For the average person, a funeral can seem expensive. When you add in all factors associated with the ceremonies, the cost can end up being thousands of dollars. Prepare yourself by understanding all the potential costs and you won't be so shocked by the final price tag.
Itemized Funeral Costs
When you work with a funeral home, the director can help walk you through the entire planning process including sharing lists of all the costs you'll run across. Funeral Director and Owner S. Scott Mason, CFSP of Mason Funeral Home in Westfield, NY says "Finding that Funeral Director that puts you at ease is just as important as finding that doctor, lawyer, or clergy person who puts you at ease." Each step of the way, you will have to make choices about specifics related to the body, the ceremony, the burial, and other viewing or celebratory events.
Body Preparation Costs
The cost of preparing a loved one's body after death depends on the choices you make about the type of burial. The cost of cremation may be lower than traditional burial if the cremains will be kept in a loved one's home instead of a mausoleum or columbarium. However, there are still several costs associated with this burial option. If you opt for a traditional burial, your casket and funeral service choices will dictate how expensive the process will be. Mr. Mason suggests "at some funeral homes the cost of the funeral merchandise, such as the casket," is the most costly item of all funeral expenses.
- Embalming - Costs around $800 and is only necessary if you hold a viewing or service where the body is in the room.
- Body beautification - Includes dressing, hair, makeup and overall grooming, and costs about $350-$600.
- Body donation services fee - For those who wish to donate organs, tissue or bone, this service can cost approximately $400.
- Cremation fee - Cremation can cost up to $700
- Immediate burial - $2,500 plus cost of casket
- Urn -$50-$250 depending on style and material
- Casket - According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the average casket cost is over $2,000, but prices range from under $1,000 to over $10,000.
- Casket rental fee - If you want to have a viewing or funeral of a person who will be cremated before burial, renting a casket will cost around $1,000.
Funeral Home Costs
One of the most expensive parts of a funeral according to Mr. Mason is the fees for "services of the funeral home and facilities" or the Basic service fee as it is called by the FTC. This fee runs around $2,000 at many funeral homes and includes "being on-call 24/7/365 along with facilities and livery expenses" says Mason.
- Securing permits and death certificates
- Preparing death notices for newspapers
- Body pickup fee
- Body storage fee
Additional funeral home services are optional and include:
- Room fee for a funeral home - wake and funeral $500-$600 each for a two to three-hour event
- Funeral program or memorial card design and printing - $35-$50 per 100 of each printed material
- Hearse - Around $300 for one time use
- Special vehicles for family members - $300-$400 per limo for three hours
If you plan to host a wake, funeral or after-funeral gathering at a building other than a funeral home, you'll want to factor in those costs too. Mr. Mason shares that unexpected costs for most people include things like "hall and custodial fees, church fees, and catering fees." Typical sites for funeral events include churches, banquet halls and restaurants. Prices for rental of these venues varies depending on your location and individual business, but you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for the venue plus the cost of food and drink.
- Church rental fee - May be free if the deceased was an active member, but can cost $50-$500 for others
- Hall or Restaurant rental fee - May be donated if the deceased was a valued customer or member of the group owning the hall, like a VFW
- Custodial fees - $10-$15 per hour
If your loved one has not already purchased a cemetery plot and grave marker, you'll need to factor these items into your total budget. If these items are already paid for, you'll still need to consider the following burial costs.
- Cemetery plot - $400 and up
- Temporary grave marker - $25-$75
- Grave liner - Concrete container that rests under and along the sides of the casket while buried to prevent cave-ins and costs $200-$450
- Burial vault - more substantial version of a grave liner costing around $550
- Graveside service fees - Cost about $450 to have someone organize and officiate the service
- Permanent monument or marker - Costs vary by style and material, but average cost is $1,000-$2,000
- Cemetery plot maintenance fee - Typically a one-time payment of around 10 percent of plot price
As you begin to plan a funeral, you may be surprised by some costs that hadn't crossed your mind.
- Officiant or Minister fee - $100-$150
- Organist or soloist fee - $150
- Flowers - $100-$300
- Legal fees - $200-$500 per hour
General Funeral Cost
The average funeral costs more than $8,000, but this doesn't include cemetery costs. Those will run another approximately $2,000 making the cost of a typical funeral around $10,000. Mr. Mason suggests funerals seem costly because they "are something no one wants to purchase" and when you aren't prepared to "deal with end of life expenses...it seems expensive." He further explains other unpleasant life experiences like medical expenses and legal fees also seem costly for the same reasons. But, to put the cost of a funeral in perspective, Mr. Mason shares that in comparison the average funeral costs significantly less than a wedding, a home, a new car, and many other items people purchase throughout life.
Money Saving Tips
Those having trouble affording all the costs associated with a funeral have tough decisions to make. Mr. Mason suggests a few tips to help plan the best funeral for your loved one.
- Discuss your budget with the Funeral Director up front. If he's a respected professional he'll do everything he can to help you stick to this budget and plan a beautiful event.
- "Plan a funeral in the same manner as which a person lived their life." If they lived an opulent lifestyle and left enough money, hold an opulent funeral. If they were known to be frugal, host a frugal funeral.
If planning a loved one's funeral has you thinking about yours as well, Mr. Mason says it's a good idea to "open an Interest-Bearing Funeral Trust at a reputable Funeral Home" and prepay for your funeral expenses. This way the ceremony will be to your liking and your family won't have to worry about financial constraints.
Avoid funeral home scams by seeking out recommendations from trusted friends and local business people and knowing your rights as a consumer. A funeral planning checklist is helpful to keep all of this information organized, especially since you may be overcome with emotion.
Know Your Rights
According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), you have the right to receive funeral pricing information from a funeral home over the phone and in person based on state and federal laws. While prices will vary by state and funeral service provider, FuneralResources.com and The Funeral Site offer lists of general prices to help you understand each specific cost. Mr. Mason suggests the best way to be prepared for funeral planning is to "pre-plan your funeral in advance and have the talk of a lifetime, as the NFDA calls it." This talk includes deciding on all the details while you are alive and well.
Focus on the Bigger Picture
Most people don't have a lot of experience in funeral planning. While the growing list of expenses can seem daunting when you are feeling emotional distress, it helps to focus on the bigger pictures. A funeral is your chance to celebrate the life of a loved one with all those who care about him or her.