The most recent statistics from the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) show that the average funeral costs around $7,000.
What makes them so expensive, and how can arrangements you make now help keep future costs down for your family?
Looking at what makes up the cost of a funeral can help start the conversation:
- Casket: This will probably be the largest expense of the funeral. Starting at around $2,400, caskets can get into the five-digit range if you’d like to be buried in gold or bronze.
- Embalming: This service isn't always required, but it’s necessary if there is going to be a viewing or visitation. The service costs about $700, according to the NFDA.
- Memorial Service: The NFDA says that services cost about $2,000. This involves planning, obtaining proper permits and copies of the death certificate, preparing notices, holding the remains and coordinating with the place where you plan to hold the service, according to Funeral Planning 101.
- Grave site: The price of a plot in a cemetery is a bit tricky to estimate because there are so many variables. Funeral Planning 101 indicates that most plots start around $1,000, although it’s certainly possible to find a more affordable one. Many people choose to buy their plots ahead of time to know they’ll be with loved ones.
- Transportation: It costs about $300 to use a hearse to bring the deceased to the funeral home and about $130 for a service car or van, according to the NFDA’s statistics.
- Obituary: Having an obituary written may be free in a small town newspaper, according to How Much Is It. If you’d like to be memorialized in a larger publication, though, it may cost up to $600 depending on the day you run the obituary, whether you include a picture and how long the biography is.
- Gravestone: A flat grave marker usually costs less than $1,000, as the International Southern Cemetery Gravestones Association estimates, while an upright one may cost up to $10,000. Prices vary based on the material and color you choose. Marble is the most expensive, but there is also granite, sandstone, limestone or concrete to name a few. Elaborate inscriptions can also add to the total, but if the deceased is a military veteran, you may be able to get a grave marker for free.
- Flowers: Funeral flowers can cost between $200 and $1,000 for a complete package, including the bouquet, spray and boutonnieres.
Here are seven alternatives to traditional burial:
1. CremationThis is the most popular alternative to burial. More than 40% of Americans chose cremation in 2012, according to the NFDA. According to the Cremation Association of North America, cremations are less than half the cost of traditional burial. Some choose to keep the remains of their loved ones in an urn, but you might like to have them scattered in your favorite spot. Make sure to check that you are permitted to do so.
2. Natural burialAnother alternative is natural burial, an option provided by at least 50 cemeteries in the U.S. Instead of being embalmed and put into a sealed casket, the body is wrapped in a shroud or biodegradable casket, placed in the ground and allowed to decompose. Not only does it cost less, but many find comfort in knowing their body will enter back into the earth.
3. Burial at seaThis is a tradition often performed by navies, but civilians may partake as well. You can either scatter cremated remains in the sea, or leave the body intact. Veterans of any branch of the armed services and their family members are eligible for sea burial from a U.S. Naval vessel. Civilians have many sea burial services to choose from, such as Sea Services.
4. Bios UrnThis is another natural option. Ashes are put into a biodegradable urn created by Bios Urns that is buried and will germinate into a tree. After cremation, the urn costs just $105 and you can choose from a variety of trees.
5. Eternal ReefsThis option can be expensive, but if you are a lover of all things aquatic, it may be the choice for you. Eternal Reefs is a company that makes coral reefs out of cremated remains. Starting at about $4,000, your body can become a habitat for sea life.
6. Rocket launchEver dream of going into space? Celestis Inc. is a company that launches cremated remains into space. There are a few options with this particular company, from a brief space flight that returns to Earth starting around $1,000, to being launched to the moon or deep space for $12,500.
7. Donate to scienceYour body can be used in medical schools and anatomy labs to help educate students. If you’d like to have your body preserved in a semi-recognizable form, there’s plastination. You could even be put on display and posed as if you’re in the middle of normal activities, like playing basketball.
These are several options available for your future burial. Just make sure you plan ahead now to help ensure your loved ones are financially prepared in the event of your passing. Life Insurance can help pay for your final expenses, but that’s just one example of how proceeds from a Life policy may be used. Your beneficiaries may be able to use life insurance proceeds to help replace income, pay the mortgage and fund education, for instance.
The last thing you want is for your family to not only grieve losing you, but also get set back thousands of dollars by your funeral costs, whatever and whenever it may be. Start having the conversation now to save your loved ones extra heartache and stress.