How to Plan an Affordable Funeral, So Your Family Isn’t Buried in Debt

funeral costs
Don LaVange under Creative Commons

You have an emergency fund. You have a retirement fund. You’ve got health insurance, a great rate on your mortgage, and low credit card debt. When it comes to doing money right, you’re having it all.

But what happens when you’re not here anymore?

Yes. I mean death. Kicked the bucket. Bought a one-way ticket. No matter how much you try to avoid it, your time will come.

And funerals? They can be expensive. Crazy expensive. And if you don’t think about this ahead of time, your funeral costs will be crazy expensive not for you, but for your family.

Who wants to leave heir family with that kind of financial burden?

So now, while you’re in decent health and living a life you’re satisfied with, is the perfect time to think about the sendoff you’d like when that time comes.

To prepare, check out Aaron Jones’ recent post at And Then We Saved, which has the perfect title for this uncomfortable topic: Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Having an Inexpensive Funeral.

Jones isn’t trying to make you feel bad about any funeral choice. He acknowledges that different religions and cultures have different ways of saying goodbye to their loved ones.

But he also recognizes that funerals can cost $8,000 to $10,000 — or more. “Imagine, with inflation, the cost of your funeral,” he says.

“Obviously, no specific means of burial is ‘wrong’ and it’s a personal decision,” Jones assures. But the list of options he’s compiled is worth checking out.

Funeral Alternatives: More Than Just Burial or Cremation

Most of Jones’ tips involve minimizing the use of funeral homes and funeral directors, as the cost of a formal viewing or memorial service can jack up the price of your sendoff. He also notes that traditional funeral things like caskets have a huge markup.

So Jones recommends cutting out the middleman, because no one wants to be the one who has to say, “No, thank you, funeral director. The casket with the velvet lining is just too expensive.”

Consider an alternative: cremation. Not just regular cremation, which costs about $1,000-$2,000 even if you keep the urn simple. We’re talking old-fashioned funeral pyres.

Although it was the funeral of choice for ancient societies, open-air cremations aren’t exactly the norm in the U.S. — and in a lot of places, they’re illegal. But one company, the Crestone End of Life Project, offers these ceremonies for a cost of about $425, Jones says. Their range is limited to one local area in Colorado, but look for similar companies to crop up in the near future.

Crestone also offers green burials, a method that’s now offered in several states, including California, New York and Florida.

There’s no embalming, no traditional caskets — biodegradable materials are used for a more natural breakdown of each burial site. A green burial at Ramsey Creek Reserve in South Carolina costs between $550 and $3,500, but you’ll still need to work with a funeral home for transportation.

How to Have a Cheap Funeral: Plan Ahead

Deciding how you want your loved ones to celebrate your life isn’t an easy decision, or one that you should make on the fly just to save a bit of cash.

But it is something to consider now, so you can plan ahead — financially and emotionally — for whatever plan you choose to have carried out once you’re gone.

Maybe knowing there’s always a few thousand dollars in your savings account is enough for you to be comfortable with whatever others plan when the time comes.

But if you’re certain of the sendoff you want — or certain elements you don’t want — be sure to communicate those plans, either by speaking with your family or friends or by preparing instructions to be followed in your absence.

Your loved ones will probably only sign up for a wallet-friendly funeral pyre if you explicitly request it. That’s why now, when you’re in good shape, is the time to make those requests.

Hop over to And Then We Saved for the rest of Jones’ cheap funeral recommendations.

Your Turn: What kind of funeral would you choose? How much does money play into your decision?

Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor, and podcaster living in Baltimore.