Ways to Save Money

How Much Does a Funeral Cost? We Couldn’t Believe the Answer

Updated March 9, 2016
by Susan Shain
Senior Writer
how much does a funeral cost

Death isn’t fun to think about, but it is inevitable.

While we’re all busy trying to save money each day, most of us have probably haven’t given much thought to saving money when we die.

That neglect could end up costing you or your family a lot — financially and emotionally.

So whether it’s in preparation for your death or for a loved one’s, you should shop around for funeral homes now.

It may sound morbid, but could save you thousands of dollars. The price discrepancies between funeral homes are astounding.

Seriously…

These Numbers Will Convince You to Shop Around for Funeral Homes

The first warning bell: The funeral industry is notoriously murky when it comes to its prices.

In a recent survey of 150 funeral homes, only 25% fully disclosed prices on their website, and 16% didn’t even disclose prices when called or emailed.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) survey conducted last year consisted of 15 different funeral homes in 10 metro areas.

In addition to showing how shady funeral homes can be, the study also revealed why: an insane disparity between prices.

How much does a funeral cost?

Full-service funerals ranged from $2,580-$13,800. Prices for the same services within a single area “almost always varied by at least 100%” — and often by more than 200%!

Here’s a chart so you can see the numbers yourself:

Source: FCA + CFA Survey

Nutty, right?

Since my region in Florida wasn’t included, I decided to do a little research and see if results were similar.

Unsurprisingly, they were.

Prices for direct cremation in the Saint Petersburg area range from $525-$2,995. That’s a difference of almost $2,500 for the same service — how can that be?

Probably because when you’re grieving, you don’t want to shop around.

“The lack of price competition is unfortunate given the relatively high cost of funeral services and the reluctance of many bereaved consumers to comparison shop for these services,” explains CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck.

Which is why it’s good to do so now, before you suffer a loss.  

“Planning can make a big difference in terms of your mental state, versus when you’re dealing with a death and have to make this decision,” adds Suzette Sherman, founder of SevenPonds, a website that provides information and resources to help people with end-of-life planning.

A Few More Ways to Save on Funerals

While the numbers convinced me to shop around, I wondered if there were other simple ways to save on funeral costs.

Sherman shared these tips:

1. Opt for Direct Cremation

If you’re not interested in viewing or visitation, direct cremation is an affordable option.

Instead of using a funeral home, hire a crematorium to pick up and cremate the body.

“You’re not paying for the frills of the funeral home with their rooms and all the overhead,” Sherman explains. “You’re only paying the cost of the actual crematorium.”

To find services in your area, Google “direct cremation” plus your city.

2. Join the Funeral Consumers Alliance

The Funeral Consumers Alliance is a national nonprofit organization “dedicated to protecting a consumer’s right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral.”

By joining one of its regional affiliates, you’ll receive a list of prices at local funeral homes, as well as member discounts.

Lifetime membership in my city costs just $20.  

“They have a partnership to get you the best price in whatever your area is,” explains Sherman.

Membership in their local memorial society helped this family save thousands of dollars, and provided support during an emotional and stressful time.

3. Skip Embalming and the Casket

Don’t get embalmed, and don’t get cremated in a casket.

Sherman says neither is necessary.

Embalming isn’t required in any state — refrigeration usually suffices — and you can actually be cremated in a cardboard box.

Lastly, Make Sure You Know Your Rights

While researching this post, I was surprised to discover the Federal Trade Commission has a Funeral Rule protecting the rights of funeral consumers.

If a funeral home fails to comply with any of these regulations (not all that uncommon), avoid and report it.

According to the Funeral Rule, you have the right to:

  • Get price quotes over the phone — without disclosing any personal information.
  • Get a written, itemized price list when you visit the funeral home.
  • Buy individual items and services, rather than a package.
  • Use an “alternative container” for cremation, instead of a casket.
  • Provide your own urn or casket — at no extra charge.
  • Skip the embalming process entirely.

Click here to read your rights in more detail.

Why You Should Shop Around Before It’s Too Late

No matter how committed a Penny Hoarder you are, you’re not going to feel like shopping around when a loved one dies.

And neither is your family.

So, don’t wait — do it now.

Compare prices and find a reasonably priced funeral home in your area.

Then, if a loved one dies, you’ll know where to turn — and if you die, your family will.

Your Turn: Are you surprised by the price discrepancies between funeral homes? Have you planned your funeral expenses?

Susan Shain, senior writer for The Penny Hoarder, is always seeking adventure on a budget. Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.

by Susan Shain
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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