7 Handy Tips for Organizing a Funeral on a Budget


In order to understand why funeral expenses should not be taken lightly, it suffices to say that the costs for basic services can easily reach up to $10,000. The coffin and embalming procedure in conjunction with the funeral rites typically exceed $7,000, while the surviving family will also be required to dish out an additional $3,000 on average only for gravesite preparations, plot and liner.

Some funeral directors have made it their life mission to advocate the idea that the procession represents a part of the grief coping strategy for the surviving family and therefore, they should not dwell on the financial implications for too long. However, since not everyone has $10,000 at their disposal to freely spend on a funeral, let’s find out what you CAN do to minimize the costs.

1. Compare several funeral homes before deciding

Customarily, a family that is in grief after the passing of a member opts for one of the first funeral homes listed in the hospital’s catalog. Unfortunately, most of the top ranked ones are part of larger chains that practice excessive prices. However, without consulting with other funeral homes representatives, you have no way of knowing just how much extra you’ll be paying for the same services, including transportation, burial/cremation, embalming, etc. You could save up to a few thousand dollars with a simple comparison.

2. Demand an itemized cost list for the services

The FTC has enforced what’s referred to as the Funeral Rule, a guideline stipulating that a funeral director is required, on demand, to provide clients with a detailed account of the funeral costs. The so-called “basic service fee”, which often goes up to $5,000 and includes plot planning, burial/cremation permit, death certificates, body storage, etc. should be more in the neighborhood of $1,000 – $1,500.

3. Determine how mandatory are the services listed as required

A funeral home might include embalming within the list of required services, but according to the law performing this expensive – and environmentally unsound – operation is necessary if a longer period of time between the death and the funeral passes. At the same time, vault/liners are useful for preventing a coffin from descending as it degrades, but not ultimately necessary.

4. Opt for cremation instead of burial

On average, the price of funeral rites that culminate with the cremation of the body rather than the burial is 50% lower. The reason for the affordability of cremation stems from the fact that expensive coffins, cemetery spaces and other associated amenities are eliminated from the equation. A funeral urn can be acquired for less than $20. Perhaps this can explain why the number of cremation funerals grew by 7% between 2006 and 2010 (41%), and is expected to reach 56% in 2025.

5. Find out the benefits of purchasing the casket/urn from the funeral home

If the family wishes to provide the coffin or urn for the deceased rather that use one selected by the funeral home, then the latter party is not legally allowed to refuse the request. However, to get around the law, certain funeral homes provide more or less attractive incentives to seal the deal. Before you decide, browse the itemized service list discussed at the 2nd point of this guide and determine whether or not the discount is worth it.

6. Opt for a DIY tribute in favor of formal memorial services

Extended wakes and the services of a professional funeral director add to the already high costs of the process. Opting for a fast-tracked burial or cremation and holding your eulogies and tributes in a place dear to the departed not only eliminates the requirement for embalming, but can also save a great deal of cash on the storage of the body and the funeral services.

7. Never pick state of the art coffins

You will certainly be faced with the sales pitch of the funeral home advocating the benefits of a sealed coffin that prevents natural elements – typically insects and water leakage – from permeating. Remember that in general, these expensive coffins won’t last much longer than a standard pine version and the cost difference can go up to a few thousand dollars.

Final thoughts

The thought of organizing a funeral is one we’d often prefer to dismiss for as long as possible, mainly due to the unpleasant emotions evoked by the passing of a loved one. Unfortunately, proper planning in a timely manner and acquiring life insurance that includes coverage for funeral services constitute the only ways to avert a potential financial crisis when the dreaded moment comes to pass.