, it’s really starting to add up. And there are families, many families. In fact, that simply can’t come up with $10,000 at a moment’s notice. In fact, four out of 10 people said they couldn’t come up with just $400 to cover an emergency expense.
How expensive is the average funeral?
According to the bureau of labor statistics, funeral costs have risen nearly twice as fast as prices for other items today. It’s not uncommon for a funeral or cremation to cost $9,000 or more, depending on the style of service and items used.
Families are often unaware that there are additional costs that can range up to $10,000 or more. Examples include cemetery plot costs, grave opening, and closing fees, obituary, expenses, grave markers, or headstone costs and transport expenses. By not taking these costs into account surviving loved ones can be caught off guard when the total cost is demanded in an invoice.
Like healthcare costs and other bills can be a financial burden to those arranging your funeral quickly, eating up any assets you would hope to leave behind. Spouses and others are generally responsible for paying debts. If they co-signed for a loan or joint account holders or live in a community property state, many people buy life insurance to help cover any debt left behind and protect their loved ones from having to pay out of their own pocket.
The average funeral can cost $9,000 or more, but the most government benefits will pay is just $255. And only to qualifying individuals when it comes to state death benefits, availability, bearings, and it’s usually reserved for those with no family, no assets, and no money with little to no financial assistance. And so, surviving family members are often financially burdened.
Why are families paying too much for funerals?
Without an insider’s knowledge of the funeral industry. Many families can overspend by hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Many on-the-spot decisions must be made and most surviving loved ones have little to no experience of what’s needed and what isn’t.
Most of us will only ever have to plan one or two funerals in our lives, and it’s not something you research until, well, right when you are in the middle of it!
To help solve this problem the federal government created a rule which requires funeral providers to disclose their prices in a transparent way, allowing consumers to compare costs and avoid purchasing goods and services they don’t need. Under the funeral rule, consumers have the right to receive pricing information over the phone. Refuse embalming, if not required by law, and buy a casket outside the funeral home. This last one is a huge positive for consumers (read my article here to find out why)
How can you help surviving family members to pay for a funeral?
The cash benefit provided by a life insurance policy can help pay for funeral costs and other end-of-life expenses. Burial insurance is easy to qualify for and can start as low as $15 a month. Getting a benefit check from an insurance company can quickly give families the cash they need to pay for funeral costs.
Unfortunately, many life insurance companies can take weeks or months to pay claims. When purchasing a burial policy, choose your insurance carrier carefully. A good option is Lincoln heritage which is unique in the burial insurance industry because of its partnership with the funeral consumer guardian society (FCGS), an independent consumer advocate organization serving over 1 million members across the country. However, you may also like to see some of my other recommendations here.
The FCGS provides caring and compassionate guidance. As member families cope with the many decisions they must make. With a personal funeral advocate on their side, everything goes as smoothly and as easily as possible during a time of intense emotions and stress because the FCGS is not affiliated with any religion, funeral, home cemetery, or particular funeral approach. There is never any obligation or pressure to buy anything as a member.
How to save money on any funeral
The cost of a funeral can depend on several things from the type you have, to the accessories you opt for to the state you live in right down to the funeral home you choose. There are still ways that you can save money by following just a few basic tips and this will work for anybody.
More often than not, death is a sudden and unexpected occurrence that can leave surviving family members reeling. Nonetheless, death is no secret and it is the fate we all face. With this in mind, the best way to keep funeral costs low is to plan before it happens.
The simplest approach is to discuss funeral plans with family or friends. By explaining what your wishes are, or asking those of others, you can agree on the appropriate budget for a funeral. Honoring the memory of a deceased loved one can often lead families to overspend. Discussing your funeral wishes beforehand can put a stop to this.
In addition to a straightforward conversation about your funeral plans, it’s also possible to pay for funerals upfront. This can be achieved in several different ways.
Pre-paid funeral plans
It’s possible to set up a funeral plan with a particular funeral home and pay for it outright even before death occurs. The advantage of this is that you can lock in a deal today when the price of the funeral might be more tomorrow. The disadvantage is that when you do this too far in advance, businesses can fail and your plan can become worthless. So, these prepaid plans are best for those who are terminal and have a higher possibility of immediate death.
For most people, a life insurance policy is a better option than a pre-paid funeral plan. This will give those who survive you a lump sum that can be spent on any after-life expenses needed. There are many different policies that can be taken out from basic burial insurance to quite extensive coverage. If you aren’t going to be able to leave a large estate, life insurance is a very good option. For more details about recommended brokers, please refer to this page here.
Compare funeral homes
As most deaths are unexpected, sometimes our thinking can be clouded. If you weren’t able to prepare for this unplanned and sudden expense, then the next best thing to do is get a good deal.
I would like to encourage every family to shop around. If there’s a tragic death, don’t feel you’re under pressure to call a funeral home and get everything sorted immediately. Take some time to talk to as many funeral homes as possible in your area.
There are certainly going to be at least a few choices and you should be able to contact most of them 24 hours a day. Ask for the full price list, and then sit down and work out what you can afford and what you can get for your money.
As funeral homes want your business, you are also in a position to negotiate prices down too. Despite your grief, don’t forget to take the time to make your dollars stretch further.
Funeral rule: Know your rights
The government has mandated that funeral homes must provide a transparent pricing list to anyone who asks for it. If you walk into a funeral home, you say “I would like to have a price list”.
You don’t have to give any explanation. You don’t have to give them your phone number. You don’t have to give your address. You don’t have to go through a sales pitch. You don’t have to do anything, as a funeral home is mandated by law to give you a general price.
Remember, that funeral homes are a business first and foremost, so they will try their best to make you upgrade your funeral plan as much as possible. So, when looking at the price list, feel free to give yourself a bit of distance from the funeral home staff.
Funeral directors may be trying to push a package on you with lots of services you don’t want or don’t need. By having a good appreciation of the price list first, you can then go and work out the best deal available. Now, sometimes funeral homes will actually be able to offer a very attractive package which does give you a lovely funeral. However, most of the time you are paying for unnecessary extras.
You’re not obligated to accept a limousine or a flower car or hearse, or some of the more fancy options on display. You can get away with not having many services, from caskets to embalming to carriages and fancy headstones. However some things you may have to purchase because there’s not any other way to get the job done, but shop around. You can often get the same thing for less with another company
Take your time, don’t rush a funeral decision
When there has been a sudden death, and the family didn’t have any prearrangements, there is often a sense of urgency to get the funeral ball rolling. Whether the death happens at home or at a hospital, people feel they need to swiftly remove the body and start the first steps of a funeral. This isn’t the case.
A body can be kept at home after death for a surprisingly long time (see my article here ). Equally, it’s not uncommon to store a decedent in a morgue for several weeks if needed. The point is, you aren’t going to be asked to take your deceased loved one and leave the hospital forthwith.
Let nurses, hospitals, staff corners, and people know, look, I need a little time to decide what we want to do. That decision can save you several thousand dollars. This is because when you take the time to consider all your options and get the best value package you can, you only need to deal with one funeral home.
If you were to employ one funeral director to remove the body for you and then switch to another funeral home, you will incur additional fees for handling and transporting the body. Waiting just a few hours to get a handle on the situation can literally save you thousands of dollars.
Buy your casket from an online retailer
By thoroughly checking the price list of any prospective funeral home, you will have a good understanding of their range of caskets and their costs. If you need a casket, and most people will need one, then you may be able to make a vast saving by ordering the casket online.
Most funeral homes buy their caskets from the same vendors that you or I can find online ourselves, then they jack up the price. As the FTC has banned any funeral home from demanding a handling fee, you can force them to accept any casket you choose. Depending on the deal you organize, you will find it’s a lot more affordable to buy a model online than in-store.
If you want to know more about my recommend online retailer, please refer to this page.
Alternatives to traditional funerals
As I’ve said before, you can definitely save thousands of dollars by simply shopping around and knowing what you do and do not need for a funeral. When the family really does not have the budget even for a very inexpensive traditional funeral, what options are you left with?
Well, a direct cremation may be the ideal solution. Depending on where you live, these can cost a few hundred dollars. The only issue is that there is no viewing and no interaction with the body after it is collected. Basically, it’s direct to the crematorium cremation.
However, if you find the right funeral home you may be able to organize a simple cremation that also involves a viewing. This is important as it gives a focus for the grieving family to say their goodbyes
How to conduct a simple cremation funeral
When a person dies, the state issues them a death certificate ($15-30), and then you can apply for a burial permit (>$12), which gives you permission to dispose of the body. In some states, you will need to hire a funeral home to move the body, but in others, you don’t.
Often, however, it pays to hire a funeral worker just as they are experts in handling deceased bodies. They can help transfer the body into a casket, transport it from place to place, and clean and dress the body. Much of this can be done by the family, but if you can afford to pay a professional to do it, that’s often money well spent.
As you will be cremating the body, you can avoid the additional price of embalming the body. As long as a funeral is conducted fairly quickly and the body is preserved with ice or refrigeration, embalming is unnecessary in most cases.
You can also do away with an expensive metal or wood casket and opt for an inexpensive and eco-friendly cardboard one. This simple casket can be ‘dressed up’ with a nice cloth and flowers to make it presentable for a funeral. Cardboard can also be customized with paint and artwork if required.
I had a family mentioned. It gives a snow-white effect, especially when you put flowers on it, we’re just coming. We’re going around and we’re draping these sheets over the edge of the casket until it completely hides the cardboard.
The flowers are the secret weapon to make the casket look fantastic. You can often source flowers very cheaply if you can go to a wholesale flower market and cut out the florist. Next, you need to rent a place to hold a viewing, which can be anywhere really, and send out your invitations.
Once you have had your viewing, the body can be transported to the crematorium and cremated. After the cremation, you can collect the ashes, using an inexpensive urn, and keep or scatter them as you wish.
Remember if a funeral home won’t let you conduct a funeral in this way, that is their right. They’re a private business and they can choose how they want to conduct business. But as a consumer, feel free to call around and find another funeral home that supports you and supports your choices.