How to Save Money on Funeral Costs


Death is not something that anyone wants to discuss or even think about. It’s a tragic loss. Even though we all know that none of us will get out alive, we cannot help but fear death. Perhaps it is a simple fear of the unknown. Perhaps it is fear of leaving behind our loved ones or losing our loved ones too soon; I don’t know. It’s different for everyone, but we have to discuss our funeral, our expenses and our life insurance with our loved ones. It is not an easy conversation to have.

Let me tell you a story about my life and my future (hopefully my very, very, very distant future) death. My husband and I have been married more than 10 years and we have four kids (7, 4, and 1.5-year-old twins). We have a lot to be thankful for and we have a lot of amazing blessings in our lives for which we are eternally appreciative. We have big families and ample loved ones in our lives. We know we have it good. But we also know that we will not be around forever. When we first met with our attorney to discuss our wills, it was a terrible moment in my life. We put it off for years (something we never should have done) and it wasn’t until the twins were born and our families were discussing how they all wanted to take the kids should anything unfortunate and terrible happen to my husband and I that we realized we needed to make a will (God forbid certain family members end up raising our kids, you know?).

To sit down and discuss with a stranger how our life insurance is allocated, what we owe on various belongings and how we want to divvy up our assets was bad. Discussing with a stranger how we want to be buried/cremated and how we want our kids to be ‘divvied up’ or ‘passed on’ to other family members was gut wrenching. I tear up just thinking about it. It’s necessary, though. We will both die one day (hopefully when we are 100 or more) and we will need to have our funeral pre-arrangement plans in place so that our living loved ones are not burdened with that. When my grandmother passed away in August, it was difficult to sit and listen to her 7 living children argue over how she would be buried/cremated/ashes spread. She had no will and no one could agree – I don’t want that for me or my husband.

However, I also don’t want anyone spending a fortune on me. I just want my body cremated, I want a portion of my ashes lowered into the family plot and I want my loved ones all in yellow pouring my favorite wine over my ashes as they’re lowered into the ground while they all sing Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,” and then I want them to celebrate all the amazing and wonderful times we had together with laughter and happy memories.

Y’all think I’m joking.

Back to my point; did you know that even a basic funeral is something like $7,000 (my husband will just say that it’s my way of racking up the shopping even in death)? Dying, my friends, is not an inexpensive business, and that’s why we have a few ways you can save on funeral costs. Jot them down, plan for them, discuss them – whatever you want, but go ahead and apply them as needed.

I will warn you that this is not a fun topic. It’s a difficult conversation to have. It hurts, and you will cry. The idea of death is something we all know is coming to us, God willing when we are old and have lived fulfilling, beautiful lives that have meant something and provided greatness and even just a touch of class to the world. We will all die, but there is no need for us to pretend it is not going to happen, neglect to plan for our funeral costs and leave that burden to our surviving family members. Think of the grief and the pain they will experience upon your death and ask yourself if you want to add to that grief by leaving them completely unprepared both mentally and financially to handle your funeral costs.

You’re Not Required to Have a Funeral

One misconception many people have is that they are required to have a funeral; you are not. You do not have to do anything of the sort, and it’s an option that many families are choosing more and more often. When the funds simply are not there to help pay for the funeral costs you might incur, it’s easier for families to simply forgo the funeral experience at all. Additionally, sometimes families cannot agree on a funeral and it ends up never happening. This is true of my grandmother’s very unexpected recent passing.

She passed in August waiting on the air conditioner repair man to come to her Florida home and repair her AC. At only 78, her body simply could not handle the heat and she had a heart attack, dying on a Friday morning. She had eight children, including my mother, one of whom passed away more than a decade ago. The remaining seven siblings were all told something different by my grandmother. They all knew for certain she was terrified of small spaces and did not want to be buried, but rather cremated. Otherwise, she told one child she wanted to scattered off the boat in the nearby Gulf. She told another she wanted her ashes released at Disney World because it was her favorite place on earth. She told yet another she wanted to have her ashes spread in a lake up north, and she told another she wanted to have her ashes buried next to her husband’s plot. She told some she wanted a big splashy funeral and others she wanted nothing.

Unable to agree on anything, they have decided to keep her ashes in an urn at the current moment and we held a very small, private memorial at my home in which I had everyone come over and have dinner, we said a prayer and we spent time together as a family. It’s what was thought best by everyone since no one could agree on anything and I was adamant we were not doing nothing.

The point, however, is that you are not required to have a funeral, if you choose not to do so. You are free to celebrate the end of your life as you see fit, though you will need to have someone call the funeral home to collect your body (if you pass at home).

What You are Required to Pay

No matter how you look at it, you will pay at least $2,000 in funeral costs for the basic service, e.g. caskets, flat grave markers, etc. Since you are not permitted to do with a body what you please, you are required to turn it over to a funeral home to handle the body in the correct manner. The basic cost of a funeral is this fee, and it includes very little more than just the funeral home taking the body, preparing the body and storing the body of your deceased loved one. The funeral home also has to create a death certificate and apply for a number of permits you are required to pay for. Furthermore, they will do the task of making arrangements with you at the cemetery for burial if that is your ultimate plan. The funeral home director also cremates bodies, but that is another topic and another cost.

If you choose not to have a funeral, it will still cost your family at least two grand to have your body handled after death, so it is imperative that you are able to plan for that expense. It’s difficult to lose a loved one and then pay for her funeral expenses in addition to everything else.


If you are not planning on being cremated, another expense you will incur is the cost of your casket. This is an expense that varies widely. You have so many choices and so many options, it’s often difficult to make the decision without feeling overwhelmed and out of sorts. There are metal caskets that are slightly more expensive, and there are caskets made of wood and other materials that are slightly less expensive. Caskets are available at your funeral home for a fee, and they are also available online.

Did you know you can order a casket straight from Amazon and even Walmart? Costco also sells them. The prices are much less expensive to order a casket online, but you have to have somewhere to store the casket until your death, which is a little bit strange and scary to some people so they opt not to go this route. What might help you out if you would rather allow your funeral home to handle the casket situation is knowing that funeral homes have more than just the few that they choose to show you.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that families ask to see a list of caskets and prices in addition to the ones that are being presented to them by the funeral director. Most funeral homes do not display their least expensive options so that you can save money. However, you will expect to pay at least $900 for a casket – the lowest price online through a major retailer.


This is an expense most people are not even aware of when it comes to planning a funeral. When caskets begin to deteriorate underground, funeral homes do not want the ground to begin to cave in around the casket. To prevent this from happening, many of them require that you purchase a vault in which to store your casket so that when it does begin to deteriorate, the vault remains intact preventing the ground from sinking or caving in.

The price for something like this varies widely, though the average cost is around $1,300. Again, ask your funeral home director if you can see a price list of all the different vaults available since this is the only way you’re usually able to see the least expensive options available. There are many, but funeral homes tend to only show off ones in the median price range and ones in the higher price range to those who come into a funeral home to plan for these types of expenses.

Body Preparation

Here’s where things begin to become a bit difficult. No one wants to think of their loved one’s body being filled with fluid or their hair being styled when they are in death. However, it’s a service that is typically offered to those who are paying for funerals. If you choose to have a full-on funeral with a viewing, most funeral homes will require that you pay for embalming services. The average fee for something like this is $945, but you can avoid the cost by asking not to have a viewing.

Or you can pay the cost, and trim it in other ways. You are not required to pay the funeral home to prepare a loved one’s hair and makeup in death. Most people do, so that the last memory they have of their loved one’s body is of it looking as close to normal as possible, but this service is not a requirement. Go ahead and forgo it if you are looking to save costs, and forgo the entire viewing if you really want to save costs at a funeral.

Facility Use

It might see as if use of a funeral home and its facilities for your funeral are included in the first cost of using a funeral home in the first place, but that would be sensible and upfront. Instead, funeral homes then tack on an additional average price of $1,015 for anyone who uses the space to hold a viewing or an actual funeral. The fee is then added onto the price you are already paying the funeral home to ensure that your loved one is able to have the funeral you might want for them.

The good news is that the Federal Trade Commission states that most people are simply forgoing this aspect of a funeral anymore. They are now agreeing that they do not want their funeral in a funeral home, and they do not want to use the facility. If you are not holding a viewing of any sort, why not choose a location that is a bit more neutral for your actual service, such as your home, a public park or even your family’s church? You do not need to spend time in a funeral home hosting a funeral; it’s not cost-effective and it’s not something that many people feel comfortable with. After all, funeral homes are very sad.


This is one fee that many people are happy to pay since they do want their loved ones taken from the funeral home to the cemetery if they are being buried. The car service for your family as well as the hearse for your loved one is a combined average cost of only $461 according to national statistics, so it might be a fee that you are all right with. We recommend that you take this fee and you use it if you are transporting the body, since it is a nice service for a family. It’s not too much, but you might also be able to see if there is a car service available for you to book on your own that is a little less expensive. That’s all right, too; but the hearse is necessary if you plan on removing a body from a funeral home and taking it to a cemetery.

The Cost of Cremation

Believe it or not, the NFDA believes that this is the year that more people will choose cremation services over traditional burial. This is due to a number of different factors, including the overall cost. While it’s not significantly less expensive to cremate one’s body, it’s around $1,000 less expensive than a traditional burial and to some people, that is a lot of money. The casket used to cremate a body is one that is far less expensive than the ones used to bury a body.

However, funeral homes will charge you far more for cremation caskets than other locations it’s actually recommended that you look online for alternatives. Federal law states that all funeral homes must accept any casket that you want for your family, and there are plenty of cremation caskets available online at just about every retailer your might imagine, including Costco. These are as inexpensive as only $55, which is far less than the standard price of around $1,000 you might find at a funeral home.

Once your body is cremated, your ashes have to be stored somewhere. An urn is the traditional choice for ash storage, and many funeral homes offer options that are far more expensive than others. However, the FTC requires that your funeral home accepts any type of storage container a family provides when dealing with the death and cremation of a loved one – even if your choice of storage is a plastic bag that has a zip top. Your decision here is a personal one, but know that the storage containers for body ash are more expensive at a funeral home than they are anywhere else. A quick internet search might provide you with far better alternatives to this storage solution than anywhere else, which might make your job that much simpler.

The Best Money Saving Technique

No matter which route you decide to take for your funeral, the most cost-effective method of saving money on your funeral costs is simply to shop around. It might seem a bit inappropriate at first thought to want to shop funeral home prices, but it’s not. It’s the best way to save money, and it’s not considered tacky or inappropriate in the least to want to save money on this. Funerals are costly and often put many families in a financial situation that is awkward and uncomfortable for them when they are faced with the death of a loved one and the lack of finances to afford a burial or even a cremation. Your job is to shop around for the best prices and options.

  • Get a detailed price list
  • Negotiate
  • Buy your own items elsewhere
  • Work with your funeral home

Call around to local funeral homes and find out which one is offering the lowest rates, which one is most likely to work with you to create a wonderful goodbye for your loved one that is not going to break the bank.

Another very simple idea is to consider asking your loved ones what they want done for their own funeral. It’s not a fun conversation to have, but it is one that is necessary in so many different aspects. When you know what they want, it might spark them to consider making their own plans so that you have some help from them after death in planning their funeral. You might also consider allotting a bit of your own savings or funds to go toward your funeral costs so that your loved ones are not left with the expense of your funeral when you pass on. It’s a very personal decision, but it is one that is worth consideration. Your family is important to you, and we know that you want to do whatever you can to help them out after your death so that their time of grief is not made even more stressful and unbearable than it already is.

Photo by Getty Images


Leave a Reply