Afford a funeral average funeral costs

What Do You Do If You Can’t Afford a Funeral? 9 Solutions to Lessen the Financial Burden

It’s one thing to lose your car because you can’t afford the monthly payments. It’s another thing losing your loved one and not being able to afford the cost of their funeral.

Mourning the death of someone you love is an emotionally painful experience. To add salt to that fresh wound, having funeral expenses that you can’t afford makes it a financially painful experience as well.

The bad news is that many people, unfortunately, have to deal with this added stress when planning a funeral. But the good news is that there are ways to lessen the financial pain before letting it turn a bad situation into an even worse one.

Below are nine solutions to consider, including ways to cut costs and how to cover those costs without going broke.

But before we jump into that, let’s start by looking at the average cost of a funeral and who has to pay for it.

What is the average cost of a funeral?

According to Josh Mullins– funeral director of Affinity Funeral Service in Richmond, Virginia–, average funeral costs range from $3,000 to $5,000 for cremation and $7,000 to $15,000 for burial.

Says Mullins, “Burial can go even higher, based on local cemetery regulations and fees.” If you’re strapped for cash and have no final expense insurance, it can become very overwhelming.

For example, the average cost of the basic services fee is $2,000. This specific fee covers common planning and preparation services for the funeral, such as coordinating arrangements with the cemetery or crematory, preparing notices, providing copies of death certificates, and filing the proper permits.

All funeral service providers charge this fee. But that’s just the beginning as far as funeral costs go. There is a long list of other potential expenses that may be added to your bill.

While most of these additional expenses are optional, many people find some (if not, all) to be absolutely necessary.

For example, transportation of the body ($318 via hearse, $143 via van), a metal casket ($2,395), a cremation casket ($1,000), and an urn ($280), just to name a few.

You can find the rest of the list and the cost for each item here.

Who has to pay for a funeral?

If there is no funeral insurance, the estate of the person who died usually pays for funeral costs. This means that the money will come out of his or her savings, checking, or investment accounts, or from the sale of personal property. The executor of the person’s will releases funds to pay the funeral home.

If there isn’t sufficient money in the deceased person’s estate, whoever signs the funeral contract is responsible for the remaining balance. For instance, if you’re planning your mother’s funeral and her money covers all but $2,000, you must pay that remaining amount.

Here are the nine ways to lighten the financial burden of a funeral, beginning with ways you can cut costs and ending with financing options to help cover said costs.

How to cut funeral costs

Of course, you want to honor your loved one’s life, but it’s not necessary to spend an exorbitant amount of money to do so, especially if you don’t have it. Consider the following low-cost burial options that help reduce costs.

1) Cremation

Cremation surpassed burial in popularity in 2015, according to the National Funeral Directors Association [source]. One reason for this shift is the fact that cremation is substantially less expensive than being buried in a casket or vault.

For instance, if you do a direct cremation that doesn’t involve a viewing prior, the average cost is $1,000, according to the Cremation Research Council.

2) Green burial

Green or natural burial involves burying an un-embalmed body in a biodegradable shroud. This process is considered the least impactful to the environment. It’s also less expensive than the standard practice of embalming (which costs around $695) and burying in an expensive casket.

3) Affordable casket

It’s not required to purchase a casket from the funeral home. You can often find much less expensive options online. If the person is going to be cremated, but you’re holding a viewing first, you can save money by renting a casket.

4) Whole body donation

You may also want to consider a whole body donation, as donating your loved one’s body to science is a no-cost alternative. If it works, you won’t need to pay any burial costs. There are restrictions, though. Bodies will be refused if the individual had certain conditions or diseases. [source]

How to cover funeral costs without going broke

Now that you know how to reduce the cost of a funeral, here are a few ways you can finance it.

1) Life insurance policy

In some cases, life insurance policies will cover a portion or all of the funeral costs. Check with the life insurance agent regarding timing. Some life insurance policies take several months for payment. This may work if the funeral home offers a payment plan. Once you get the life insurance money, you can pay off the funeral home.

2) Contributions

Rather than shoulder the cost of a funeral by yourself, consider asking friends and family to contribute. Be specific about how much the funeral and burial will cost. Ask everyone to contribute as much as they possibly can.

You can also raise funeral money through crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter. These sites make fundraising less of a challenge by giving you a platform to tell everyone, everywhere– family, friends, and strangers alike– your story and how you’re struggling to pay the cost of your loved one’s funeral.

Browse crowdfunding platforms

3) Personal loan

If you have good credit (700+) and feel that you can comfortably pay the loan off in the next three to seven years, a personal loan may be a good option for you. Personal loans can be used for anything you want, including funeral costs.

It’s easy to apply for a personal loan. You usually get quick approval and often receive the money as soon as one business day. The interest rate and term you get depends on your credit score and repayment history.

Compare personal loans and get personalized offers to see what you qualify for.

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4) Credit card

Can you pay for a funeral with a credit card? Yes, using a credit card is another financing option to help you cover funeral costs. The best way to do so is with a zero percent introductory rate credit card. These cards allow you to pay off the balance without paying any interest for a set period of time.

This promotional period can last anywhere from six months or less to 21 months or more. Once the period ends, you’ll begin paying interest– so be careful, because rates could be very high. But if you pay off the card in full before promotional period is over, you won’t pay any interest at all.

This could also be a good option l if you’re waiting on life insurance proceeds. Before applying, check that the funeral home takes credit card payments.

CardRegular APR 
5) Inquire about Federal or County/State Assistance

If you just can’t get the money together to pay for a funeral and burial costs, it’s possible to get some help from the government. If you’re a surviving spouse or child of a person who qualified for Social Security benefits, you’ll get a death benefit of $255 to help pay for funeral and burial costs. [source]

To completely avoid any burial costs, it’s possible to sign a release form at your county coroner’s office. The form states that you can’t afford burial and funeral costs for your family member. When you do this, you release the body to the county or state for cremation or burial. If the body is cremated, you may be able to claim the ashes for a fee.

Getting started

Mourning the loss of a loved one is a painful experience. Being able to easily pay for a funeral that properly honors and celebrates his or her life helps ease the burden.

If you’re interested in a personal loan to cover costs, check out SuperMoney’s loan offer engine to see what rates you qualify for. This will not hurt your credit score.

Then, be sure to compare each option side by side (plus many others) to find the best one for you.

Losing someone you love is difficult enough as it is. You shouldn’t have to deal with the weight of a financial burden on top of it. Now you know ways to successfully lift that weight so that you can think less about money and more about planning the perfect funeral to honor your loved one.