When planning a funeral, the most popular question that comes to mind is: How much does a funeral cost?
Answering this question is pivotal if your goal is to thoroughly plan for your funeral. After all, if you don’t know how much it will cost, how can you prepare for it?
Today we’ll discuss all the costs associated with a funeral, what goes into these costs, and show you some time-tested tips to help you save on your final expenses.
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- Average Funeral Cost
- What Goes Into the Average Funeral’s Costs
- Proven Tips To Save Money On A Funeral
- Steps You Can Take To Prepare Financially For a Funeral
First, a traditional burial will always cost much more than a cremation. Additionally, any service with a viewing will always cost a lot more compared to a funeral that has no viewing of the body.
Here’s a national average cost for funerals in the USA.
Average Burial Cost: $7,000-$10,000
Average Cremation Cost: $1,500-$5,000
These averages are based of national statistics. Your exact cost may be lower or higher. Where you live, what precise services you select, and how elaborate the funeral is will all determine the net cost of your funeral.
Whether it’s a burial or cremation, funerals have many moving parts. It’s important to understand what costs are involved, so you know what to expect as you plan for your final expenses.
Below you will see a general estimate for some of the most common components to a traditional burial or cremation service. These are merely average costs as reported by the National Funeral Directors Association. Your costs may be higher or lower depending on your choices and location.
Common Funeral Expenses
- Professional service fee ($2,000): This fee covers the cost of their labor and equipment.
- Transportation of remains to the funeral home ($310): Covers the cost to transfer the body to the funeral home.
- Embalming ($695): Embalming is often required for open casket services or if the body is going to be transferred interstate.
- Miscellaneous cosmetic preparations ($250): This fee covers the cost of applying makeup, clothing, and hairdressing.
- Facility usage for viewing ($420): This cost will apply if you wish to use the funeral home’s chapel for the service.
- Funeral home staff for service ($495): You will only pay this if you choose to utilize the services of the funeral home staff to assist with the funeral ceremony.
- Hearse ($318): This is the quintessential vehicle used to transport the deceased from the funeral home to the cemetery.
- Printed memorial package ($155): The cost to print pamphlets honoring the deceased, and detailing the outline of the service.
- Metal casket ($2,395): Usually one of the costliest line items of a funeral, caskets are a big ticket item. They can get very expensive depending on the model. Make sure you ask to see a price list to ensure the funeral provider isn’t marking it up too much from their wholesale cost.
- Vault ($1,327): This is the enclosure the coffin rests in to protect it from the weight of the earth and heavy maintenance equipment that will pass over the grave. They are frequently referred to as “grave liners”, “grave vaults”, or “burial liners”.
- Cremation fee ($330): The basic cost to execute the cremation of the body.
- Cremation casket ($1000): This is a fully combustible container a body is placed in that’s to be inserted into the cremation chamber.
- Urn ($280): The container that holds the ashes of the deceased.
The funeral industry is well known for having high margins on the products they sell. Their markups on caskets, urns, and other products are how they make a bulk of their profit.
Having said that, if you follow these simple steps, you can counter their tactics and significantly reduce the cost of your funeral expenses.
Insider Tip: All funeral homes are required by law to show you a general price list upon request. Many funeral homes will verbally inflate their prices hoping you agree to it. They are required to honor the rates shown on their general price list regardless of what they state verbally. Every price list will have a separate line entry for each item. It is your right to only purchase the services and goods that you want.
Call at least 4-7 funeral home to get estimates on the service you are interested in. Let market competition naturally select which funeral home is most deserving of your business.
Keep Your Budget A Secret
Never tell any funeral home how much money you are working with. If they ask you what your budget is, simply say: “I’m not sure, but it won’t’ be much. What’s the best you can do?” The general rule of thumb is, if they know your budget, they will spend it.
Consider Buying A Casket Or Urn From Someone Else
You aren’t required to buy a casket or urn directly from the funeral home. You are more than capable of buying one from another vendor. For example, Costco actually sells caskets. At the end of the day, you might be able to save quite a bit of money by purchasing this large line item from somewhere else.
Consider A Direct Cremation
A direct cremation is a bare bones cremation without a funeral service of any kind. You are essentially just paying for the cremation of the body along with a very simple container to hold the ashes.
Direct cremations often cost anywhere from $500-$1,000 depending on your area.
Consider A Direct Burial
A direct burial is a burial service that does not include any sort of service or funeral ceremony. Basically, you are paying for just the cost of the labor to process the body and bury it in a plain box rather than a casket.
Direct burials usually cost $3,000-$5,000 depending on your area.
Without question, the financial aspect of a funeral is the most important element to prepare for. Unpaid funeral costs can constitute a massive financial burden for the surviving loved ones who must remedy these unexpected bills.
Thankfully, there are multiple ways to prepare for final expenses. As the saying goes, different strokes for different folks, so choose which one suits you and your family best.
Regardless of which method you choose, you must do something. Not planning ahead is a surefire plan to sully your family with the burden of unpaid funeral costs, and nobody wants that.
Set Aside Cash
Put cash aside specifically to cover end of life costs. It’s vital this money is never to be used for emergencies or any other life event. If you use it, it won’t be there to pay your funeral cost. Also, make sure the deceased is not the only person named as the account holder where the funds are being held. This would subject the funds to the probate process. You can even establish a funeral trust to hold the money. That will ensure the money is accessible to pay for funeral expenses.
Purchase burial life insurance specifically to cover final expenses. These are small face value whole life policies designed specifically to cover funeral costs. Burial insurance rates are affordable, they are available for seniors up to age 85, and they have very lenient underwriting. Some policies actually have no underwriting which means everyone is guaranteed to be approved.
Pre-pay At A Funeral Home
You can take out a pre-need policy directly at a funeral home. This is a contract at the funeral home of your choice that utilizes a life insurance policy to fund the funeral where the funeral home is named as the beneficiary of the policy. These are a great option if your goal is to pay off the funeral over a period of time. They also allow you to document all your final wishes, so both the funding and planning of the funeral is complete.
Sell Off Assets After Death
Liquidate postmodern assets to acquire the funds to pay off the funeral bills. This really should be a last resort because assets (property, 401k, investments) must go through the probate process before they are accessible. For that reason, there will be a substantial amount of time between the date of the departed to when you’ll have the cash in hand to pay for the funeral. However, if all other options are unavailable, this might very well be the only way to pay off the final expenses.