Cutting Costs To Plan an Affordable Funeral

Death is not a topic people like to speak of. It reminds us that our time on Earth is fleeting. When it hits closer to home, and we lose a family member, we may be called upon to make the final arrangements. While it’s never an easy task, it becomes more complicated by mixing in intense emotions, family issues, and finances.

Funerals have become increasingly expensive. Costs are up 28% over the past decade, with the national median topping $6,000 for a funeral with cremation and over $7,000 for a funeral with burial as of 2014, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. In addition, Social Security death benefit payments are only $255.

But there are ways to pay final tribute to your loved one without spending a fortune…by planning an affordable funeral.

Make Decisions With Your Head

First, it’s important to remember the amount of money spent is not a measure of your relationship with the deceased. Don’t let guilt or other emotions sway you into making unnecessary expenditures. It can be difficult to keep your mind right in such circumstances, so you may want to ask a family member or friend to help you.

Next, you’ll want to consider the wishes of the deceased. If they left explicit instructions (something you may want to do for your next of kin) or if their religious beliefs dictate certain customs, you can work with those. Otherwise, the decisions will be left to you and your family. The biggest being whether to have a burial or a cremation. Cremations can be less costly, particularly if you don’t need a cemetery plot, headstone, and interment. But this remains a very personal decision.

If cost is the primary concern, consider immediate burial with a graveside service or direct cremation with a memorial service.

Know Your Rights and Get Assistance

One of the big ways you can save is to join the Funeral Consumers Alliance. This non-profit organization is dedicated to protecting consumers’ rights in the funeral industry and can offer helpful advice on planning a funeral. Local chapters can provide comparison price lists of funeral homes in your area and even discounted rates at some.

The FCA is very helpful in understanding the Funeral Rule, regulation enforced by the Federal Trade Commission to protect the consumer in planning funerals. One of the most important aspects is that while funeral homes may “package” together various services and their costs, you have the right to buy separate services and goods, and should only buy what you choose.

Compare Prices

While it may seem completely normal to comparison shop when you’re buying something, people tend not to do it when shopping for funeral services. However, it can make a huge difference, with some funeral homes costing twice as much as others in the same geographical area.

Because most funeral homes do not include pricing on their websites, it can be a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Check out Parting.com, where they list prices for different services at funeral homes across the country.

Save on The Casket

If you are having a traditional full-service funeral, the most expensive item will typically be the casket. Caskets are made from a variety of materials, and prices vary widely. While the funeral home will likely focus on the higher-end models, be sure to ask about value-priced models or look into a third-party seller.

If you choose to have the visitation/viewing and funeral prior to cremation, you can typically rent a casket from the funeral home for the viewing.

Avoid Embalming

Embalming isn’t required medically or legally. If the funeral home offers refrigeration and the funeral will be held within a day or two, this can save you from the cost of embalming.

Plan the Service

Keep in mind while you may need a funeral home to properly handle the remains, there’s no reason you’re required to have the service with them. Services can be held in a church or temple, at home, at the cemetery, or at another meaningful spot.

If you do hold the funeral there, consider whether you need public visitation/viewing and whether it can be held directly before the funeral rather than on a separate day/time.

If you need to contract with a clergy member to lead the service, there will be an honorarium to pay. You may want to contact several officiants to compare costs.

If you do have the service at the funeral home, another way to keep things affordable is to bring your own accessories. If you look online, you will find plenty of resources to purchase prayer cards, guest or memorial books, and religious items such as yarmulkes.

Publish Obituaries Online

The funeral home will often send the obituary to local newspapers, but you can send these directly to avoid any upcharges. Newspaper obituaries are expensive though, so you may opt for only one newspaper supplemented by an online announcement. Sites like Kudoboard.com allow you to easily create a memorial site, and the basic package is free. In addition, many funeral homes will post the obituary on their own website.

Make it Personal

Flowers, which are common in some traditions, are by no means required. Make the space more personal by including photographs of the deceased with family and friends. You can also create CD’s of music that was dear to the deceased and play that during the gathering time at the service.

In addition to photos and music, you can display personal items from their hobbies or profession. See this NFDA article for more ideas on how to make a special tribute.

Accept Help From Family and Friends

In many traditions, it is customary to have a repast or meal for the mourners. While this can be held at a restaurant or hotel, it can also be done at a church or at home. Family and friends may offer to bring food, and that will allow you to avoid or reduce catering costs.

Consider Alternatives

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the most economical option of all: whole body donation for medical research. Depending on the organization, there may be no transportation costs, and cremation is included.

Services can be held prior to donation or without the body present, and the cremains are typically returned to the family upon request. This isn’t the right option for everyone but it is certainly a choice that lowers final costs while serving a greater purpose.

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, but spending a fortune on their final arrangements only  benefits only funeral home. Spending less on funeral arrangements means more of your loved one’s money goes to what’s really important: helping the family.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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