Cutting funeral costs


It’s not a topic that anyone really wants to think about, but unfortunately for most families, the cost of having a nice funeral for a lost loved one can be daunting, frustrating … and sometimes impossible.

In fact, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2009 the average cost of a funeral was $6,560. And that was four years ago.

Staggering, we know.

While the last thing you want to have to think about when dealing with a loved one’s death is how much money you’ll be spending on his or her funeral, unfortunately, if no money was left behind for the specific purpose of paying for the funeral, it’s something that might require a bit of strategic planning.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to keep the costs down.

1. Keep any beneficiary money to yourself.

If your loved one did happen to have a life insurance policy that covers funeral costs, or left behind a chunk of money specifically to help with the cost of a funeral, don’t bring that up when planning. It’s best to always start off the planning by stating up front that you’re on a budget, and by asking what the cheapest options will get you. The most important thing is sending your loved one off respectfully, and that may or may not translate into purchasing the $15,000 casket. If you’re on a strict budget, you’ll need to pick and chose which options would mean the most to your loved one, and all of his or her friends and family.

2. Know your rights.
It’s not totally up to you to make sure funeral providers don’t take advantage of you — the Federal Trade Commission helps with that. In fact, the Funeral Rule was established specifically to do that. The following is just a bit of what it says you are owed (click through to the link for the full list of rights):

* Funeral planners must be provided a General Price List ahead of time, which is the funeral home’s itemized pricing so there are no surprises later on.

* Funeral providers cannot refuse caskets or urns you purchase elsewhere, or charge you a fee to use one purchased elsewhere.

*If you are required by state or local laws to buy any particular goods or services, the funeral provider must disclose that information on the statement for the funeral goods you have selected, with reference to the specific law.

3. Beware of the package.

While it might seem tempting to try to bundle everything together into one cost so you don’t know exactly what everything costs, that’s actually illegal and funeral homes are not allowed to do so.

4. Plan the get-together carefully.
After most funerals it is customary to have friends and loved ones celebrate the life of your lost family member, either at someone’s home or at a restaurant. Be careful with this, as it could tack on quite an additional amount to the funeral arrangements, if you let it. Hold the celebration at someone’s house, if possible, instead of a restaurant, and suggest amongst a few of your closest friends and family members that it be pot luck, with a few people providing the drinks and food for the group.

5. Consider a home funeral.
A home funeral is, for all intents and purposes, an option that allows family members and friends to care for all aspects of their deceased loved one. Aspects might include laying out the deceased, arranging for home visitation, preparing the body for burial or cremation, etc. While this option certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s one method of having a funeral that could seriously cut down on costs. Learn more about home funerals, including resources on how to help you get through it, here.

Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she’s not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at


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