Funeral costs in America have gone up by more than 200 percent in the last thirty years. During that same time period, workers’ real wages increased by only around nine percent. This dramatically uneven growth has made traditional funerals much harder for the average family to afford.  

Faced with ever-increasing costs, more and more families find themselves asking “what is the cheapest way to have a funeral?”

Fortunately, it is entirely possible to have a lovely and meaningful funeral without breaking the bank. Keep reading to learn the tips and tricks you need to plan an affordable funeral for your loved one. 

Average Funeral Costs

The first step to planning cheap funerals is understanding what costs are involved. According to the FTC, standard funeral costs include:

  • Embalming
  • Caskets
  • Basic service fees from funeral homes
  • Additional service charges from funeral homes
  • Burial vaults or grave liners
  • Burial plots
  • Burial plot markers

Basic service fees typically cover necessary services such as:

  • Securing death certificates and any required permits
  • Funeral planning
  • Transporting and holding the deceased’s remains

Additional service fees can cover:

  • Use of funeral home premises for viewings or memorial services
  • Equipment and staff to hold a graveside service
  • Cremation or internment costs 

Traditionally, families may also have expected to pay either the funeral home or a third party for extras such as flowers, death announcements or programs, memorial websites, or customized mementos.

The Most Expensive Components 

The most expensive components of a funeral and burial are:

  • Embalming
  • Caskets or urns
  • Use of funeral home property and staff

One of the fastest and easiest ways to plan low cost funerals is to focus on these items. 

Embalming

Embalming has been around for millennia. It became widespread in America during the Civil War. These days, it is so common that many people assume it is mandatory or even necessary.

This is not true. Embalming is an optional procedure. It is also expensive.

The average cost of embalming is around $700. Depending on your geographic area and the condition of the body to be embalmed, it can cost much more. Embalming is often bundled with other services such as dressing and making up the body, which can also increase costs. 

Choosing not to embalm your loved one’s body can significantly reduce funeral expenses. 

Caskets and Urns

Caskets can range in price from a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000. The average price of a basic casket purchased through your funeral home sits at around $2,000. Cremation urns have a similarly broad price range. 

You can save an enormous amount of money by choosing a simple and inexpensive casket.

Ask your funeral home to show you their least expensive options. Check third-party direct-sale casket companies for discounted options. Or, if you or someone you know has any woodworking skill, consider making your own. 

If your loved one is going to be cremated, consider renting a casket for their viewing. 

It is important to understand that inexpensive caskets are just as effective and functional as expensive ones. Placing flowers, candles, fabric, and other inexpensive accessories around the casket during a viewing can easily hide plain or unattractive caskets enabling you to take advantage of the cheapest funeral options without sacrificing appearances. 

Use of Funeral Home Property and Staff

Funeral homes often charge a premium for the use of their facilities and staff at viewings and services. While this can be helpful for some families, it is often not necessary. 

To hold a tasteful funeral on a budget, consider holding the funeral or memorial service in an alternative location. Popular and memorable options include:

  • The home of the deceased or a family member
  • Your place of worship
  • A beach, park, or other naturally beauty place
  • Somewhere with meaning to the deceased such as a favorite hangout

All of these options can be inexpensive or even free. 

Direct Burial, Cremation, and Other Options

Finally, one of the best ways to achieve the cheapest funeral costs possible is to choose direct burial, cremation, or another eco friendly burial option.

Examples of eco friendly burial alternatives include:

  • Aquamation
  • Biodegradable caskets
  • Living Urns or Human Composting

These alternative burial options are rapidly increasing in popularity for easy-to-understand reasons. They:

  • Are cost-effective
  • Don’t require the corpse to be embalmed, dressed, or made up
  • Are better for the environment than traditional burial practices

Many families also find that these alternatives are more comforting than a traditional burial. They can keep their loved one’s remains in an urn in the home, for example. Or they may choose human composting and enjoy having a tree on the family property as a living memorial to their loved one. 

No matter which option they choose, families selecting eco friendly burial options consistently find these alternatives to be the cheapest way to bury someone. 

Planning Ahead

The last powerful secret to cheap funerals is planning ahead. While no one can know exactly when they will die, it is a certainty that we all someday will.

Planning ahead can:

  • Help ensure that you or your loved one receives the type of funeral or burial desired
  • Help you identify cost-effective options you didn’t realize you had
  • Reduce the burden and strain on the family when someone dies
  • Save you money

When a loved one dies, their family is often thrown into planning without warning. They are stressed and grieving and may not have the time, energy, or presence of mind to ask the right questions. Setting up a cheap funeral can feel impossible. 

Planning ahead allows you to research your options and ask questions at your own pace. It enables you to design and arrange a low cost funeral and burial that will also be largely stress-free for your family when the time comes. You may also be able to lock in good pricing from a funeral home or other provider by paying some or all of your costs in advance.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Have a Funeral?

What is the cheapest way to have a funeral? Choose direct burial or other eco friendly alternatives to traditional embalming and internment. Plan ahead so you don’t accidentally overpay for unnecessary extras and can focus on the things that matter most to you and your family. 

Now that you’ve got that handled, check out our other great posts for more empowering information on living green and saving money!