Struggle the funeral bills with these eight conventional funeral options

Editor's Note: This article was originally published and updated in 2017.

Dying is expensive.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that between 1986 and 2017 the Funeral costs up 227%, Over the same period, all other consumer prices rose by only 123%.

Many people prefer not to think about these statistics, let alone the options for planning a funeral service, cremation or funeral. However, if you are the family member that is left over for funeral planning and costs, it can be helpful to know what you are getting into.

And if you can get your affairs under control to make it easier for others in the event of your sudden death, planning the costs associated with your past wishes can be a part of the burden on your family and friends.

In the event that you have never planned a funeral, we asked Elizabeth Fournier, the owner of Laying the foundation stone for funeral services in the rural community of Boring, Oregon, to tell us what to expect, whether you are researching your own past desires or dealing with an unexpected responsibility.

Fournier's knowledge of and her commitment to sustainable burial practices have earned her the nickname "The Green Reaper". A traditional funeral with the services you are probably used to – visiting, hearse, cemetery procession – can cost between $ 2,000 and $ 10,000 said.

Why are traditional funerals so expensive?

While every state has an office that regulates funeral directors, funeral directors set their own prices. But you must disclose their general price lists You will need to share this list with you when asking about services. As long as these prices are documented, they are legal, Fournier explained.

Some funeral directors can bundle their prices in packages, while others give prices for individual services.

Fournier recommends that you look at a family-run or independent funeral home if you are trying to keep costs down. Corporate funeral directors may offer additional services, but the convenience factor is often associated with additional costs.

Another great effort to consider: the coffin. (Yes, we're really talking about it.)

According to Fournier, the surcharge on caskets at funeral homes can be up to 400%.

A funeral home cannot refuse a coffin that the family provides, be it homemade, from Costco, or bought online. There are a few rules – it has to have handles, for example – but otherwise a funeral home has to accept and use the requested coffin and cannot charge an additional fee.

There is one big exception to the rule: caskets cannot be reused. The only caskets that can be used multiple times are rents.

Fournier explained that these rents are often sought after a visit is cremated. "Rental boxes have linings that can come out and that are cremated," Fournier said. "Then the funeral home can use the shell again." These boxes are usually made of wood and have a traditional appearance.

What if you pay for a one-off casket before cremation? A wooden box can be cremated together with the deceased. If it is a metal box, it must be handed over to a scrap metal company.

Funeral directors often pass these costs on to the family in the form of a “coffin distribution fee”.

While planning a funeral may be last on your list of things you'd like to do, Fournier has an important reminder to the cost-conscious:

"You have the right to call around. You don't have to use the church your family went to, or the funeral home in your neighborhood, ”she said. "Use what's right for you. There's something for everyone."

8 alternatives to traditional burial (and what they cost)

Here are the costs of a few common alternatives to a traditional burial and some new ones you may have seen online.

1. Private burial

In many places, especially in the countryside, it is allowed to bury people on your own property – and this is absolutely the cheapest way to bury them. The hard part is knowing the state and regional rules for private burial of land and having a team of friends and family members on site to accomplish this.

You need to work with a funeral home in some states, but not in others.

2. Immediate or direct cremation

This is the cheapest non-DIY method. Visits and burials are eliminated, and your cremated remains are simply returned to your family in an urn. Fournier said it can cost as little as $ 400, up to a few thousand dollars.

3. Green cremation

This process, which uses an alkaline solution instead of flames, is legal in several states, as well as in Washington, DC Cremation Association of North America, Fournier said it costs between $ 1,000 and $ 2,000. This is also known as alkaline hydrolysis, water treatment or flameless cremation.

4. Immediate burial

This option skips a funeral service and embalming and carries out a burial as soon as possible. Immediate burial starts at around $ 1,500.

5. Donate your body to science

If neither burial nor cremation is what you want, it may be helpful to donate your body to science Medical students, scientists and forensic scientists,

You must register with the organization before death. It usually covers the cost of returning the cremated remains to your family once the research is done. However, do not schedule a visit if you are considering this route.

"You can't be embalmed if you donate to science," Fournier said. "Science wants you right away."

6. Eternal reefs

There is one for ocean lovers nonprofit company This mixes cremated remains with concrete and submerges them to rejuvenate the coral reefs. It can cost between $ 3,000 and $ 7,500 in addition to the cremation cost.

7. Outdoor cremation

The traditional cremation method of cremation is carried out by the Colorado Crestone End-of-Life project, but has so far been limited to pre-registered residents of a single county. The organization suggests a donation from $ 500 to $ 800 for service.

8. Funeral pods

Ash can be added to a biodegradable urn that you can plant a tree on it. It costs about $ 140.

Additional funeral expenses

Disposing of a body after death is not all you have to do. While you grieve and simmer over paperwork, here are a few more things you might want to do.


Regardless of whether you submit a brief obituary to the local newspaper or a 70-line obituary with a color photo, these services can be expensive – even if you go online and skip the printed output.

A survey resulted in an average price of $ 113 for an obituary in a small town newspaper, $ 263 in an urban newspaper, and $ 326 for an obituary in a metropolitan area.

The Sunday newspaper usually costs more than a weekday.

Worship or memorial service

If the deceased is a member of a religious community, there may be small fees to hold a service there, although it is customary to tip the pastor.

If the deceased is not a member of the community where a funeral service is scheduled, fees of up to $ 1,000 may apply for the space and time required.

By using a common room for a reception, several hundred can be added to the tab. A non-religious service in a park or on an event site is likely to have similar reservation costs.

Lisa Rowan is a former senior writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.

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