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Funeral Costs: 6 Tips That Can Keep You from Overspending

Losing a loved one is one of the hardest experiences a person can go through. As if losing someone weren’t difficult enough, grieving family members are often left with the burden of funeral expenses. These expenses require many on-the-spot decisions. The stress of making these decisions can often drive families apart when they need each other the most.

Thus, it’s not uncommon for families to overspend by hundreds – even thousands – of dollars on funeral arrangements.

Some funeral homes can actually make matters worse by recommending unnecessary funeral expenses or services that are beyond what a family can afford. Family members can feel pressured to give their loved one the best funeral possible and wind up overspending as a result.

To help protect you from overspending on funeral costs – or if you want to make sure your loved ones are not burdened with your funeral debt – we offer this short list of suggestions on how to avoid overspending on funerals.


1. Plan ahead

If you’re concerned about your loved ones overspending, write down your preferences ahead of time, starting with whether you prefer to be buried or cremated. It’s also a good idea to list the type of service you prefer (a traditional viewing, a graveside service, or cremation), as well as the place of service (at a church, funeral home, or cemetery).

Although you might not be able to write down every detail of your final wishes, making these decisions ahead of time can give your family a guide to follow and help reduce confusion and emotional overspending when the time comes.


2. Don’t be afraid to research funeral costs

When choosing which services to use, it’s important to understand all of your options. Contacting several funeral homes will provide you with a range of prices for the services available in your area. Funeral homes are required to give you general pricing information over the phone for any services you are interested in.

Most funeral homes will charge a “basic services fee” which includes services that are common to all funerals, regardless of the specific arrangement. These may include obtaining copies of the death certificate, securing any permits needed, sheltering the remains, and coordinating the arrangements. The fee will not include any optional services or products such as caskets.

The Federal Trade Commission offers a helpful list of things to consider when preparing for a funeral.


3. Consider buying outside of a funeral home

Depending on the type of service you are preparing for, there are several options to consider when purchasing funeral items. A casket is often the most expensive item you’ll buy for a traditional funeral. Caskets vary widely in style, material, and price. Some caskets can sell for as much as $10,000.

It’s important to remember you’re not obligated to buy any funeral items directly from the funeral home.

More and more, people are buying caskets from third-party retailers and shipping them directly to the funeral home. By law, funeral homes are required to use the casket you provide and can’t charge any additional fees to handle third-party caskets.

Other funeral items such as burial vaults (also known as grave liners) or headstones can also be purchased from third parties. Buying outside of a funeral home can save thousands of dollars.


4. Stick to your budget

Even the best plans can’t account for the grief you’ll experience leading up to the funeral. Families often feel pressured to overspend to honor the memory of their loved one. Some funeral homes can make matters worse by taking advantage of the situation, often showcasing the most expensive items.

By researching funeral costs ahead of time, you can establish a spending range you’re comfortable with. Compare costs with several funeral providers and decide which items are necessary and which items you can do without.


5. Bring a friend

Unfortunately, some funeral homes make it a practice to sell you the most expensive products and services they can. Often times they convince family members the only way to honor a loved one is to buy the best. These providers can charge hundreds, even thousands of dollars for unnecessary funeral services.

Having a trusted friend accompany you in advance can help you stay within your budget.


6. Help is available

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone! Organizations such as the Funeral Consumers Alliance and the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) are available to help at any point in the process.


Be financially prepared for the cost of your own funeral

Most people underestimate just how costly a funeral or cremation service can be. Average funeral expenses can cost about $9,000 according to the NFDA. Even cremation services can cost thousands of dollars depending on the service performed.

Unfortunately, the federal government only pays about $255 towards these costs in the form of a lump-sum payment – and that is only for individuals who qualify.

Saving for funeral costs can be difficult, but final expense life insurance can help. If you’re concerned about your family experiencing a financial burden when you pass, consider getting a final expense policy. Final expense insurance – commonly known as “burial insurance” or “funeral insurance” – is specifically designed to help with funeral costs and other end-of-life expenses.

Even a modest policy can help cover necessary burial costs. Learn more about final expense insurance.


Next steps

If you’re concerned about making funeral arrangements without overspending, find out about the legal rights you have when planning a funeral.

If you’re unsure about the type of service to have, learn about the different costs for cremation and funerals.