How Much Should A Funeral Cost? And How To Cut Funeral Expenses In Half

Posted by: Erin Ward in Funeral Advice | July 9, 2021

How much should a funeral cost? It’s something consumers often find themselves asking after a loved one’s passing. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral service $8508.


Now with that being said, a funeral service can cost much more or much less. It all comes down to what you want to be included in the service.


Sadly, funeral services are not black and white which means telling you an exact cost can be difficult. What one firm charges can greatly vary from another firm. In most cases, funeral homes will try to sell packages which might include items or services that another funeral home doesn’t offer in their package.


The Cost of A Funeral Service

What many people fail to realize is that the cost of a funeral is not entirely paid to the funeral home. Funeral costs are often broken down into two categories: funeral home charges and third-party charges.


For instance, if you plan to have a loved one buried after the funeral, there will be expenses charged by the funeral home for the cost of the service (which includes the funeral director’s time), the cost of the casket and possibly a burial vault.


The cemetery will also charge you for the burial plot, opening and closing the grave, and the staff’s time to prepare the site if you plan to have a graveside service. Other examples of third-party expenses include the cost to publish an obituary in the newspaper, food for the reception afterward, flowers, decorations, and much more.


Questions To Ask Yourself When Planning A Funeral

As you sit down to start planning a funeral for yourself or a loved one, ask yourself some questions beforehand. Remember, it’s important to establish a budget before you begin funeral planning. Once you know what your budget is, you can ask yourself the following questions and start to look at what costs are necessary and what are optional.


Where should the service take place, the funeral home, a church, or at the cemetery?

How many flowers need to be purchased?

How much food and refreshments are needed for guests?

What kind of casket should I choose?

Will there be an open casket?


How To Save On Funeral Costs?

A funeral service doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several ways for you to save on funeral expenses and still have a meaningful and memorable service. Funeral expenses can add up quickly so it’s important to make sure you’re only paying for the products and services you actually need. Funeral homes are required by the Federal Trade Commission to provide consumers with a general price list.


The general price list itemizes every product and service sold by the funeral home. Think of it as the menu at a restaurant showing you the different packages available and what’s included in it. It also shows you just the cost of each product or service. This means you can select only the options you want and essentially build your own package.


To help you avoid unnecessary stress and financial hardship, we’ve compiled 6 helpful ways to cut funeral costs in half.


Embalming isn’t necessary

Unless you plan to have an open casket, there’s no need to pay for embalming services. With that being said, some funeral homes have policies regarding how long a body can be left without being embalmed. For instance, if you are planning a service for a loved one and it will take place more than a week after death, they may have a policy requiring you to purchase embalming services.


Choose A Direct Cremation

A direct cremation service can help you save a lot on funeral expenses. Because the remains will be cremated instead of buried, you won’t need to purchase a casket, burial vault, or headstone. Combined, these three items far exceed the cost of a cremation urn. A direct cremation also helps you avoid embalming fees or purchasing a cemetery plot.


Hold An Alternative Service

A celebration of life or memorial service are two ways to save on funeral costs. Although you will still have to pay for a direct burial or cremation, you can avoid some of the expenses the funeral home might charge. Both of these alternative services don’t require them to be held at the funeral home. Many families will hold these events at a family member’s home or cottage, a local park, or a restaurant/bar.


Ask Questions

If you are unsure of anything, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions. For example, if you don’t plan to have an open casket or want a direct cremation/burial, there’s no need to pay for funeral attendants. Again, some firms might have policies requiring you to pay for attendants, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. It’s also important to make sure there are no hidden fees. Sometimes families will be surprised to learn they are being charged for transferring the remains or a crematory fee which wasn’t included in the cost of a package. Before you finalize anything, ask to see a breakdown of all the costs so you can know what the exact total will be.


Plan Ahead and Preplan A Funeral Service

Inflation happens every year and the funeral profession is no exception. Did you know that in the year 2000, the average funeral cost was $5180. In less than 20 years, the price has grown by more than $3000. Imagine what the cost will be 20 years from now. By preplanning a service, you can avoid the costs of inflation. Furthermore, many funeral homes will allow you to prepay in installments. Rather than spending thousands of dollars one time, you can break that up into more manageable payments.


Don’t Buy The Most Expensive Option Because “They Deserve The Best”

Ask yourself, what did the casket look like at the last funeral you went to? Chances are you don’t really remember. You might have a vague idea, but you don’t really know for sure. This is an unnecessary expense people create for themselves. In the days following a loved one’s death, we’re often overrun with emotions and grief. That’s why many people will choose to purchase the more expensive option because they think it shows they love and miss their loved one that much more. The problem though, is your creating unnecessary expenses and putting yourself at risk of going over budget.


Remember, you have a budget for a reason. So stick to it!


If you think that you really need to purchase the more expensive casket or flower bouquet, make sure it won’t put you over your budget. If you have to have a certain item that costs more, try to find another expense that you reduce or eliminate to offset the more expensive item.


Remember, a funeral service isn’t about how much you spend, it’s about friends and family coming together to honor a loved one and celebrate a life well lived. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to bring them up when meeting with the funeral home.


Don’t be afraid to shop around either. Too often consumers will go to one funeral home without looking at other options. Who knows, you might find a better deal somewhere else. If you ask to see the funeral home’s general price list and they seem reluctant to provide you with that before arranging a service, that should tell you everything you need to know about working with that firm.


Want more ways to save on funeral costs? Check out our post, Seven Ways To Save On Funeral Costs.

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