6 Ways to Reduce Funeral Costs & Save Money on Funeral Expenses

By: Dannie Phan | May 4, 2020

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) has been tracking funeral expenses since 1986. Americans are paying 230% more for funerals than they did 40 years ago! Compare this to an increase of only 125% for the cost of other commodities.


How much does the average funeral cost? What can you do to prepare for this expense for a loved one or for yourself? Is there any way to save on funeral expenses? Here is our guide on the best ways to save money on funeral costs.


How to Save on Funeral Costs

Some businesses might verbally inflate their prices in the hopes that you will agree to them. Ask the funeral home for their General Price List. They are required by law to show this to you. Each price list should have a separate line entry for each item. If you have a budget to stick to, select only basic services or items that you want.

  1. You do not have to purchase services that you do not want or need.
  2. As with everything in life: Shop around. Get cost estimates from three or more funeral homes before deciding on where you will be taking your business.
  3. You do not have to buy your casket or urn from the funeral home. These items can have inflated prices as funeral homes consider their clients a captive audience. The same goes for the flowers and programs.
  4. Make the memorial service programs and prayer cards yourself or assign the task to a friend or family member.
  5. Embalming and body preparation can be costly and unnecessary. If the body is not going to be buried quickly enough, you can ask about refrigeration instead of embalming.
  6. Consider a direct burial or a direct cremation. If you are on a very tight budget, consider opting out of the funeral services and ceremonies. Host an intimate at-home service instead.


What is the Average Cost of a Funeral?

In 2019, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) estimated the cost of the average funeral to be at $6500. This cost excludes the burial fees such as the burial plot and headstone. Add these to the mix and you are looking at a figure closer to $10 000.


Here is a Funeral Cost Breakdown

  • A non-negotiable for all funerals is the fee for the funeral director’s services. This fee covers the cost of securing permits, as well as the labor and equipment for arranging the funeral planning and coordinating services. The funeral director’s fee is usually around $2195.
  • The first step in this process is to move the remains to the funeral home. This can cost you $350.
  • How much does a casket cost? In a traditional funeral, the casket is often the most expensive item. This is a very personal choice. Caskets can be made from wood, fiberglass, plastic, or metal. The choice of wood can be anything from untreated pine to polished mahogany with brass handles to solid metal casket. The casket cost can be anything from $2000 - $10 000 and more. For the environmentally-conscious, an eco-friendly or biodegradable casket might be more sought after. The price range is quite extensive. Starting with $50 for a cardboard casket to $1500 for a woven or wicker casket.
  • Embalming is not essential. However, it is often required for open-casket services or if the body is going to be in transit for a certain length of time. The average cost for embalming $750.
  • If the body is going to be viewed in an open casket, you will want to consider cosmetic preparations at an average cost of $255.
  • You will also need to pay for the use of the funeral home’s facilities for viewing. This cost will depend on the amount of space needed and the duration of viewing hours. Approximately $425.
  • If you choose to host the funeral ceremony at the funeral home, a further $500 must be added to the funeral costs.
  • To transport the deceased from the funeral home to the cemetery, you might want to make use of a hearse. The cost, including the driver, is between $275 - $325. A more affordable alternative is to transport the body in a service car or van. This will cost roughly $150.
  • Most funeral homes will offer a printed memorial package. These usually include programs and prayer cards. Depending on the service provider, these will cost around $175.

What are the Average Costs of a Cemetery Burial?


The cemetery costs are separate from the funeral costs. Burial costs include:


  • The cemetery plot. This is the piece of land in the cemetery that is purchased for the burying of a body. The cost of a funeral plot can vary dramatically depending on the location of the plot and the type of plot. A plot in a public cemetery can cost between $1000 - $4000. A burial site in a private cemetery could cost even more. Some cemeteries will also charge additionally to dig the grave – this can cost in the region of $600.
  • Grave liners or burial containers. This serves to protect the coffin from the weight of the earth and heavy machinery that may pass over it. Usually made from metal, a burial liner or grave vault can cost approximately $1000.
  • Grave markers and headstones. This is where costs can escalate. Even a plain, flat grave marker can set you back hundreds of dollars. However, custom upright gravestones can run into the thousands.

Who Is Responsible for Funeral Costs?

If the deceased has appointed an executor of their estate, they are responsible for planning the deceased’s funeral arrangements and ensuring that payment is made. Typically, the assets of the decedent are turned over to the executor as a trustee of the estate. The executor will ensure payment of “legitimate expenses following death”.


In the absence of an executor, the onus of arranging and paying for a funeral falls on to the shoulders of the deceased’s next of kin.


How to Plan for Funeral Costs

Knowing how costly a funeral can be, many are pre-planning ahead for this eventuality. Individuals choose to pre-pay for a funeral or gravesite, while others take out funeral insurance or burial insurance policy. A precaution: make sure that you know where your money is going when you pre-pay for a funeral. The last thing that you want is for that company to go bankrupt and your funeral pre-payment to become obsolete!


The most traditional way of ensuring funds for a funeral once you pass on is to take out a life insurance policy. The benefit of a life insurance policy is that the funds can be used for more than a funeral. If you leave family members behind that are financially dependent on you, this policy can help them to weather the storm for the first while after your passing.


Another option is to set aside funds for a funeral. Open a savings account and pay over small amounts of money each month according to your budget. Just make sure that you are not the only person named as the account holder!


As with everything in life. Preparedness is key. Doing your due diligence to find out more about the cost of a funeral beforehand can go a long way in being financially prepared for them.



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