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How to Pay for Funeral Expenses

Funerals are an opportunity for friends, family, and loved ones to honor and remember those who have passed on.  These services are often the only opportunity many people will have to say goodbye to a close friend or relative, and as such, funeral services are planned with meticulous care and often with no expense spared.  This can often lead to a strain on family finances at an already difficult time. Researching funeral service costs in advance and potentially purchasing burial insurance to cover expected costs can go a long way to reducing financial stress.

Average Funeral Costs

According to the National Funeral Directors Association 2012 report, the average funeral cost $7,323, not including flowers, transportation and other optional charges.  If you’re planning your funeral budget or trying to price the funeral of a loved one, make sure to make a list of the required services and products needed, as well as the optional items that you prefer to have as well.

Required Services and Optional Charges

No matter what type of burial you choose, there are certain fees that cannot be avoided.  Legally speaking, the ‘Funeral Rule’ allows funeral homes to charge their clients for administrative services including procuring permits and death certificates, preparing death notices, coordinating all arrangements for the funeral between the cemetery, the crematory and other relevant service providers and a general service fee.

Fortunately for consumers, the Funeral Rule also requires that all funeral directors maintain a general price list (GPL) which itemizes all of the available services offered and how much they cost.  However, consumers must know to ask for this GPL, or funeral directors are not required to supply it unless a specific service is requested.  Nevertheless, one easy way of determining the average funeral cost is to gather a sampling of GPLs from funeral homes in a specific area and to review them from the comfort of your home when you can make an informed decision without pressure from salespeople or funeral directors.

Cost of Common Products and Services

Many people end up wanted more than they can afford at their funeral because they have no idea what funeral services cost.  We have tried to make it easy for you to budget your funeral costs by estimating several of the most common costs you will be faced with.  Not all of these services and products are required, so make an itemized list of the ones that you want to come up with a total.

There are also many optional upgrades that consumers may choose to incur to add beauty or dignity to the ceremony.  Potential upgrades include:

  • Casket costs: Until recently, caskets cost an average of $2,500-$4,500 for traditional caskets crafted from metal, wood or fiberboard, and were available for purchase at funeral homes only.  In the past few years, however, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that all funeral homes must accept caskets purchased elsewhere, such as online or at a savings club, some of which now offer these products.  Caskets purchased from such sources may cost as low as under $1000 for a simple casket.  Those looking to embellish their service can opt for a luxurious casket made from mahogany, or one decorated with bronze, copper or other semi-precious metals, as well as a plush velvet interior.  These high-end caskets may cost upwards of $10,000.  Finally, it is worthwhile to know that no state requires the use of a casket by law, so those on a tight budget may be able to avoid this expense by using a simple approved cardboard casket.
  • Embalming: Though not required by law in most states, embalming is an option available to anyone who wishes to have a public viewing of the deceased.  The cost for embalming ranges from approximately $600 to around $2000, depending on the chemicals used and the cosmetology required.  Embalming tends to add supplemental expenses to the funeral costs as well, as it is usually paired with extended viewing of the body or a more expensive casket lining to accommodate the chemicals used during the embalming process.
  • Flowers:  The cost of flowers for a funeral fluctuates dramatically depending on the arrangement chosen.  A simple arrangement, for example, may cost as little as $100, while a spray of expensive flowers can cost several thousand.  Some funeral homes or florists may offer silk flowers for rent which will reduce the cost of funeral flowers.  Some florists also recommend silk flowers as a way to increase the longevity of the bouquet if it is meant to be placed on an outdoor grave.  Consider how you plan to use the flowers so that you can get price quotes for the type of arrangement you prefer.
  • Transportation: Many bereaved families opt to rent a limousine for the day of the funeral so that they don’t have to worry about driving themselves and so that they can be together during this most difficult of times.  Limousine rentals run approximately $200-$500 for the time of the funeral, which typically does not include a tip for the driver.
  • Headstone:  As in the case of the casket, the cost of a headstone ranges from a few hundred dollars to over $7000 depending on the origin and quality of the stone, the size and the design.  Exotic headstones are shipped to the United States from as far away as China and India, increasing the cost proportionally to the shipping and taxes, as well as the additional cost for the high quality stone.  Headstones can be purchased for a single grave or for a double grave.  In most cases, opting for a double headstone does not decrease the cost per grave in a significant way, but it is worth asking about if price is a determining factor when choosing the headstone.  When choosing the headstone it’s also important to consider the cost of engraving on the stone of your choice.  Engraving on more common stones such as marble or granite may cost slightly less than engraving on more exotic stones.
  • Funeral home: As always, the cost of funeral expenses at a funeral home is based upon the service provided during the ceremony.  Will there be a viewing?  For one day or two?  Will pallbearers be paid or will relatives perform this act?
  • Clothing: An excellent way to save money is to bury a loved one in his or her favorite outfit rather than investing in expensive clothing for the burial.  Nevertheless, it is not uncommon for the bereaved or the deceased to invest in costly burial garments that may run into the hundreds of dollars.

Perhaps the most important thing to understand when researching funeral costs is to realize that prices change regularly, and unless you have recently performed research of costs, you may end up needing to spend more than you anticipated.  It’s always a good idea to budget slightly more when planning to pay for a funeral as there may be additional fees or unexpected price increases. Nonetheless, proper research and planning can ensure that the funeral will be a fitting tribute to your loved one rather than a burdensome expense.

As you plan for your funeral or the future service of a loved one, consider your needs, expenses, and means.  Let us help you decide if a burial insurance policy will help you pay for your desired service.  Call 888-761-1026 to speak with a professional who can prepare a free burial insurance quote.

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