Cheap Funeral: Arranging a Funeral on a Budget can still be dignified!

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Funerals can be expensive, so much so, that these days a traditional funeral service can be beyond the means of most families.  The average funeral costs around $8,000 and the average cremation costs in the region of $3,500.  With many families struggling to make ends meet, laying out thousands of dollars for a funeral is not an option anymore.

This consumer demand is fostering a trend towards more affordable funeral alternatives, and the industry is slowly responding.  If you are planning a funeral ahead of time, or have an immediate need to make funeral arrangements, becoming informed of your choices is the first step to managing your funeral budget. You CAN arrange a very dignified final send off for your loved one at a fraction of the cost if you are prepared to do things a little differently!

There is still some mythology permeating funeral purchases which makes us feel it is undignified to ask about funeral costs.  Family members can feel it is disrespectful to their loved one if throughout the arrangement process their decisions are influenced by the price.  This is completely wrong, and just as with any other large purchase you make, you should absolutely ensure you weigh up value for money and look to save money where possible.  You can honor your loved one’s memory for less than $1,000 in most areas of the United States.

So how easy is it to arrange a cheap funeral?  Below we have outlined 6 tips to help you plan an inexpensive funeral that is still as dignified as any full-service traditional funeral.

1. Do some funeral cost research in your area

Funeral costs from different funeral homes and crematories can vary considerably.  The first thing you need to do to arm yourself for organizing an affordable funeral is to know what the variables in funeral costs are in your area.  You need to make sure you are comparing like-for-like funeral services and packages.  More funeral homes are starting to publish funeral costs on their websites – so this helps.  But beware of the funeral home website that appears to offer a funeral price comparison for your area – often the funeral home may have selected ONLY higher cost funeral homes to compare themselves against!

The Federal Trade Commission’s ‘Funeral Rule’ makes it law that a funeral home MUST disclose their General Price List to you when you make an inquiry (whether by phone or in-person).  Unfortunately, many funeral homes still resist openly disclosing prices to potential customers.    Not all funeral homes publish their price list on their website (and sometimes those that do make it difficult to find or over-complicated to interpret).  If you phone a funeral home sometimes they will ask for your details and say that they need to get a funeral director to call you back.  This is all about positioning to do the ‘sell’ on you.  If they cannot simply disclose a price over the phone, or by email, then this should ring alarm bells!  

Cremation Funeral

3. Outline a funeral or cremation budget & stick to it

If you do not want to overspend on a funeral, the best thing to do is to set a budget and do your best to stick to it.  Do not let a funeral home pressure you into purchasing ancillary products and services that you do not really require.  If you keep your funeral plan simple you can minimize the overall cost.  Get a friend or associate to accompany you to the funeral home, or negotiate on your behalf with your requirements and your budget.  It is much easier to be objective when you are not personally involved!

4. Investigate what options there are to help you with funeral expenses

Today more families are seeking out financial assistance when faced with organizing a funeral.  There is limited support and this differs depending upon the state/county and your personal circumstances.  Some employers or unions offer death benefits, there may be life assurance or funds within the deceased’s estate or some charitable help.  Read our article on What are your options on how to pay for a funeral or cremation?

5. Consider other lower-cost funeral alternatives

As we have already mentioned you can arrange a simple and dignified funeral for under $1,000 in most areas of the United States if you so choose.  You DO need to be prepared to consider alternative options to fulfill this, such as cremation, a home funeral or natural burial.  Cremation will certainly reduce your funeral costs.  Opting for cremation can generally save you at least 40 – 50% on the costs of a traditional burial, as you will not have the cemetery and casket costs.  A green or natural burial can work out much cheaper than a traditional burial.  Green burial plots are generally inexpensive compared to many cemetery burial plots.  Conducting your own home funeral can save significantly on funeral expenses.  This is legal in all but 7 states, and conducting the funeral yourself can not only save money but also personalize the ritual in a unique way.  Further information about arranging a home funeral can be found in DIY Funeral Care: Family-directed Funerals.

6. Choose direct cremation & conduct your own services

The cheapest funeral can be achieved by arranging a direct cremation with your nearest low-cost cremation provider and then conducting your own family-led memorial service.  A direct cremation simply means that the funeral home or crematory collect the deceased, transfer he/she to their facility and arrange to conduct an immediate cremation (after the mandatory waiting period of 24/48 hours). 

A basic container is used for the cremation and the cremated remains are returned in a temporary urn.  There is no service or viewing, although if required some funeral homes will arrange a private family viewing for an additional charge.

Direct cremation

A direct cremation can be arranged for between $455 and $1,550 (depending upon your location).  This can reduce the ‘professional service fees’ for a funeral dramatically.  Once you have the cremated remains you can make arrangements to conduct a memorial service or perform an ash scattering service.  You can choose to do this at a venue that does not require fees, such as your church, community hall or even at your home.

It is important to remember that in many ways funerals are for the living.  The funeral ritual is a significant practice by which we come to terms with the loss of our loved one and honor their memory.  It is a ‘gathering’ to pay last respects and share memories.  No one can dictate to you how to grieve, or how best to pay tribute to your loved one.  In fact, being in control and hosting your own memorial services is the best way to be able to pay tribute and honor your loved one, whilst being in control of how much it will cost.

If you have any further questions about how you can save money on arranging a funeral, please contact us.


DFS Memorials – Network of low-cost funeral & cremation providers

Written by

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 15 years.