Saving Money on Funeral Arrangements

8 Tips to Honor Your Loved One (on a Budget)
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Funeral arrangements are one of life's big purchases. Like buying a home, planning a wedding, or purchasing a car, paying for a funeral can have a significant impact on your budget.

Although you may be worried about money when someone dies, remember that this is a one-time event that can't be done over. The funeral arrangements need to show respect to the one who died, reflect that person's unique personality, and also be meaningful to those who loved him or her.

There are creative ways to honor your loved one every step of the way without breaking the bank. And if there's some aspect that will be particularly comforting and memorable, ask the funeral director how it can be incorporated within your budget. A good funeral director will help you make it happen.

Here are 8 things to consider when planning a meaningful funeral on a budget:

Save Money on Visitation and Services

Limit visitation. Your first preference might be to have visitation the day or evening before the funeral. But, if you're willing, consider having the visitation for two hours before the funeral; there should be a lower charge for that. You can save even further by not having a formally set time for visiting hours. Simply plan to let people arrive at the funeral home an hour before the funeral. Many people will come early anyway, and others will come beforehand to pay their respects even if they can't stay for the funeral itself.

Skip embalming. If you want to give people the opportunity to see the deceased, you may be able to do that without embalming. Some states will allow public viewing of the body without it being embalmed if the body has been kept in a cool or refrigerated environment prior to the viewing or service. This will eliminate the cost of embalming.

If, however, you live in a state that requires embalming for a public viewing, you have another choice. It involves the "public" part of that sentence. If you would like to avoid paying for embalming, you can opt to have a private visitation period for family members only. Because this visitation is not "public," embalming is not required. There may or may not be a charge for a small family visitation, but many funeral homes won't charge for it because they require that at least one person see the person simply for identification purposes. Keep in mind: If you're in a state that requires embalming for public viewing, and you opt to skip embalming, you'll be required to keep the casket closed during the service.

Save Money on Disposition

Limit attendance at the burial or cremation. Whether you opt to have your loved one buried or cremated, you can sometimes reduce the cost of the funeral by limiting attendance at graveside or at the crematorium. Some families choose to have the burial or cremation first and then have a larger service afterward at a church, which may or may not charge.

Opting for cremation versus burial. Choosing cremation or burial is a deeply personal decision, one you're not likely to make based on cost. However, it may help to know that cremation is usually a little less costly. This is because there is no charge for the burial of a casket. There is a charge for the actual cremation process. Some families opt to have the cremated body buried; the cemetery charge to bury "ashes" is lower than it is for a body in a casket. If the ashes are not buried, a family member can either scatter the cremated remains without cost (as long as there's no fine for doing it in an illegal location) or keep them at home.

Save Money on Funeral Merchandise

Opt for a less expensive casket. There are a couple of ways to keep costs low in selecting a casket. If you have a preference for wood or metal, there are low-cost options in either of these materials. There are also low-cost options for caskets made from fiberboard or even heavy-duty cardboard. (They don't look like cardboard but are covered with what resembles contact paper, so they look like wood.) Another style is referred to as a "cloth-covered" casket. Yet another choice is a "cremation" casket, made to be used for cremation and usually lower in price. This is because its design is a little simpler and includes no metal. Many of these can be used for burial as well as for cremation.

Opt for a plain vault. Many cemeteries now require a vault or outer burial container. It protects the grave from sinking in and also protects the casket from the heavy equipment that may be placed on a grave when digging surrounding graves. There are many options, with the least expensive being a plain concrete box. In some cemeteries a wooden box is permitted, but that is uncommon. If it's important to you to feel that the body is "protected," this may be the one area where you'll use more of your budget. You can either choose a casket with a seal and save on a vault that does not, or choose a casket that does not but a vault that does. If you choose the latter, the vault with a seal will also have a water-resistant lining.

Choose an urn made of man-made material. If the urn is going to buried, the least expensive urns are typically those made from a man-made material resembling marble or granite. These can also save money if burial is in a cemetery that requires an urn vault, because this substance is durable enough that it can serve as both urn and vault. The best way to save money on an urn is to provide your own. It may be something as simple as a plain or decorative box that you purchase or one you already have at home. This is especially meaningful if the container has personal significance and will not be buried.

Save Money by Planning Before Death Occurs

Many funeral homes offer price guarantees to people who plan ahead of time and prepay. The accrued interest takes care of price increases, and many funeral homes will guarantee that they will not charge more than the principal and interest. Be sure to ask about this regardless of the type of services you desire -- and know that if you do opt for a pre-paid funeral, most states have specific laws that regulate the arrangements. Another preplanning idea is to purchase graves or mausoleum spaces now, as these prices, like most everything, will only go up.

Funeral Resources offers free quotes based on your needs. offer insights on funeral planning and costs.

Rebekah Peoples

Rebekah Peoples, CFSP, CPC, is a licensed funeral director and embalmer at a funeral home in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. See full bio

about 2 years, said...

There are numerous ways to plan an affordable funeral. Heck, some cremation services cost more than an immediate burial. What's really important is that people start the conversation and begin to plan. Pre-funding one's funeral can be a significant cost savings, not to mention provide a road map for those left behind to follow. The Medicaid exemption is another great reason. What's critical is that the family understands that this is an emotional investment vs. a financial. It will guarantee the funeral cost, but not a great rate of return. Nice blog post!

about 4 years, said...

All these tips are great to keep in mind. Often, it's best to pre-arrange, if possible. For Beeda's question about how to get the mortuary staff to talk about pricing, it is difficult to have them speak about pricing, however in all states the requirements are quite strict about disclosing of costs for end-of-life services. You will need to make it clear to the staff in your meeting with them that you want the costs disclosed each step of the conversation, not saved up for the last. They are there to serve you and your loved ones, not the other way around.

about 4 years, said...

Funeral service is the family decision. The amount of money spent is up to the family. Take time before the death to discuss the final arrangements. Often times illness has taken a toll on the family finances. Plan accordingly and try to include key family members.

about 4 years, said...

How to spendless for a funeral by not so rich people and at the same time give our best treatment to the departed soul.

over 4 years, said...

How do one get a funeral home arranger to talk to you about price? It seems like pulling teeth to get one to talk money.

about 5 years, said...

Please check you "facts" on (The Funeral Consumer's Alliance website). There are no states that REQUIRE embalming for public viewing, as it provides no public health benefit, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Canadian health authorities. (There are a few special cases where embalming is required, but it is uncommon) It is the funeral homes who carry a policy that they will not have a public viewing without embalming--a way to create an unnecessary charge, under the illusion that it is to protect the public health.... Embalming is also an incredibly invasive procedure that dumps the body's blood and other fluids into the public sewer system.

over 5 years, said...

I just wish I had being able to read this last year for I lost both my Foster Dad at end of Oct 2012 and my Dear man from cancer on 13 Dec 2012, including his brother from cancer 23rd Sep 2012, and much I would have changed truly relating funeral choices - would have insisted on better input from my two immediate, loved one's both in dealing with the reality of one day when they die - all choices and what if's cleared up. One is never realistic in speaking about death, and given death has it's very own clock which we are so far from being in control over - unlike birth today - we can opt for dates of delivery, but death it is a shattering pain - not to be reckoned with! After loosing 2 loved ones so suddenly I view cancer & death very differently - cancer is real and left late in dealing with it, it is a killer - denial be not an option of dealing with cancer, for it sure returns to deal with those left behind.

over 5 years, said...

Just lost mother and was very grateful we had prearranged her funeral and care as when the moment came we called the funeral home and they went to bring her back and cared for her beautifully. We went to say goodbye in a dignified and honorable way without having to make decisions during a very emotional time. No embalming, cremation and a lovely urn we chose with the Marine Corps emblem on it as she had served in WWII. She would like that. We will do the same for ourselves. The cost of the funeral items had gone up several hundred dollars since we had signed the contract so it was a cost effective way to go also. Making choices for someone so precious to me was easier this way for me, and I had peace of mind and not panic when I received the call she had slipped away.

over 5 years, said...

Very interesting article and informative to those who probably don't have any savings sorted out for funeral planning. Fortunately for me when Dad passed away at the end of November, just gone what I didn't realise was the funeral directors are able to ask the bank for the payment for it as Dad already had money there...however he did NOT leave a will, bearing in mind I'm in England all is not lost, we do have a good solicitor to help me out especially as Mom is unable to do any kind of "executor" thing. Will be interesting to see how things pan out!

over 5 years, said...

This is a great article on funeral services and the many options. This article will give families time to consider their options before they are needed. Pre payment is always a good choice Take your time and plan wisely. Check your state association for more pre need options. Hope this is of help to your family

over 5 years, said...

All very good tips. One thing I would point out, Cremation is much less expensive than enbalming and burial. Generally under $4K, where enbalming/burial generally runs at least double to triple that. At least in California....