Casket covered in flowers

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The cost of a funeral is something many of us don’t want to think about until we have to — when faced with the death of a loved one. And, at those times, grief can interfere with the ability to make objective financial decisions.

If you are planning for your own future needs or a family member’s, a little research goes a long way, because  funeral expenses can vary dramatically based on the type of service and the goods used during the service.

If costs are a concern, you have options to reduce the total expenses of a funeral.

The average funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000. That typical price includes:

  • Services of the funeral director: $1,500
  • Casket: $2,300
  • Embalming: $500
  • Use of the funeral home for the funeral service: $500
  • Grave site: $1,000
  • Grave-digging service: $600
  • Grave liner: $1,000
  • Headstone: $1,500

Life insurance and good savings can help cover funeral bills.

Types of funeral costs

Funeral expenses typically consist of three categories:

1. The basic services fee covers the bare-bones services associated any funeral. They include:

  • Filing paperwork
  • Procuring permits
  • Securing a copy of the death certificate
  • Coordinating with a third party to plan the service (such as a crematory or cemetery)
  • General overhead expenses for the funeral home

If you are opting for a standard burial or cremation, the basic services fee should not vary. However, the fee may be slightly lower if you opt for one of the following options:

  • Direct burial
  • Direct cremation
  • Using the funeral home only to receive remains
  • Using the funeral home only to send remains

2. Optional goods and services can be purchased from the funeral home to customize the funeral to your preferences. Some items that might be added include:

  • Embalming of the body
  • Use of the funeral home or chapel for a viewing of the body
  • Funeral transportation
  • Casket
  • Urn
  • Outer burial container
  • Burial clothing

The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, specifically states that consumers have the right to buy items for the funeral service from a retailer other than the funeral home. If you want to buy these items at lower prices from a third party, the funeral home cannot charge you a fee for doing so.

Depending on the type of service you choose, the funeral home can require specific procedures. For example, if you want to have a public viewing of the body, it is legal for the funeral home to require that you have the body embalmed. Inquire with the funeral home regarding its policies.

3. Cash advances are required for the services of a third-party vendor, such as a florist, musician, officiant or crematory. Cash advances are the fees associated with services or goods provided by these outside vendors.

Some funeral homes may charge a fee for paying these cash advances. If so, the funeral home must legally disclose this extra charge.

Controlling costs

With so many details, it is easy for funeral expenses to skyrocket. Consumers have a few options to keep funeral costs at a reasonable level.

Say no to embalming: If you prefer to have a closed-casket funeral or to forgo a visitation, there is no reason to have the body embalmed. Instead, opt for immediate burial or cremation. Skipping the embalming process cuts hundreds of dollars from the final bill.

Choose an economical casket: Caskets vary dramatically in cost, with the average falling at slightly more than $2,000, according to the FTC. However, caskets constructed from extravagant materials, such as mahogany, copper or bronze, may cost upwards of $10,000. There is no benefit to selecting a more expensive casket or ones marketed with special features. In the end, the purpose of the casket is to provide a medium to lower the body into the ground.

Conclusion

Using budget-friendly materials and forgoing extra add-ons helps lower funeral costs to a more affordable level. When deciding on funeral details, consumers should take care to keep their emotions from guiding their selections.