Anytime a close friend or loved one passes away, family members and very close friends are often tasked with putting their grief aside and organizing the funeral. Crucial decisions need to be made regarding how to lay a loved one or very close friend to rest, all while considering the costs involved. These decisions will definitely impact how much of a financial responsibility the funeral could be. Here we discuss sensible ways to reduce funeral costs.
Just what kind of funeral should it be? Where should you have your loved one buried or cremated? How many family and friends will be invited? All of these questions and much more must be considered when you’re organizing a funeral.
Based on information from the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral in 2014 was $7,181. With groundwork and planning, you can typically bring funeral costs down significantly. But also it’s important to understand your rights as a consumer. Commonly funeral homes offer a variety of packages of products and services for a funeral.
The Funeral Rule, which the responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission, provides you with the right to purchase the products and services you desire when organizing a funeral. If there are goods or services in a funeral plan that you’re not interested in getting, you shouldn’t feel compelled to.
Tips from the Federal Trade Commission
The following tips were gleaned from the Federal Trade Commission regarding best practices to reduce funeral costs.
- Shop with Multiple Funeral Homes
When researching funeral homes in your area, always obtain and compare prices from a minimum of two different funeral homes. The closest or most convenient funeral home is not always going to be the cheapest. It’s also better to visit the funeral home in person rather than call on the phone or sending an email. Your visit will also give you an idea about the funeral home’s environment and the personnel that will assist with burying your loved one.
- Request an itemized price list that shows the cost for each product and service
Federal law requires funeral homes to provide you a written price list of all the products and services it provides. This should include products like caskets and burial containers. If the funeral professional doesn’t know the exact cost of some goods or services, then they must offer you a good faith estimate.
- Expected product costs and service fees to help you negotiate
Funeral Fee: Funeral fee — A standard service fee for typical services such as funeral planning, required permits and death certificate copies, generating notices, sheltering the body, and coordinating preparations with a cemetery, crematory or other third parties. According to the NFDA, in 2014 the average price tag for a funeral home’s basic services was $2,000.
Other Products and Services: Charges for other services and merchandise — additional products and services you may wish to purchase including transporting the body, the use of a hearse or limousine, utilizing the funeral home’s viewing room for viewing, getting a customized casket or other burial containers will cost you. Here are some average prices from 2014 according to the NFDA: transferring remains to a funeral home was $310, using a hearse cost $318, the use of a service car amounted to $143, utilizing facilities and personnel for viewing will cost you $420, metal casket starts at $2,395.
Third-Party Expenses: If the funeral home makes preparations with third-party suppliers on your behalf for things like flowers, pallbearers, organists, or another service not part of the funeral package, you will be responsible for these additional expenses, and some funeral homes could add an additional service fee that is required to be disclosed in writing, although the amount of surcharge on each service isn’t required to be disclosed.
Here’s What We Recommend
Embalming: If you are organizing a viewing or visitation before the funeral, some funeral homes may have guidelines that require embalming although it is not a legally required in most states. In fact, virtually no state law will require embalming services for every death (there are exceptions). Furthermore, embalming is not necessary if the body is buried or cremated not long after death. Consider eliminating the embalming fee to reduce funeral costs.
Refrigeration is a properly acceptable alternate choice if preservation is needed. Keep in mind, a funeral home must not provide embalming services without your written permission or inaccurately state that it’s a legal requirement. Not purchasing the embalming service will save you hundreds of dollars. In 2014, the average price for embalming services was $695.
The Casket: Ordinarily, the casket is the most expensive product you’ll purchase when you’re planning a traditional funeral. An ordinary casket costs in the neighborhood of $2,000, but can often sell for more than $10,000. The FTC’s Funeral Rule requires funeral directors to offer a list of caskets they offer.
Certainly, they will attempt to convince you to purchase the most expensive caskets. Don’t be shy about asking to view lower-priced brands. Additionally, don’t be pushed into purchasing a casket with unique features like sealers or rubberized gaskets. Those special and more expensive features are not going to help preserve the body indefinitely and will certainly increase the funeral expenses. Don’t forget, you can provide your own casket from a third party, and your funeral home should not charge you any additional fee for doing so or decline to accept it. Some third-party retailers are offering caskets for as low as $500.
Cremation: If your loved one left instructions for cremation, you could choose to have a service where you rent the casket for the viewing and visitation, or you can request direct cremation without any viewing or ceremony and significantly reduce traditional funeral costs.
Vaults or grave liners: Burial vaults or liners are put in the grave site before the casket is lowered to prevent the ground from caving when the casket begins to deteriorate. Although they are typically not required by law, the cemetery may require it. Using a concrete liner rather than a vault can save you substantial money.
Planning a funeral is an emotional time, much like planning a daughter’s wedding. Most people understand that making financial decisions based on emotion will typically never work out right. Unfortunately, the funeral homes know that many consumers will purchase products and services on an emotional basis rather than a transactional basis. Although you are mourning the loss of a loved one, it will always work out for the best if you resist the pressure of overspending.