Save Money Arranging a Funeral or Cremation
Funerals can be unnecessarily
expensive, in fact so much so, that a funeral is usually the 3rd or 4th
largest single purchase you will make in your life behind a house, a wedding
and a car. Now would you go and purchase a house, or a car, without any
research or planning? No, of course not, most likely you would research
beforehand and compare like-for-like.
An average funeral today
costs in the region of $7,755 (National Funeral Directors Association 2012),
but you can save $$$ on arranging a funeral if you arm yourself with some
basic industry information and some top tips from some industry experts.
Firstly, planning ahead can
help you save $$$, namely because you have the time and the objectivity
to carefully review your funeral options. Unfortunately, this is not always
the case and many of us find ourselves suddenly thrust into the role of
funeral planner, often at the same time as trying to grieve!
So here we have outlined
5 Top Tips to help you save money. At the bottom of the page you
will find a checklist tool to help you collate your needs and put you in
control of saving money. Firstly…
THE FUNERAL RULE – Understand your consumer rights!
The Federal Trade Commission
(FTC) has legislation and rules to try and protect the rights of consumers
when purchasing funeral products and services. This was introduced
as a direct result of funeral homes not being completely transparent in
their sales strategies. A funeral is often referred to as a “distressed
purchase”, and sadly some within the funeral industry would take advantage
of peoples’ grief to sell to them. As a result certain laws and rules
were implemented to try and prevent this.
A funeral home MUST provide
you with a General Price List (GPL), fully itemizing the professional services
and funeral merchandise they sell. One of the single most costly
items to purchase for a funeral is the casket, and this is one thing that
the federal “Funeral Rule”* governs. Listed below are the basic rules
that the funeral home has to comply with:
Many consumers have been intimidated
or shamed into purchasing a casket from their chosen funeral home, or even
purchasing a more expensive casket than they really desired. A funeral
home will often show you three caskets – a bottom range, mid-range and
top range, expecting you to go for the mid-range, as nobody wants to appear
‘cheap’ and select the cheapest offered!
The Funeral Home must show you
descriptions of the available selections and the prices before actually
showing you the caskets.
The Funeral Home cannot refuse
a casket from another company, nor charge a handling fee.
The Funeral Home cannot ask
for a receipt of the casket purchased from another company.
The Funeral Home cannot require
the family to sign a disclaimer or waiver.
The Funeral Home cannot withdraw
a discount offer when the family chooses to purchase a casket from another
*Although the ‘funeral
rule’ is federal law, there are certain states where state law supersedes
this federal rule. This means that in these states caskets can NOT
be purchased from third-party suppliers. To find out the laws which
govern your state, check our ‘Guide to State Funeral Laws’.
2) DECIDE EXACTLY
WHAT TYPE OF FUNERAL SERVICES YOU REQUIRE BEFORE CONTACTING THE FUNERAL
It makes it much easier to
resist selling techniques, and clearly focus on what a funeral home can
offer you, if you have already decided upon what type of service you require.
Do you want a burial or a cremation? Do you want traditional full-service,
or a more simplistic life celebration? Are you going to purchase
a casket, or use a rental casket?
There are so many ancillary
services to consider when arranging a funeral today, and EVERYTHING has
a cost attached to it, that if you have already outlined what your needs
are, you are less likely to be drawn into additional services. Funeral
home personnel can be very adept and covert sales people, and will quite
happily compliment your request for a funeral with ancillary services without
highlighting the full costs. For example: funeral homes will offer to arrange
the obituary notice, but will often not inform you that they charge for
Being fully prepared
before contacting a funeral service provider enables you to remain in control
at a very distressful time.
3) COMPARE PRICES
It is vital to compare like-for-like
quotes from funeral homes. You will be astounded at just how much costs
can vary for the same service from different funeral providers in your
area. DO be aware that the brand ‘Dignity Memorial’ is owned by Service
Corporation International (SCI) who have over 1,800 funeral locations across
the United States. They bought up many Mom & Pop funeral homes
but retained the original names, so as to infer that they were still family-owned.
In some cases, the same staff stayed on to work for SCI. Although
a corporate entity, they do not operate economies of scale, they are a
profit-making corporation, and in general their charges for funeral-related
products and services can be higher than your local independent funeral
If you have several funeral
homes in your local area, call a few and ask prices. Do not be put
off if they are a tad evasive. Get their price for the type of service
you have decided upon. If they cannot simply give it to you over
the phone, then this should ring alarm bells!
4) SAVE $$$ ON
As mentioned above the casket
is the single most expensive item to be purchased for a funeral. The FTC
‘funeral rule’ does mean that in most states you have the right to buy
a casket from elsewhere than just your funeral home, and the funeral home
MUST accept it. Remember there are certain states that are an exception
to this rule, so be sure to check this out.
You can buy a casket online
from Walmart or CostCo, or one of the many casket retailers that now operate.
You CAN make significant savings on the prices generally quoted when purchasing
direct from a funeral home. It has been known that purchasing from a third-party
can make savings of up to 80%. In the main you can expect to purchase
a standard casket online for around $995, whereas you may find that a funeral
home will be quoting you at least double, or possibly triple, this price.
If you choose to opt for a cremation,
it is sometimes possible to rent a casket from the funeral home for the
visitation and funeral, eliminating the cost of buying a casket. If you
opt for visitation and cremation, ask about the rental option. Be aware
that your casket options may be limited with a rental casket.
Remember that it is your
RIGHT to be able to purchase from a third-party supplier, and that ‘over-paying’
for a casket can significantly push your funeral costs up!
In addition to the retail
giants we have mentioned above, you can find other casket suppliers by
searching online. Do thoroughly check out the supplier you chose,
as this is a business that has been hit by the recession and the decline
in casket sales, as we all shift more to cremation.
Steel - Steel is measured in
gauges. The gauge number indicates how many sheets of steel it would take
to make one inch. Steel will rust and pit over time.
Stainless Steel- Stainless Steel
is composed of chromium and nickel and is a metal that will not pit or
rust as soon as steel.
Copper- A premium selection,
copper is a semi-precious metal and will not rust or corrode.
Bronze- A premium selection,
bronze is a semi-precious metal and will not rust, corrode or oxidize.
5) SAVE $$$ BY ARRANGING
FLOWERS & THE OBITUARY
Cloth Covered - Pressboard covered
with cloth that comes in multi-textured finishes and is a low cost option.
Poplar- A hardwood stained to
resemble a different species of wood.
Pine - A softer wood that ranges
from white to yellow in color.
Oak - A hardwood that is lighter
in color than mahogany and cherry.
Cherry - A hardwood of variable
color averaging a moderate red.
Maple - A hardwood evenly textured
with natural luster.
Walnut - A durable hardwood
that varies in color from medium to dark brown.
Mahogany - A durable hardwood
that varies in color from pinkish to deep reddish-brown.
Most funeral homes will offer
to arrange the funeral flowers when discussing funeral requirements. The
charge for funeral flowers is an additional cost, and most funeral homes
will have a florist that they work with, in some cases even their own floral
business. Funeral flowers can be a significant additional expense, and
it is not uncommon for a funeral home to recommend more floral tributes
than are really necessary, it is yet another ancillary means by which incremental
profit is made. Similarly as with casket prices, the prices charged
by florists can, and do, vary. You will save a considerable amount of dollars
by arranging your own flowers, and checking prices with more than one florist.
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A funeral home may also offer
to organize an obituary notice on your behalf. This is yet another service
offered for which the fee the funeral home charges is likely to incur their
own incremental fee. In addition a funeral home will often enhance the
feature of their own business within the obituary – further benefiting
from ‘free’ advertising at your costs. Save money by writing your own obituary
notice and arranging directly with the local press to have the obituary
We have outlined in this
article a number of simple ways to save money in the process of arranging
a funeral. Our Checklist Tool below identifies the three main funeral options
offered to you by a typical funeral home. There are a number of alternative
options available to you depending upon your personal needs. Further information
about funeral alternatives is available on our web site. Whole Body Donation
is probably one of the fast-increasing means that can offer a virtually
cost-free end-of-life option, whilst also offering a unique way to be giving
a gift of life.
FUNERAL AND CREMATION
A traditional funeral includes
a visitation which provides loved ones and friends with an opportunity
to pay their respects to the
deceased and surviving family
members. Visitation is followed by a funeral service conducted at the funeral
home, or place of worship, the next day, after which the deceased is taken
to the final resting place.
CREMATION WITH A SERVICE
Family and friends attend
a service at the funeral home to memorialize the deceased in which the
ashes may or may not be presentbased on the desires of the surviving family.
When a direct cremation
occurs, the funeral home takes the deceased into their care until the appropriate
state permits are obtained and necessary documentation is completed. At
that time, the deceased is cremated and the ashes are returned to the family
unless other arrangements have been made. There is no formal viewing or
services with this option.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
STATE guides to funeral planning
Last Revised: 04/23/2013
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