While not the most pleasant topic to discuss, the cost that comes with a funeral is something we should all understand. You may be surprised to hear that it has risen by 227.1% since December of 1986. That’s twice as fast as consumer prices for all items.
Today, the average price of an adult funeral with burial is $8,508, and with cremation, it’s $6,078, according to the Funeral Price Survey by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). Being so, our passing can be a burden for our loved ones if we don’t prepare.
Here’s everything you need to know about funeral costs and how to pay for it, whether it’s for yourself or a loved one who has passed.
What costs are involved in a funeral?
The basic services fee
Funeral service providers charge all customers this fee. It covers common funeral services such as planning, preparing notices, coordinating with the cemetery, securing permits, and providing copies of death certificates.
The average cost is $2,000.
Services and products
In addition to the basic services, there are additional products and services that many opt to purchase.
Services may include:
These are some of the most common add-ons; specific services and products will vary by the funeral or third-party providers you choose.
Also, keep in mind that the funeral costs do not account for the cemetery costs, which include the cost of the gravesite, digging of the gravesite, a gravestone, the opening and closing of the grave, etc. These can add another couple thousand dollars to the bill.
Though you can definitely go much higher. Depending on whether you use cremation or caskets, an extended visitation, or other variables, like plots and headstones, this could easily double.”
“The average cost of a funeral is going to run you between $7,000-$10,000,” says Jason Fisher, owner of BestLifeRates,org, “Though you can definitely go much higher. Depending on whether you use cremation or caskets, an extended visitation, or other variables, like plots and headstones, this could easily double.”
Lastly, if you have a funeral provider buy items for you from third parties, they will charge you the costs upfront and may charge extra fees. If they do charge you extra, they are required to inform you in writing. They must also inform you if they receive a rebate, refund, or discount on any item for which they charge you a cash advance fee.
“As a life insurance agent specializing in the burial insurance business, my experience is that costs can range widely, depending on where in the country the funeral home is located, and what items are selected for the funeral service,” says David Duford, a Final Expense Agent Mentor LLC.
How to save on funeral costs
All of this can get pretty expensive, so if you are wondering how to save, here are a few tips:
- Cremation is 15.3% cheaper than the median cost of a funeral with burial, according to the NFDA. More and more people are opting for cremation; there was a 13% increase between 2005 and 2013.
- Shop around; prices will vary among funeral providers and third-party product manufacturers.
- Opt for direct burial or direct cremation that skips the embalming and viewing.
- Decline the gasketed casket and other unnecessary upsells
- Donate the remains to a medical school.
- Most mortuaries offer “package deals” that may appear to save you money.However, you need to review these packages very carefully. Determine whether or not you will actually be utilizing everything that is being presented to you in a package – you may discover that a package deal is not a money-saver says Carole Brody Fleet, author and media contributor.
Tips to save on funeral costs
Also, Duford advises, “Pre-arrange your funeral ahead of time. Speak with your local funeral home and decide ahead of time which items you want to include in your funeral service. Funeral homes will commonly lock in rates of the items contractually. Additionally, deciding on what items ahead of time takes the burden away, which is common in many families, to spend an inordinate amount of money on items you wouldn’t necessarily choose to include.”
Of course, you and your loved ones will have your own preferences. These are simple tips to take into consideration to reduce the costs.
Further, Fleet reminds us of an important factor, “Do not let anyone insinuate that if you do not spend huge sums of money, that you lack love for your departed loved one. Let no one “guilt” you into purchasing that which you do not need, want, or perhaps most importantly, cannot afford. Love is not measured by the contents of a bank account…not in life and definitely not in death.”
How to pay for funeral costs
Now, let’s look at different strategies to afford these costs. First, we will cover how to prepare for your own funeral, then how to cover the expenses of a loved one who has passed unexpectedly or without preparation.
Planning for yourself
Final expense insurance
Final expense insurance, also known as burial insurance, covers funeral and burial expenses after you pass. It may also be used to settle medical bills or debts, in some cases. This type of policy is sold by insurance companies and, in some states, by funeral homes.
It is often more expensive than other options and is not recommended by the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), a non-profit organization that protects the consumers right to an affordable and meaningful funeral.
Traditional life insurance policy
Instead of getting a separate insurance policy, you can get enough coverage in your life insurance policy to cover the funeral expenses. This is often a more cost-efficient route.
Dedicated savings account
Another approach is to open up a savings account specifically for your funeral costs. Set a goal for the amount you want to save and the period of time in which you want to save it, and then make a plan for monthly contributions.
A “payable on death account” is another savings option designed for paying for your funeral. You will name a beneficiary, and they will gain access to the money after you pass.
Pre-pay the funeral home
Funeral homes allow you to plan your funeral and pre-pay them for it. They will add the money to an interest-bearing trust account and become the trustee.
This is not recommended by the FCA as prices could increase which would leave a gap for your loved ones to cover, the funeral home could go out of business, or there could be some conflicts of interest.
Cover expenses for a loved one who has passed
When someone close to you passes away unexpectedly or without preparing, it can leave the costs to you and other close friends and family. In these cases, here’s what you can do:
This new virtual form of fundraising can help you to raise money. Platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter allow you to make a campaign which explains the situation and requests donations from friends, family, and strangers.
Splitting the costs between family members
It can be helpful for the family to plan the funeral together and divide the costs. Those who make more can take on a larger portion of the bill, while those who make less can provide a proportionately smaller amount. This isn’t always easy to agree on within families, but it’s an approach to consider.
Funeral home installment plan
Some funeral homes will allow you to split up the amount for the funeral into installment payments. Be sure to calculate how much they will charge you in fees and interest, and compare it to other options. Further, the FCA warns not to disclose any details about your finances or budget to funeral homes and says to beware of upsells that you don’t need.
There are many online lenders offering personal loans which can be used to pay for anything you want, including funeral costs. You can apply within a few minutes and have the money in your bank account in as little as one business day. Approval will depend on your credit and financial situation; the better they are, the less you’ll pay to borrow.
The benefit here is that your funeral home services and financing are completely separate. Additionally, there are many lenders to choose from which can help you get a good deal.
Seek other support
There are also several steps you can take to seek out financial help, including:
- Contacting the employer of the deceased. Find out if they had death benefits to cover some or all of the funeral costs.
- Pursuing compensation if the person was a victim of a crime or accident.
- Checking their social security benefits for a one-time $255 benefit payment.
- Looking for payment assistance in your area from the Funeral Consumers Alliance.
- Reaching out to the United Burial Fund in your state for assistance.
- Visiting your local treasurer’s office to learn about assistance programs.
- All veterans are entitled to a burial in a national cemetery with several costs covered.
As you can see, there are a number of places to turn to manage the costs of an unexpected funeral.
Funeral financial planning
The costs of funerals can be high and, unfortunately, have continued to rise over the last few decades. Whether you are planning for yourself or looking for a solution to pay for someone else, you have many options to weigh.
No matter which you choose, you will want to ensure you are aware that funeral providers are running a business and have their own interests in mind when working with clients. Be sure to shop around, compare prices, and read the fine print.
Further, look into the costs with third party providers as you might save by purchasing directly from them. Then, when it’s time to start planning ahead for yourself or to pay for another person, consider which of the above will be best for your situation.
If you are interested in a personal loan, our personalized loan offer engine will show you which lenders will offer you the best deal. You can then compare each one, plus, 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.
Attending a funeral is difficult enough as it is. Planning one is even harder. Stressing over the costs is the last thing you’ll want to worry about. Luckily, you’ve got a handful of options to lessen the financial burden and make this part of the planning process a little easier.
Jessica Walrack is a personal finance writer at SuperMoney, The Simple Dollar, Interest.com, Commonbond, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Guardian, Personalloans.org and many others. She specializes in taking personal finance topics like loans, credit cards, and budgeting, and making them accessible and fun.