When we are left to grieve after a loved one dies, the last thing we want to worry about is the expense of burying them. But, with the price of an average funeral ranging between $8,000 and $12,000, the cost is an unfortunate reality that most of us will have to take into consideration when planning the service. Fortunately though, even if preparations were not made ahead of time, there are still ways to avoid unnecessary expenses and achieve an affordable funeral.
Tips for Conducting an Affordable Funeral
The Funeral Rule
As consumers, we all have rights, and when we know what they are we are less likely to be taken advantage of, especially in a time of grief and loss. Here is a list of some of our rights as defined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) through what is known as The Funeral Rule:
- Funeral Packages: Consumers are not required to purchase funeral packages that contain items or services we do not want. We can select individual items and services.
- Itemized List: Funeral homes are required to provide us with a list of itemized services and goods upon request. This is true, whether we call or walk into their business. If they do not, or if they pressure us for personal identifying information on the telephone or in person, prior to the release of the information, we should not do business with them.
- Caskets/Urns: Consumers can legally purchase a casket or an urn from a source other than the funeral home and, by law, the funeral home cannot refuse delivery of, or charge for the handling of such items.
- Embalming Procedures: The funeral home cannot charge for embalming procedures the consumer did not authorize. In fact, in most cases, embalming is not a legal requirement.
This is only a partial list of consumer rights related to funeral home services. For the complete list, please visit the FTC’s website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule.
No one likes the idea of looking for deals when planning a funeral. The truth is, though, that funeral home expenses, as well as the less expensive alternatives described later, vary in price by thousands of dollars. By simply contacting three separate funeral homes (if that is the chosen route), a consumer can save thousands of dollars in overall expenses. This simple step could make the difference in achieving your affordable funeral goals.
The casket is usually the most expense part of a funeral. The cost of a casket alone can exceed $12,000, or it can be as low as a few hundred dollars. The trick is to know where to shop for one. Of course, funeral homes have options available, and the funeral home is where a lot of people end up purchasing the casket. It is convenient and there are many choices available. However, the mark up on caskets sold at funeral homes can exceed 300% (after all, they are a business), so it makes good sense to shop around.
Niche retailers sell caskets and urns, both at stores and through their websites. Large general merchandise stores sell them, too. Both Costco and Walmart sell caskets online, and since the funeral home is not allowed to refuse the delivery of the casket, and they cannot charge for the handling of the casket, a consumer can literally save thousands of dollars on this single item purchase.
By foregoing the cost of sealing the casket (which is not necessary), the consumer can save hundreds of dollars as well. In fact, the process of sealing the casket costs less than $20, but it is only the markup that brings the charge to several hundred dollars. It is simply not a necessity.
No law requires embalming of a body if the burial is going to take place within a reasonable amount of time (unless the body is being taken across state lines). In the vast majority of situations, refrigeration is acceptable. Many funeral homes will state that they have a policy that requires a body be embalmed if it is to be publicly viewed, but there is no law that requires it. Of course, preservation of the body until the burial is practical, but refrigeration is an option. This can save anywhere from several hundred dollars up to $1,000 or more on the funeral expenses.
There is no requirement to hold a funeral at a funeral home. More and more people are opting to hold graveside only funerals, have the service at a church, or have a memorial service at someone’s home. If someone is interested in these options, they should contact the church clergy or cemetery representative directly to discuss options. These alternatives can save $2,000 or more on funeral expenses, and more importantly, they make the funeral more personal.
When faced with the devastating loss of a loved one, consumers should educate themselves related to their options. The funeral business is a highly profitable one because the funeral directors, who are businessmen and not clergymen, know they are dealing with vulnerable consumers. Don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of simply because of your loss. Shop around, ask critical questions and make yours an affordable funeral.