Ways to Reduce Funeral Expenses
The High Costs of Being Laid to Rest
It can be pricey being laid to rest in style. The average cost of an adult funeral, including the purchase of the casket and the vault was $7,755 in 2009, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, NFDA. This cost did not include the price of a cemetery plot, the obituary, flowers or burial costs.
Noting that $7,755 is an average price for funeral expenses means that some funerals cost less and some cost more. Higher expenses do not necessarily translate into the quality of a funeral, the purpose of which is to honor the person who has died, to gather with loved ones and friends in mutual grief and emotional support, or to memorialize the life of the deceased. Each of these purposes can be accomplished with a minimum of expense through being familiar with funeral and funeral home services and prices and considering alternatives to the traditional methods of funerals and burials.
Let's determine how we can reduce funeral costs without sacrificing the dignity of the dearly departed -- or ourselves, when the time comes.
How to Estimate Funeral Costs
The Funeral Home's Basic Service Fees
The funeral home's basic service fees are an expense of each and every cremation or burial. Costs average $1,200 to $1,900 and include the basic services required after someone has expired:
- Initial meeting to plan the funeral arrangements
- Coordinating services with third parties such as the cemetery or crematorium
- Preparing and filing paperwork such as authorizations and permits and obtaining the death certificate
- The basic overhead expenses for the funeral home are part of this fee
Essential Services and Average Costs of Traditional Funeral and Burial
Average Cost Range
$1,000 to $2,000
$150 to $300
Casket-wood or metal
$1,000 to $3,000
$125 to $250
Death Certificate fees (per copy)
$10 to $25
$500 to $700
$200 to $400
Funeral Ceremony Fees
$400 to $600
Funeral Homes' Basic Services
$1200 to $1900
Grave Markers, Monuments
$1000 to $2000
Grave Opening and Closing
$300 to $1,000
$400 to $10,000
Gravesite Set Up
Hearse or Funeral Coach
$300 to $400
$0 to $600
Other Preparations -cosmetology, dressing
$125 to $250
Printed Material - 100 programs
$40 to $80
Storage and Refrigeration Fees
$50 per day
Temporary Burial Marker
Traditional Burial Package
$3,200 to $4,700
Transportation of Body to the Funeral Home
$125 to $330
Viewing or Visitation Fee at Funeral Home
$300 to $450
Funeral Home Advertisement
Traditional Burial Package Versus Direct Burial Package
The table above lists the average expense of a traditional burial package to be $3,200 to $4,700. What is in each funeral home's traditional burial package varies from one business to another, but generally covers picking up the body and taking to the funeral home, embalming, cosmetology and dressing of the body, placing the body in the casket, storage, visitation or viewing, a funeral ceremony and transportation of the body to the cemetery.
Some funeral homes include the casket and vault prices in their traditional burial package, but many do not. Those prices would be in addition to the average traditional burial package expense noted above.
A direct burial package has an average price of $1,600 to $4,000. A direct burial package includes no service or ceremony, there is usually no embalming, no open casket. The casket is usually a simple box one, with the deceased being buried soon after death.
State laws vary about the necessity of embalming; some require either burial within 24 hours or refrigeration of the body for up to 72 hours -- past that, the body must be embalmed for public health reasons. If the funeral home you choose requires embalming, ask if that is due to state/local laws or funeral home policy. If it isn't due to state or local laws, you can seek another funeral home.
Remember, both the traditional burial package and the direct burial package expenses are added to the funeral home's basic services fees.
Optional Expenses of a Traditional Funeral Burial
Average Cost Range
Burial Clothes - Men
$170 to $400
Burial Clothes - Women
$95 to $350
$195 to $1,000
Guest Register Book
$25 to $80
Limousine or Lead Vehicle
$200 to $350
$75 to $150
Service Car or Flower Car
$150 to $300
Funeral Casket Advertisement
Cremation as an Option to Traditional Funeral Burial
Over the past 50 years, cremation has increasingly been the method of choice for final services upon death. The NFDA reported that in 1960, only 3.6 percent of final services were done by cremation; in 2011, 40.6 percent of final services were that of cremation.
Direct cremation package fees have a wide range of prices, some of which is determined by whether the funeral home has its own crematorium or contract with a third party for cremation of the deceased. Moderately priced cremation packages range in price from $1,000 to $1,500.
You'll ideally want to find a direct cremation package that includes the basic services fees, removal fees, the cremation container, the cremation itself, a container for the remains after cremation and storage of the remains until they can be picked up, according to TheFuneralSite.com.
Embalming is not required prior to cremation, nor the services of cosmetology, clothing, burial plot, or even a casket. Most states allow an "alternative container," usually a cardboard or fiberboard box in which the body is placed before cremation. Some states require no container at all.
Urns, which are not required by law but are the preferred method of storage of the cremains by many people average $250 to $350 in price.
Funeral Pre-Planning Saves Money, Provides Options
Pre-planning your funeral not only can save on unnecessary expenses at the time of your death, but you also have the opportunity to to arrange how you would like the final ceremony and/or disposition of your body to be handled, removing an emotional burden for loved ones left behind at the time of your death.
The Funeral Site offers a free tool called "Plan Your Funeral" where you can arrange as many or as few details for your funeral as you'd like. Another funeral pre-planning site that is free to use is My Wonderful Life.