After a death in the family, logistical tasks like making funeral arrangements can seem next to impossible. When you’re coping with grief, your primary concern is honoring your lost loved one. Yet it’s important to focus on the financial aspects to avoid going into debt.
Follow a few simple tips to help you make responsible financial decisions as you say good-bye to your loved one.
Breaking Down Funeral Costs
While the mourning period hardly seems like the time for bargain hunting or comparison shopping, it’s important to know that prices vary from one funeral home to another. It’s easy to overpay for a funeral if you don’t check to see what options are available. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) encourages people to check with at least two funeral homesto compare costs before making a purchase.
The FTC provides a Funeral Pricing Checklist to make it easier to determine a reasonable price quote. You may also consider joining a local affiliate of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, as many of these affiliates have negotiated discounts for members at certain funeral homes. This type of research can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Many funeral homes also offer packages of products and services that can reduce your total costs. But make sure you understand what you’re getting as part of a package, and know that you do not have to accept a package that includes items you do not want, because you have the right to purchase funeral goods and services separately.
For traditional funerals, a casket is typically the greatest expense. Funeral homes might not put their lower-priced models on display, but the FTC’s “Funeral Rule” requires them to provide pricing for their full line of caskets and other products and services when asked — if cremating, similarly ask for a full price list for urns. Protective features like sealers or gaskets add to the price of the casket, so make sure you understand what features you need or want before you purchase. Even if you choose cremation, you may need a casket if you plan a visitation or viewing.
If you need to reduce your funeral expenses, eliminating embalming can save hundreds of dollars. Refrigeration is a less expensive and more environmentally friendly option for preservation, though funeral homes may have policies on embalming when viewings and visitations are planned. Consult with your funeral director about his or her company policy.
Most cemeteries require a “grave liner” of reinforced concrete around the top and sides of the casket to maintain the integrity of the internment. A burial vault provides even greater security by completely surrounding the casket — but it commands a much steeper price.
If you choose cremation, and plan on ground burial for the urn, most cemeteries require that it be placed in an urn vault, a lined unit that encloses the urn. Columbariums may be another option for holding one or multiple urns.
Gravestones, mausoleum plaques, and columbarium plaques are generally available through the funeral home or cemetery, or can be bought through local or online retailers. As with caskets, prices vary widely among gravestones of similar quality. Some cemeteries have regulations about size and material to keep in mind when you’re considering options.
Considering Your Budget Needs While Honoring Your Family Member
Most funeral home directors are compassionate and caring, but they’re also concerned about making a profitable sale. So be sure to consider your budget and needs when making final decisions on behalf of your loved one. While you’re honoring your family member, remember that going into debt is no way to pay tribute.
When a death in the family occurs, it’s important to ask questions about funeral arrangements. Read about the Questions to Ask When Planning a Funeral.