In this article, we have put together a guide to green or natural burial options in California. Exploring what makes a funeral ‘green’, how much a green funeral will cost, and how to find a natural burial location in California. In addition, we look at green cremation, otherwise known as aquamation, what kind of burial containers are biodegradable, and DIY Home Funerals.
Understanding funeral costs
The average cost of a funeral in America today is between $7,000 – $10,000 according to a national website that collected funeral prices from funeral homes across the US last year.
The National Funeral Directors Association had last recorded an average funeral price of $7,640 in 2019, in 2014 it was $7,181, so arguably funeral prices have not changed much over the last 5 years.
What has changed is the huge shift towards cremation, as this offers a much more affordable funeral alternative. A simple cremation service is likely to cost between $1,500 and $3,000, so this can present a significant saving to families struggling with the full cost of funeral services.
The DFS Memorials network of affordable cremation providers offers families the lowest cost cremation choice. All local providers offer a simple direct cremation service option. In most areas, a direct cremation can be arranged for as little as $795.
If you live in a major metro area, funeral costs can be even higher if you are looking for what is known as a “Traditional Funeral Service”. When you begin to break down the funeral costs, the largest costs incurred are for items like the casket, cemetery plot, and grave marker, which on their own, can end up costing you more than the average cost of a complete funeral service. In cities with limited cemetery space, the cost of a cemetery plot alone can amount to $15,000.
The single biggest issue when having to arrange a funeral is that we have very little to go on and to compare with. It is very easy to compare grocery stores and restaurants because these are businesses that we deal with on a regular basis. Arranging a funeral is something that many people have never had to do, and therefore we are very trusting of the funeral home. Make no mistake about it, funeral homes and funeral companies are businesses. Think about the funeral director as a salesperson, because that is what they are. Funeral homes are interested in getting you to spend as much money as possible, and they are extremely good at doing this.
The decline in traditional funerals has resulted in a drop in revenue for many funeral homes, meaning that ensuring they can sell ancillary products and services is vital to sustaining their funeral business.
With an average cremation service costing around $3,000, and cremation now accounting for nearly 60% of funerals, many funeral homes are coping with declining profit margins.
Be clear about what kind of funeral services you require
It is important to decide what type of funeral you want before you even begin discussing things with a funeral home. The first question is whether the deceased is to be buried or cremated. If you choose burial as an option, remember that you will also need to purchase a cemetery plot, and these plots can be very expensive indeed.
If you have decided on cremation as a more affordable alternative to burial, be sure to understand that there are various options for cremation services. A cremation with a funeral service beforehand will still cost in the region of $2,000 – $5,000. A cremation with a memorial service afterward with the cremation urn will cost less, and a direct cremation with no ceremony or services is the most inexpensive cremation option.
Understanding cremation options as a low-cost alternative
Cremation is an option that more families are opting for today, indeed last year (2020) the cremation rate in the US surpassed 59%.
As you can see from the chart, the cost of cremation does vary. It varies by state, city, and by the provider. Some states are more expensive, these tend to be some of the northeast states or the very rural and smaller population states. The west coast has a much higher cremation rate and therefore costs are generally lower.
A direct cremation is generally the lowest cost method of disposition. A direct cremation is when the deceased is immediately cremated, with no service, and the cremated remains directly returned to the family or scattered.
Whilst the cost for a direct cremation can vary, it can be conducted in certain areas of the United States for as little as $495. Generally, a direct cremation can be conducted for between $600 and $900 in most cities if you select an affordable cremation services provider.
DFS Memorials was set up in 2012 as a network of low-cost cremation providers. Visit DFS Memorials to find your nearest provider and their direct cremation cost.
Saving money on funeral costs
A great way to save on funeral expenses is to purchase items like the casket, urn, or grave marker from other third-party sellers. Today you can actually purchase caskets from both Costco and Walmart, although you need to order from their websites. There are many other companies selling funeral products online, and these can often be great savings compared to the funeral home prices. Federal Law requires ALL funeral homes to accept funeral products bought from other companies, and they cannot charge you extra for doing this.
“No cost” cremation when you donate your body to science
Although most funeral homes will not mention this, it is possible to get a cremation for free. Donating a body to science for research is one way of getting a funeral cremation for no cost. The body is used for research by the medical profession, and the body is then cremated and the ashes returned to the family, with no costs incurred. The whole process takes between 4-6 weeks and a memorial service can then take place if chosen.
There are several national companies that offer anatomical donations direct to the public. And this can be considered by low-income families struggling with managing funeral costs. However, it is important to note that not all donations can be accepted at the time of passing. Acceptance of a whole-body donation can depend upon the demand at the time from Medical Institutions, and the logistics of the place of death and transfer to a suitable institution. Read our detailed article on Whole Body Donation for more information.
Is there any state financial assistance for funeral expenses?
Sadly, there is little financial assistance for poor or low-income families. Some states do aid residents on welfare programs, but not only is it very limited, but there are also very stringent qualifying criteria and many families end up finding they do not qualify.
It is best to check with your local county human or social services, they will advise you of what may be available locally and if you would qualify.
In some states recipients of Medicaid, and those in hospice or nursing care, may qualify for discounts or even reimbursements toward funeral costs. If your loved one was a recipient of Medicaid ask your funeral director about what help may be available.
You should also consider if your loved one would have qualified for the Social Security lump-sum death benefit. If so, the funeral director will assist you with making a claim, and this can be used towards the funeral cost. The amount paid by Social Security is $255.
In April 2021 Congress passed legislation to release funds to assist families with Covid-related funeral expenses. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is authorized to receive and process claims.
If you lost a loved one due to Covid after January 20th, 2020 you may qualify for a refund of funeral expenses paid out. Visit this guide to claiming FEMA Funeral Assistance to learn more.
The message is simple if you want to save money on funeral costs, do some research, compare prices, consider purchasing funeral merchandise from a third-party seller, and even consider making an anatomical donation.
This way it is not only possible to save thousands of dollars on funeral expenses, but you could also even find that you could have a free cremation and a funeral that virtually costs nothing at all!