Ten Tips for Saving Funeral $$$

  1. Talk about funerals with family members ahead of time.

    At the time of death, survivors may be vulnerable to the subtle ploys of the mortician to spend, spend, spend — "to show how much you care." If your plans are mentioned only in a will, the will may not be read until long after other arrangements have been made. Make sure your family knows what your wishes are.

  2. Price shop by phone or in person.

    There are at least twice as many funeral homes in this country as can be supported by the death-rate. Therefore, many fees include the waiting-around-until-you-die time... (part-time work for full-time pay). That's not always the case, however, and price-shopping can save you thousands of dollars.
  3. To see if you'd be getting a reasonable deal, mentally calculate the actual time you think each funeral option takes. Then add an hour or two for behind-the-scenes work for each one. (Remember, too, that funeral homes have large property tax bills, 24-hour phone coverage, and expensive Yellow Pages ads.) Carefully total the cost for everything and then ask, "Will there be any other charges?" If you will be paying more than $100 per hour, you've got a high-priced mortuary. If the cost for services seems reasonable, be sure to check the cost for caskets (see next item). In the past, many mortuaries depended on a high mark-up for their profit.

  4. Make a simple wood casket.

    As of July 19, 1994, it is illegal for a mortuary to charge a "handling fee" for bringing in an outside casket. Or choose a "minimum container" from the mortuary and drape it with attractive material of your own taste. If a funeral home charges much more than $400-$500 for a modest casket, it's a good bet it's taking a 300%, 400%, or 500% mark-up. That thought alone might be enough to decide on a simple but dignified "plain pine box."

  5. Take a friend or clergy with you.

    Having someone who will help you resist subtle pressures to spend more than you want can be very supportive when faced with subtle manipulation.

  6. Consider cremation.

    It costs a great deal less to ship cremated remains from one state to another. Cemetery space will probably cost less than the space needed for body burial. Or cremains can be buried/scattered wherever you choose.

  7. Plan a memorial service without the body present.

    In that case, there would be no need for embalming, a fancy casket, or expensive transporting of the body back and forth. Private family visitation and "good-byes" can occur in the hospital or home, before you call a funeral director. Use a church, park, or community center for the memorial service without attending funeral home staff. You can then comfortably consider using a low-cost funeral director from another community to transport the body directly to a crematory or cemetery, if the local prices are too high.

  8. Consider body donation to a medical school.

    In some areas, there may be no cost to the family whatsoever. In other circumstances, the cost of transporting the body may be the only cost. Often — if you ask — cremated remains will be returned to the family after scientific study, usually within a year or two.

    [Webmaster's note: In some states, like West Virginia, there is no cost involved. Both of my parents gave their bodies to West Virginia University and their ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The total cost of their two funerals was zero! But, alas, in Florida, the survivers must pay transportation of the deceased to Gainesville plus the cost of the final cremation. So a Simple Cremation is $475 while a Donation to Science is $686!]

  9. Remember that it is just a box-for-the-box.

    If you prefer body burial, ask for a "grave liner" — rather than a "coffin vault"— at a fraction of the price. And again, be sure to shop around. The "outer burial container" — as the trade now refers to it — is quickly becoming a new way for morticians to increase their income and is an added burden on your funeral finances. With prices as much or more than caskets, remember that it will get quickly covered by the cemetery lawn.

  10. Handle all arrangements without using a funeral director.

    This is permitted in 42 states, and families that have done so have found it loving and therapeutic. The book, Caring for Your Own Dead, tells what permits are required in each state, where and when to file them, plus a great deal of other practical information for families or church groups choosing this meaningful way to say goodby.

  11. Join a memorial society.

    Many have a contract with local mortuaries for discount services. Or some of the price-shopping may have been done for you already. There are reciprocal benefits if you move to or die in another state. Supporting a memorial society will help to keep this consumer information available for future generations, and the membership fee is quite modest.
    1. Copyright © FAMSA~FCA 1996

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