Funerals can be one of the largest expenses in life, costing as much as $10,000 for just the casket and thousands more if you have a viewing and burial. Considering that the Social Security Death Benefit is only $255 (and not everyone has access to that assistance), it’s no surprise that many struggle to afford even an average funeral. Fortunately, there are ways to help lower the cost of a funeral, including some funeral alternatives that may meet your needs.
1. Consider Cremation with a Service
If you want to have a viewing, but are also open to cremation, then you do have lower cost options. Typically, you can rent a casket from the funeral home for the visitation and funeral service, and have the cremation using a standard, unfinished wooden box.
This can bring the total cost down to between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on your location and the services you select.
2. Explore Direct Cremation As One of Many Funeral Alternatives
If you don’t need to have a formal ceremony and viewing, then a direct cremation can be a suitable funeral alternative. Typically, this is the least expensive option available, potentially costing as little as $1,000.
While a funeral home may attempt to sell you a casket for a direct cremation, you don’t have to buy one. Instead, you can use the base container in the package, such as an unfinished wood box, or container made from cardboard, canvas or pressboard.
3. Shop Around Before Selecting a Funeral Home
Each funeral home sets their own prices, so you may be able to find a better deal by shopping around. Contact local funeral homes and request a general price list as well as package prices. Then, compare what they have to offer and choose one that meets your needs.
As you explore your options, take time to look at any reviews you can find. At times, using a particular funeral home may come with lackluster customer service, so you do need to consider that before making a decision.
4. Examine Direct Burial Options
A direct burial is usually the least expensive service through a funeral home. It does not include embalming or visitation, but can be coupled with a graveside service for an additional fee.
However, you may not have much time to plan for a direct burial. Since there is no embalming, you are working against the clock, so you may need to explore this option in advance.
5. Select an Economical Casket
Since a casket can be a significant portion of the total cost for a funeral, finding an economical option can help lower your cost. High-end materials and certain features come at a premium, but they aren’t typically necessary.
For example, a gasketed casket is often an upsell. It includes a rubber gasket that is meant to seal the casket against the elements. However, that feature isn’t necessary and doesn’t actually preserve the body; it only slows natural decomposition.
Plus, you don’t have to purchase a casket from a funeral home, even if you intend to use their other services. This means you might be able to save by exploring alternative sellers. For example, Costco and Amazon sell affordable caskets.
If you order online, make sure you are mindful of the shipping times. Caskets are large items, so they typically take more than a couple of days to arrive.
6. Donate the Body to Science
Another funeral alternative involves donating the body to science. If you select this route, a burial or cremation becomes unnecessary. Instead, the body assists with scientific advancement, education, or medical research.
It’s important to note that, once a body is donated, the family does not have much say in how the organization uses it. However, if the body goes to a medical school, most students are taught to treat it with respect. If this route seems right to you and your family, then you can contact medical schools to learn more about their programs. In some cases, schools will include a free cremation in exchange for the donation, allowing you to receive the remains in the end.
7. Hold the Funeral at an Economical Location
Choosing to host the visitation or funeral somewhere other than a funeral home can be a cost-effective approach. For example, holding the service at a family member’s home can be one of the least expensive options.
Alternatively, having the service at a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple may also cost less. However, each location controls their own schedule and pricing, so you’ll need to contact them directly to see if they can accommodate the service and to find out about the expense.
8. Forgo the Flowers
While flowers may be pretty, they aren’t always cheap. By skipping high-priced floral arrangements, you can keep your costs down.
If you simply must have flowers, consider going with fewer arrangements instead of a standard package. You could even gather wildflowers before the service or, if you are comfortable with flower arranging, buy cheap blooms from stores like Walmart and put them together yourself.
9. Take It Online
In some cases, simply getting everyone to the funeral can be costly. Plus, if you are assisting out-of-town family members with accommodations, the total cost can skyrocket.
If you have family members who want to witness the ceremony but are open to viewing it online, consider setting up a private live stream. This would allow everyone to virtually pay their respects, making it an affordable alternative to attending.
It is important to understand that not everyone will consider viewing the funeral online as being enough, so this isn’t necessarily an option you should force. But, it’s worth keeping on the table.
10. Comparison Shop for Markers
If you need a marker, it’s also wise to comparison shop before making a purchase. Again, there are multiple companies that can create markers, monuments, or headstones, so don’t feel like you don’t have a choice.
However, before you buy one, check with the cemetery to see if they have any policies, guidelines, or restrictions. There may be size limits or other standards you have to adhere to, so you want to make sure that you can meet them before you make a purchase.
Ultimately, by using the tips above, you can reduce the cost of a funeral or select a less expensive funeral alternative.
Know of another way to save on final expenses? Tell us about your funeral alternatives in the comments below.
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