Updated: Feb 21
People have very little experience in funeral shopping. However, it is likely you will have to think about planning a funeral at some point when a loved one dies. Funeral directors are usually wonderful people, and their natural tendency is to offer the best for the deceased individual. How do you plan a funeral for your loved one without breaking the bank? Step 1: Know what you want Prior to calling any funeral homes, you should know what type of services you want. If you call without any real idea, many funeral homes will try and sell you an expensive package. They call this the “traditional” service, which includes many extra services such as embalming, dressing the body, viewing services, and transport of the family. While some people want these extras, many families do not require them and would be much happier with a direct burial or direct cremation without embalming. By knowing what services you want you can ask funeral homes about the specific services you need and not pay for unnecessary items. Typical services from least expensive to most expensive are basic cremation service, donation of body to science, immediate burial, then traditional funeral service. Burial is much more expensive than cremation because of the possible need for embalming, a casket, a plot, and an outer burial container.
Step 2: Ask For a price list Once you know what services you want, you are ready to call funeral homes. Rather than have an extended conversation with the funeral home initially, it is better to ask for their price list. The funeral home is required to give you this if you ask for it. The list provides explicit details of every service the funeral home performs and how much those services cost. By looking at the list without pressure from a funeral director, you are more likely to choose a service the family can afford. If you are not capable of doing this on your own, enlist one of those well meaning friends who call you to ask if there is anything they can do to help. Just say, "Can you call X and Y funeral home and ask for their price list?" Many funeral homes will hesitate and want you to come in to get it. If that is the case, have your friend go pick up the price list.
Step 3: Call around The number one reason most Americans overpay for a funeral is because they do not shop around at multiple funeral homes, but instead take the route of least resistance by calling the closest one or the one their family has always used. Doing this gives you no way of knowing if you are paying too much. By using a service such as the Red Book Funeral Directory or Yellow Pages, you are able to find all of the funeral homes in your general area. This gives you the ability to call and ask multiple funeral homes for their price lists and compare the prices for their various services. You may be surprised to find that had you gone with your initial choice, you would have overpaid greatly. In recent research in our area, we found prices that varied by thousands of dollars for the same funeral services. Step 4: Plan the rest of the service You'll most likely want to have a celebration of your loved one's life. Services can be held at a funeral home, although they will charge for this event. Fortunately, many churches won't charge to hold an event in their facility and may also provide people to facilitate the service. Other considerations include a celebration in the home, retirement facilities, or other public hall. Consider having a memorial service in a park or other beautiful public area. Some families like to have a viewing for closure, but this greatly increases the costs. Consider having friends and family submit pictures to create a slide show that can play before and after the service. Funerals are a tough time for everyone. What else can you do? Your family will be grateful if you plan the basics of your funeral in advance. If you want a big shindig at the end, make certain your family doesn't have to stretch financially to meet your needs.