MoneyMagpie

Jun 01

How can I afford a funeral? 

Is there anything more depressing than planning a funeral?

Unless you’re one of the few who is at peace with the thought of the hereafter, you’ve likely put this off for yourself, let alone another person.

If you’ve been given no choice in the matter, you could find yourself in a bind. A loved one has died and now you’ve had to ask yourself, “How can I afford a funeral?” No matter how many times you’ve analyzed your dreams, you did not see this coming. Perhaps you’re doing okay financially but don’t have a lot saved for a crisis, or you’ve finally just figured out how to get out of debt.

And then this happens. Of course, you want your loved one to have a proper funeral but you don’t want this to set your finances back by years either. Fortunately, there are options.

Below we look at some of the main ways to cut funeral costs, while still having an appropriate farewell ceremony for your loved ones.

 

There is an Alternative to Life Insurance

Lowering a white coffin into a grave

If your loved one didn’t take out a life insurance policy years ago but did have the forethought to get burial insurance, you could be in luck. This is for the person who, despite not having a life insurance policy, doesn’t want to leave the financial burden on a loved one who is still alive. Be sure to check their financial documents and take a look at any insurance policies that might cover the costs of the funeral. This type of insurance is important to keep in mind if you’re caring for an aging parent or other loved one. Check out available policies and prices at an online site like www.burialinsurance.org to see if these policies might be the right idea for you.

 

Consider Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding website on a laptop

Asking others for money is never easy, but people understand that death, like life, happens. Go to close friends or family members and ask for a small donation (or simply what they can afford). Even if every person only donated a small sum like £20, chances are the end result could go a long way in helping you to plan a simple yet elegant funeral for your loved one. There are many sites out there for crowdsourcing these days, with GoFundMe likely being the most familiar to most.

 

Go No Frills

Lit tea lights

In an ideal world, everyone would have the funeral of his or her dreams. Perhaps this means 200 friends and family member sipping Irish whiskey at a favourite pub just after the service, a church funeral service with a lot of music, or that every person there wears this person’s favourite colour. Or perhaps this means an appearance from your favourite popstar, a gold-plated coffin mounted on a horse-drawn hearse, or having your ashes fired into space.

However, when it comes down to it, no one would want to financially burden a loved one to make his dream a reality.

A simple service is more than fine, and you certainly don’t have to buy a casket made of the finest mahogany.  According to VP of Marketing for Aurora Casket Company Mary Strohofer via US News, there are two cheaper options for caskets. A 20-gauge steel casket goes for about $1,000 while a cloth-covered casket is right around $500. Also, don’t let funeral homes upsell you on what’s called “gasketed caskets” to protect your loved one against the elements once underground. According to an article on MarketWatch.com, “While these special gaskets only cost the funeral home $8, Funeral Consumers Alliance, it could raise the price of a casket by $800, since it’s marketed as a ‘protective’ addition.” Not to mention, decomposition is bound to happen to the body once underground anyway.

Urn

Cremation is another consideration that helps to cut down on costs as opposed to an open funeral. According to the US News article mentioned above, “The average cost, according to the Cremation Association of North America, is $1,650, which includes a memorial service. Without the memorial service, an average cremation is $725.” Another benefit of having a person cremated is that the memorial service can be held in your home (or another person’s home) to cut down on the cost of having it a funeral home. You can also do “direct cremation”, which means you don’t have to buy a casket at all. There’s no law that requires caskets for cremated bodies, so you can simply use a box or your urn for your loved one’s body to save money.

While the term ‘direct disposal’ may sound undignified, ‘direct cremation’ as it’s also known has seen an increase in popularity over the past few years, particularly following the news that this was David Bowie’s choice of cremation service. A direct cremation will take place outside of the crematorium’s peak hours, and does not include a service. Mourners are not permitted to attend. Ashes are then returned to the family, which is then free to hold their own memorial and service at a time and date of their choosing. This option is chosen by around 5% of families in the UK, and 30% in the US. You can typically expect to save a significant sum, between £2,000 and £3,000.

There is no legal obligation to use a funeral director, so you could also save another £1,000 to £2,000 on professional services by taking control of proceedings by yourself. Perhaps understandably most people choose not to do so, but there is nothing legally stopping you.

 

Go Online to Comparison Shop

Someone sat on the floor using a laptop

While a funeral is of course a fundamentally different purchase to almost any other product out there, it was still surprising to learn that 95% of people go with the first funeral director they visit. Service level and professional fees vary enormously across this unregulated industry, and with the average cost of a funeral at around 3.5K, it seems strange that people don’t take the time to shop around.

Funeralbooker.com supplied us with the below calculator, which they say is ‘like a minified version of the main site.’ We were certainly surprised at how much a funeral costs in our area…

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