Frugal Funeral Planning

by Mike Boyd

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Would you consider purchasing a home, automobile, or other financial investments without shopping around and becoming as much of an educated consumer as possible on the particular subject? Probably not. Consumers do this frequently, though, when purchasing funeral and final disposition products and services. The purchase of funeral products and services is one of the largest but least researched expenditures made during our lives. Waiting until a death occurs (although sometimes unavoidable) can result in overspending and other problems. Are there ways to avoid this and save money when making funeral arrangements? Yes.

As much as possible, pre-plan your funeral and final disposition (cemetery) needs at a time when emotions are not involved. Call or stop into funeral homes, cemeteries, cremation/memorial service providers and learn about what each has to offer, acquire price information, and think about what you want prior to any purchase commitment. Then settle on a particular plan that you feel comfortable with and can afford.

If you are considering pre-financing, use caution. Pre-financing is purchasing funeral goods and services at today's prices for use in the future. Know exactly what prices of goods and services are guaranteed not to increase and what prices may increase over time. Get everything clearly defined in writing, including how much money will be returned should you decide to cancel the agreement prior to death. If necessary, have an attorney review any contract prior to signing it.

Taking an impartial person along with you when making these type of arrangements can help save money. Having a relative or friend there gives you the opportunity to discuss the situation with someone you can trust.

If you are planning a traditional type funeral with several days of visitation, consider the following:

  1. Limit the number of days a funeral home is rented for visitation (just reducing visitation by one day may save money) or consider using a home for viewing instead of a funeral home.
  2. Supply all clothing to be used versus purchasing it from the funeral home.
  3. Supply pallbearers instead of having the funeral home supply them.
  4. Know if embalming is necessary and eliminate it where possible.
  5. Consider using a rental casket where available, but weigh all the options. A final disposition container may be necessary, and this along with any rental casket fees may add up to more than purchasing a casket.
  6. Check out independent casket retailers who will ship a casket anywhere, but be careful. Although a receiving funeral home should not add on any fees to a casket not purchased there, other charges may be added, making it cheaper to purchase a casket at a funeral home.
  7. Know the cost of flowers, and consider limiting the number and size of the arrangements or choosing a less expensive type of flower.
  8. When designing a death notice for paid publication in newspapers, abbreviate as much as possible because newspapers usually charge on a per line basis. If considering cremation, contact several cremation, memorial societies and funeral homes in the area, as prices may vary from one facility to another.

In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enacted what is known to this day as the "Funeral Rule." This rule requires that funeral homes supply price lists and other information to consumers when making funeral arrangements. Acquire a copy of this publication from the FTC, so you know your rights. Call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 for a copy or review it on the web at

Some money saving tips for final disposition:

  1. If you plan on pre-financing cemetery property, use caution. Have it clearly defined in the purchase contract how much money will be returned to you should you cancel the agreement prior to death and want your money returned. You may want an attorney to review the contract prior to signing it.
  2. When selecting cemetery burial property, check out various location costs, so a less expensive burial site may be selected if desired.
  3. When selecting a mausoleum crypt, ask if it is more expensive to have a crypt located inside a building vs. outside. The same holds true for the purchase of a niche, which holds an urn.
  4. When selecting a crypt, ask if embalming and a gasketed casket are required to use the crypt. Either of the above will add to the cost of the funeral plan.
  5. Burial on your land may be possible, but consult with local authorities to find out if it is permissible and what regulations must be followed.

If you are a military veteran, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs for death/burial benefit information at 1-800-827-1000 or on the web at VA benefits save money.

Customized funeral planning may be possible. Discuss your ideas with personnel who can help accomplish what you want. The results can be gratifying.

Purchase a good unbiased, educational book about funeral planning and how to save money. The small investment should be well worthwhile.

Mike Boyd is a non-practicing funeral director who wrote the book How to Bankroll a Funeral without Breaking the Bank. The book is a guide to saving money when making funeral arrangements and is available from Mike directly at through bookstores on a special order basis. Satisfaction guaranteed. Copyright 2003 by: Mike Boyd

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