Losing a loved one is never easy. It's hard to try and get past the grief and think of the future, let alone plan a funeral. Sadly, most people don't have their funerals pre-planned and this leaves all of the hard decision making to the family.  Where do you begin? How much does it cost? What would the dearly departed want? Planning a funeral during times of grief can be a struggle. Especially if money is tight. Today, I am going to help you plan a memorable funeral on a budget.

When starting to plan for a funeral, there are several things you need to remember. 

1. You CAN negotiate prices. Don't be afraid to ask for lower prices or haggle on items. These items are usually hiked up by funeral homes and have extra costs added to them.

2. Search around. Never settle for the first place you find. The funeral home may try to strong hold their way into your wallet but if you ask around, you can find one that better suits your budget and needs.

3. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. I have been to many funerals and some seem to make a large production out of it. When you start to add up the costs for these ceremonies, it can become rather pricey. Don't be afraid to say no to certain items and go with a cheaper option. You are not dishonoring or ruining your loved ones memory by choosing a service more affordable.

Funerals don't have to be pricey. You can plan a beautiful service for much less than need be. Here's how.

1. Set a budget. Figure out how much you are able to spend on the service total. The average funeral today can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000. That's a pretty steep price to pay for a well deserved send off but not one your loved one would want you to be put into debt over (hopefully). Click here for an easy to follow budget sheet so you can track your fees and stay within your preferred spending.

2. Make sure to obtain prices via telephone. When choosing a funeral home, contact multiple locations and don't be afraid to ask about every pricing option. If they state they would like you to "come in for pricing", they probably aren't the right fit for you. They figure that once they get you through the door they can hook you. Also, make sure you ask for an itemized price list upon arriving at a funeral home.  Items to ask about are:

  • Caskets
  • Embalming
  • Basic services (required fee)
  • cremation
  • urns
  • use of facilities and staff assistance with the ceremony
  • Use of facilities and staff assistance for viewing
  • Hearse fees
  • Moving the deceased's remains to & from the funeral home
  • Preparation of the body besides embalming (clothing them, makeup, etc)
  • Basic package of printed materials (obituary printouts, ceremony programs)
  • Floral arrangements
  • Paid obituaries (not all funeral homes will post obituaries into newspapers for you)
  • Headstone (if funeral home is in lieu with the cemetery)
  • Officiant

3. Ask to see a written outer burial container price list. This is a separate container that is not required by US Law but many cemeteries require them to prevent the grave site from caving in on itself. 

4. Ask to see a casket price list before going to view them. Why? This way you can ask about the lower priced caskets that may not be on the display floor. You can also see what hidden fees there may be within each type of casket. Ex: silk lining vs cotton.

5. Make sure to obtain a written statement upon making a decision, but only pay when satisfied with the written statement. The funeral home must give you a breakdown of each service to be rendered, items purchased and their legal rights and requirements for cemetery and cremation.

6. A few great ways to reduce your funeral costs is:

  • Cremation and Urn instead of a casket and embalming. Caskets run anywhere from $950-$4500 with embalming costing you an estimated $795.  Cremation and an Urn is much cheaper with cremation costing $1500 and an urn (if purchased from the funeral home) costing around $150. That makes an estimated $3,695.00 difference. You could even donate your body to science or have your ashes put into a living urn. A living urn is a pod that houses your ashes and is planted. A tree will eventually sprout from that urn. These urns are usually $130-200.
  • Skip the embalming. This will usually cost you $795 and is honestly pointless. There is no actual reason to embalm someone. In fact, a TV show on TruTv, Adam Ruins Everything, recently covered this topic. Here is the link if you want to check it out. 
  • Take in your own Urn. You can pick up a pretty vase with a lid for $25 at a retail store and easily use that. Or, better yet, skip the urn and scatter your loved ones ashes where ever their favorite spot was. If they loved the ocean, scatter their ashes on the beach. Me personally, I want to skip all the funeral jarben and be cremated with my ashes scattered at sea. No headstone required (usually cost $230-$2000), no funeral necessary. Just say a few kind words about my life and send me off to rest in peace.
  • Make your own flower arrangements. You can make an arrangement from your backyard garden. Flower arrangements for funerals generally (depending on the company and area you live in) run from $45 to $150 an arrangement.
  • Have a potluck for the reception. Let's face it, you're too tired and emotional to worry about cooking for a bunch of people. Ask your guests to bring their favorite dish as you all fellowship together and share wonderful memories of the deceased.
  • Skip the limos. These can be an unnecessary added expense. 
  • Make your own funeral programs. There are so many sites online that will guide you through the steps of making these programs. You can also print up bookmarks as a program (only costs you paper) or purchase the already printed programs from a christian store or online. These already printed programs are decorated on the front, you just need to print the details about the deceased and service on the inside. You can do this for $25 compared to $150 from a funeral home.
  • Keep your services small or choose for a home service. This cuts out the funeral home use of the facilities and staff assistance with the ceremony fees ($395-500) and the use of the facilities and staff assistance for viewing fees ($395-500). You will still have to pay for the hearse fees which generally run around $300 as well as the fee for moving the remains to and from the funeral home which can run $365 and up.

Costs for funerals are no joke. It is always best to have these things taken care of before our time to pass comes. I don't want my family having to worry about what my wishes were and how much it would cost them to fulfill those wishes. If you are worried about costs now to pre-plan or am a grieving family member, here are a few places that you can check out to see if they can financially assist you.

  • Social Security- You can contact the Social Security Administration to see if you qualify for a lump sum death payment. You can also call (800)722-1213 or visit a local Social Security office.
  • Funeral Wise- This site lists ten different sources that may offer assistance to help you apply for death benefits.
  • Veterans Benefits- The Department of Veterans Affairs pays for certain burial and funeral fees. There are specific eligibility rules which you can click here to see if you qualify. For benefits and allowances for non-service-related death and service-related death eligible payments, you can check out the spread sheet that the VA has posted to their site with the updated allowances. If you would like to have the presentation of the American flag or taps to be played, you can ask your funeral director for details, call the VA at (800)827-1000, or check the American Legion for other benefits such as these.

If you are planning a funeral service- I am so sorry for your loss. I know how hard it is to lose someone you love. It's never easy saying goodbye and it's even harder having to plan a ceremony and worry about money while you're grieving. I hope that these tips will help you when planning your loved ones good bye celebration. Remember, funerals are a sad service, but they are also a celebration of the life you loved and shared with the one who's passed on. May your heart heal quickly, memories of your loved one last forever and may you celebrate everyday that you had spent together. 

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