Losing someone that you love, no matter at what age, can be absolutely devastating. But incurring a financial hardship because of the loss of a loved one can make your difficult time even worse. Try to resist the temptation for emotional overspending when you have just lost a loved one, especially if you have a limited budget.
The unfortunate truth is that once you start planning a funeral, it is easy to overspend and can be difficult to know in advance exactly how much it will cost, despite federal regulations that require funeral homes to provide you with a list of itemized prices on request.
So what do you do if you have limited funds to spend on a funeral? Set a funeral budget. Setting a budget for what you (or the estate) can afford can help you make some decisions about the details.
Did you know that it is possible to spend less than $1000 on a funeral? It is if you are willing to compromise a bit.
How to plan a funeral on a budget
1. No-frills cremation
If you skip the extras (like an expensive urn, embalming the body and holding a viewing prior to cremation, etc) and opt for a basic cremation, putting the remains in an urn or other container of your choosing, you can usually pay less than $1000.
In areas where there is plenty of competition for cremation, like in Florida or the West Coast, you may pay as little as $500.
2. No-frills burial
If you opt for a direct burial (no embalming, viewing, or visitation), you can eliminate a lot of costs. It is possible to pay less than $1000 for a burial if you skip the extra add-ons and do a lot of the legwork yourself.
For example, you can buy your own simple pine box for $500 or a cardboard casket for around $200, don’t pay to have the casket sealed, transport the casket to the cemetery or a plot on your own property yourself, choose a low-cost headstone, handle the death/burial paperwork yourself, and if you publish an obituary, do it for free online.
You are not required to use a funeral home, but some cemeteries will only work with funeral homes. Depending on the cemetery, there may also be steep costs for opening the grave. If you want to use a funeral home, shop around at a few burial homes to see exactly how much they would charge for a direct burial with a casket provided by you—prices can vary widely between funeral homes, even in the same city.
Many funeral homes have a basic services fee that can start at almost $2000, so it may be worth it to just handle the arrangements yourself.
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3. Hold the memorial/funeral service at a home, church, or park
Although many people choose to hold a funeral service at a funeral home, the costs quickly add up. The median cost just for using a funeral home for the viewing and service is already around $1000. Instead, choose a location that will not charge you to hold the service: at your church, a park, or even at a family member’s home.
4. Skip the flowers
Flowers can add a surprisingly large cost to funeral arrangements, especially if the arrangements are large and extravagant. You can buy flowers in bulk and make your own tasteful arrangements for the funeral service, or just skip the flowers altogether—you will likely receive some flowers from well-wishers anyway.
5. Donate the body to science
This is something you may want to discuss with your loved one before they pass away, but medical schools are appreciative of bodies donated for students’ studies. You may also request the cremated remains of the body back from the med school when they are done with their studies. Cost = $0. Be warned, though, that the university reserves the right to reject a body, in which case you are still responsible for transportation and burial arrangements.
Your loved one wouldn’t want you to suffer a financial burden because of their passing, so if funds are tight just know that there are options that can drastically minimize the costs.