Planning a funeral can get pricey. The fees for hiring a funeral director, having a service, buying a casket, and anything else you want for your loved ones can add up. The average funeral in America in 2012 topped $12,000 including cemetery plots and fees.
However, funerals don’t have to to cost that much! You can have meaningful funerals and memorials at any price point. Below are some resources that may offer financial support, tips to keep funeral costs low, as well as alternatives to a “traditional” funerals that will you save money on your own or your loved one’s send off.
Costs of funerals vary greatly from funeral home to funeral home, even within the same neighborhood or city. That’s because the cost for funeral home services is not regulated by the government – only the professional license is (in most states). This means that all funeral homes have the ability to set their own prices.
By calling a few (3-5) funeral homes that you are considering and requesting information on their services and pricing, you can cut your funeral costs dramatically. Be sure to ask for the prices of services à la carte so you can compare apples-to-apples. Keep in mind that the least costly funeral options are direct cremation and immediate burial.
Some local Funeral Consumers Alliances conduct and publish a regional price survey of area funerals home. These prove to be great resources in additional to your own research.
Funeral Assistance Programs
FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has announced that they are now providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred after January 20, 2020. The funds were approved under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Financial assistance is limited to a maximum of $9,000 per funeral and a maximum of $35,500 per application per state, territory, or the District of Columbia. Applicants may receive assistance for the funeral expenses of multiple deceased individuals, provided the cause of death is attributed to COVID-19 and occurred after January 20, 2020.
Read more about these dedicated funds here: FEMA Financial Assistance for COVID-19 Deaths.
Funerals today are very expensive and not everyone is able to afford them. Because of this some states offer burial or cremation assistance or benefits for indigent persons or families without a means to pay for funeral expenses for a loved one who received welfare of social service benefits.
If the deceased was part of a social assistance or welfare benefit program, there is a good chance that the state they live in also has a program that will help you pay for a funeral. This is usually called an "indigent burial". In this case, the state government will help you pay in full or in part for the funeral. We compiled a list of known funeral assistance programs across the United States.
Depending on what state you are from you may receive cash benefits through welfare or social assistance to help with your funeral needs. *Be sure to read the fine print for each state for additional eligibility requirements and to review the state's website for the most up-to-date informaiton.
Deaths that result from any variation of homicide may qualify you or your family for Crime Victim Assistance and Compensation. The loss of income, the cost of the funeral, and even the expenses for counseling may be covered if you qualify for the crime victims assistance and compensation program.
In instances where the cause of death of the deceased was automobile related there is a chance your auto insurance, or the auto insurance of the other party, will cover all or part of your funeral costs through the use of PIP, No-fault coverage, or accidental death coverage policies.
In most states, you have the option of caring for your child at home and without the care of a funeral director, which can help reduce funeral costs. If you choose to use the services of a funeral director, know that some locally-owned funeral homes and cemeteries offer burial and cremation services for babies at a discounted price or free of charge. Do not hesitate to inquire with several local funeral homes to see what accommodations they will make. In addition, financial aid assistance is available to those in need and are offered by the following organizations:
The Tears Foundation a nonprofit organization, aims to lift any financial or emotional burdens following the death of a child. They offer free support groups and provides funding for current infant funeral and burial expenses for families in need.
Angel Names Association offers programs designed to ease the financial burden burden following a stillbirth and provides support. The Securing End-of-Life Expenses (SEOLE) program provides needy families assistance with autopsy, funeral, burial and cremation expenses and the Grief Recovery Assistance Program (GRASP) provides funding and assistance to uninsured families seeking counseling services following a stillbirth.
SIDS Foundation, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Foundation, provides short-term assistance to individuals and families suffering an emergency hardship due to the sudden loss of a child to SIDS.
A funeral or memorial fund is a personal donation site where people can honor the memory of your loved one with a contribution towards the funeral or memorial expenses. There are a variety of platforms available that allow you to setup a campaign in minutes (see our platform comparison) providing you with a simple link to print in an obituary and share via email or social media. Now when friends and family offer to help, you’ll be ready with a real way to lend a hand. Simply ask them to donate online and help spread the word by sharing the link.
Learn more about crowdfunding for funerals and memorials and compare crowdfunding platforms in these articles on Crowdfunding for Funeral and Memorials.
Options for Keeping Funeral Costs Low
Another great resource for navigating the funeral planning process is to contact your local Funeral Consumer Alliance who can give you advice and guidance on individual state laws and assistance available. As the local experts, they can steer you in the right direction to have a meaningful funeral for yourself or your loved one no matter what your budget is.
Body donation is another great way to save money on a funeral. When you donate your body the organization you donate your body to absorbs most, if not all, of the costs of donating your body and the subsequent cremation. There is a a feel good factor as well - by donating your body you are also helping advance medical technology and teach aspiring doctors. Click the following link if you have more questions about saving costs and saving lives via body donation in lieu of a traditional funeral.
If you or your loved one is an honorably discharged veteran, you are likely eligible for veteran burial benefits. These benefits include getting a free burial plot in a national cemetery including opening and closing costs or a burial allowance to cover funeral costs. You are also entitled to a burial flag, government headstone, and a presidential memorial certificate. Here is a link to an article dedicated to the ins and outs of veteran burial benefits.
Direct burial and direct cremation can save a ton of money compared to a "traditional" funeral. Direct cremation saves a lot of money because you don’t have to pay for expenses like embalming, a viewing, a casket, or a burial plot with opening and closing fees. You can still have a memorial service for your loved one at the time of cremation or at a later date in a meaningful place for the deceased.
Direct or immediate burial saves money by getting rid of the unnecessary cost of embalming, viewing, and time required by the funeral home to host the extra services and viewing. With a direct burial, you can request to have a graveside service. Sometimes this is included and other times it costs extra. A graveside service can be hosted by the family, clergy, a celebrant, or the funeral director.
The good thing about both options is that you can have a meaningful ceremony that honors the life of the deceased whenever and wherever you want. Here are the definitions of direct cremation and direct burial courtesy of the Funeral Glossary.
You can skip the cost of funeral homes all together by having a home funeral. To have a home funeral you just need to pay for death certificates, a burial plot, and a casket. Home funeral guides often operate on a volunteer or donation basis to assist you in preparing and honoring your loved one after they die. You can find a home funeral guide by visiting the National Home Funeral Alliance website and reading more about home funerals and home funeral guides in our prior article.
In past articles we have talked about green burials and how they are able to help the environment. Green burials are also helpful for your wallet. By going green you can save yourself from many of the expensive funeral costs. Two ways to go green and save money when paying for a funeral are:
1. skip embalming
2. seek a cemetery that doesn't require use of a burial liner or a burial vault (natural burial grounds are great for this!)
On average if you cut these two expenses you can save around $1,900. Here is a link to more articles about green burials.
Payment Plans and Personal Loans For Funerals
In instances where you have exhausted all viable cost-reducing and fundraising options and the funeral costs are still over budget, consult with your funeral home of choice to see whether they offer payment plans. Some funeral homes offer in-house payment plans to spread the cost of the funeral over a longer period of time. Others may partner with a 3rd party finance company to offer financing programs for goods and services rendered.
Funeral payment plans are offered at each funeral home’s discretion, may or may not charge interest or a fee for this service, and approval is not guaranteed.
Financing from a 3rd party consumer-lender will be dependent on credit worthiness, down payments, and since the loans are generally unsecured loans, higher interest rates are generally charged.
Not all lenders will finance funeral costs, so it's best to inquire with your funeral director if they offer a payment plan or partner with a lending service that supports funeral and memorial financing.
At least one of the above options are available to help you pay for the cost of a funeral. Be sure to explore all options to find the one that best meets your family's needs and help you avoid an unnecessary financial burden when it comes time to pay for a funeral for yourself or your loved one.