Losing a loved one is hard enough. The last thing you need is to find out you can’t afford their funeral costs.
Funerals are expensive, and expenses can feel like an impossible burden when added to the weight of grief and loss. Fortunately, there are ways to lessen these costs. Read on to learn how to keep funeral costs in check, so you can focus on what really matters.
What is the average cost of a funeral?
The average cost of basic funeral services is $2,000. This fee covers basic logistics — coordination with the cemetery, preparation of notices and death certificates, and filing for essential permits. But unfortunately, the expenses don’t stop there.
In addition to basic services, you’ll likely also have to pay for transportation ($318 via hearse, $143 via van). Depending on your preferences, you may have to shell out for a metal casket ($2,395), a cremation casket ($1,000), or an urn ($280). And then there’s the cost of space, catering, and other services for the ceremony itself.
According to Josh Mullins, funeral director of Affinity Funeral Service in Richmond, Virginia, average total funeral costs range from $3,000 to $5,000 for cremation and $7,000 to $15,000 for burial. “Burial [costs] can go even higher, based on local cemetery regulations and fees,” Mullins adds.
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 their 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 those costs.
How to cut funeral costs
Honoring your loved one doesn’t have to mean spending an exorbitant amount of money. Consider the following low-cost burial options to help reduce costs:
Cremation surpassed burial in popularity in 2015, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. This is unsurprising, given that cremation is far less expensive than being buried in a casket or vault.
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. That’s several thousands of dollars cheaper than a burial.
A green burial involves burying an un-embalmed body in a biodegradable shroud. This process is the least harmful to the environment. At $2000 to $3000 (according to MarketWatch), it’s also significantly cheaper than a standard burial.
Caskets at funeral homes are costly, and you can often find much less expensive options online. Or if you’re holding a viewing before cremating your loved one, you can save money by renting a casket for the occasion.
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. Medical institutions can refuse a donation if the deceased had certain conditions or diseases.
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 the remaining expenditures.
Take out a life insurance policiy
Sometimes, life insurance policies will cover a portion or all of the funeral costs. Check with your 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.
`Ask for 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 can.
If you have good credit (700+) and can comfortably pay off a loan over the next few years, a personal loan may be a good option. 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 in as little as one business day. The interest rate and term you get depends on your credit score and repayment history.
Different personal loans come with different rates, fees and requirements, so check out what the best personal loans are to ensure that you choose the best option for you.
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 someone who qualified for Social Security benefits, you’ll get a death benefit of $255 to help pay for funeral costs. [source]
If you can’t afford any burial costs, you can sign a release form at your county coroner’s office. This releases 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.
Mourning the loss of a loved one is a painful experience. Being able to afford a funeral that properly celebrates their life can help ease the burden.
If you’re interested in using a personal loan to cover costs, check out SuperMoney’s loan offer engine and find out what rates you qualify for. It won’t affect your credit score, and could help get you the funds you need for the ceremony you deserve.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a widely published journalist specializing in personal finance and small business. She has written 10 books and more than 2,500 articles for a wide variety of national and international publications, including Parade.com, where she has a weekly column. In addition to contributing to SuperMoney, her work has appeared in publications such as American Express OPEN Forum, The Hartford and Forbes.