Respect for your loved one doesn't have to be overly expensive

How to Plan a More Affordable Funeral

by Debra Karplus

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According to, the average funeral in North America in 2015 can cost between $7,000 and $10,000. To most people, that sounds like quite a high price tag for a service, burial, headstone, and some extras. One family states that they recently spent over $25,000 on their father's funeral; they wanted the best for Dad. But there are many respectable ways for a beautiful final send-off for a loved one in the spirit that they would have desired, without breaking the bank. So what are some ways to save money on a funeral?

Before the Service

Most families want an obituary in their local newspaper for at least one day. Others may want more than one day or an obituary in an additional town if the deceased has some roots in that area. One large city newspaper charges about $450 per day for a standard sized obituary. They add to that price if a photo is included. The newspaper in a smaller town just 100 miles south, charges $12.50 per inch of copy plus $12 for a photo. Find out if your local newspaper has a way to shave off some of the cost of a well-written obituary.

Funeral homes are businesses just like the big box stores at the mall. You can reduce the cost of a funeral considerably by having the service at your church or synagogue and purchasing what you need for the day of the funeral "a la carte" rather than as a package as many funeral homes typically offer.

The person that officiates the service may charge as much as $1500, but clergy often charge less. Be aware of funeral customs specific to your religion. Embalming can cost about $500, but some faiths typically do not embalm the deceased.

The Funeral Service

The casket may be the single biggest expense on funeral day. Size is not so much a contributing factor to the price as is material and how fancy it is. A casket can cost about $2300 or as much as $10,000 for a top-of-the-line casket. But, though this may sound cheesy, a lovely casket with "next day delivery" can be purchased online for under $1000.

A burial vault, the metal "holder" that is around the casket in the gravesite, may be required. Find out what is required in your area before you spend up to about $1000 on this vault. It simply may not be necessary.

Other expenses will include flowers, guest books, service programs, thank you cards, and other incidentals that can add up quickly. If you purchase these on your own rather than "as a package" through a funeral home, there can be big savings.

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Procession to the Grave Site

According to, a hearse can cost anywhere from $150 to $600. A funeral limousine can seat about seven people, but this varies. A baby in a car seat counts as an adult. More family members riding in the front of the procession means more limos. At about $600 depending on the "going rate" for funeral limos in your area and the number of miles from the location of the funeral service to the cemetery, you might be able to simply use one limo exclusively for immediate family members.

Many people purchase a cemetery plot years in advance of their passing in order to be buried near family, a spouse, siblings, or children. If your loved one does not yet have a gravesite, add about $1000 to funeral costs. And, perhaps at a later point in time, you will need a headstone at about $1500, depending on size and other factors. Expect to be charged for the digging of the grave (opening and closing) on the day of the burial, up to about $1000.

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Alternatives to a Funeral

Cremation is not an accepted practice in some religions, but it is a much cheaper way to go for families that choose cremation. The procedure can cost as little as $540 and higher depending on where you live. There is a huge range in price on urns. Expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $2000 for a high end urn.

There are typically no "early bird specials" for those who plan a funeral long before the death, but much stress can be reduced for the grieving family if they are able to know what the deceased would have wanted ahead of time and can begin to make plans before they are consumed with emotion.

Reviewed June 2017

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

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