funeral costs

How to Save Money on a Funeral

Funerals can be expensive, costing anywhere from $1000 to over $10,000. And these prices can go higher when a funeral home handles memorial services too. Fortunately, there are ways to keep within a budget and still have the funeral you want for your loved one. Below are 10 tips to help get the best deal at a funeral home. 

1) Educate yourself 

Few people have much experience planning a funeral. So first-time organizers will be unaware of the necessary and extra services and fees involved. Similarly, they may not be aware of the options offered. Additionally, there may be services provided by funeral homes that are not required or do not need to be handled professionally. For example, families in Ontario can complete funeral documentation themselves whereby they can minimize or eliminate funeral home documentation fees. As such, it is crucial to know what services are necessary vs. recommended vs. required. Understanding local funeral-related rules and regulations is also useful. 

A great place to start with education is online. Many blogs and Q&A sections on government or funeral-home websites can answer commonly asked questions.

Here are the government funeral information websites in Canada by province and by territory:

Questions can also be addressed to funeral home staff directly via phone or email. 

2) Set a budget and stick to it 

Determining a budget is an important step when planning a funeral. The budget should consider the wishes of the deceased and their loved one but remain within a family’s means. For example, if the deceased person wants to be buried, but the family has a budget of $5000, it may be challenging to afford a traditional burial that includes funeral ceremonies. However, a simpler burial may be possible.

It is also essential to determine where the money is coming from. Many people have money set aside to pay for funeral services. Other times, the responsibility falls on the family. Nonetheless, it is vital to know how much is available and how to access it before looking into options further.

See this online resource for funeral funding help options.

3) Shop around 

Funeral homes in Canada are required by law to outline services and prices in a transparent manner. Customers can also ask for itemized price lists to further break down the costs. These lists can help determine if a funeral home’s services are within budget and can be used to compare the services and prices between funeral homes.

Contact the funeral home to provide a quote when in doubt. Providers are required to answer any questions someone might have about pricing and services. When contacting a funeral home, it is crucial to be firm about desired services and to be clear about services that are not wanted or necessary.

4) Choose cremation

Cremation is a more cost-effective final disposition option when compared to burials. You can expect to pay $1000 to $5000 for a cremation funeral.

By comparison, a burial is typically a more expensive funeral service, because burials include additional funeral services, such as visitation, viewing, wake, committal, as well as a coffin and grave plot and grave stone, etc. These services also extend the time between death and burial, so body preservation techniques are needed. Caskets can cost anywhere from $900 to $20,000, and burial plots in a cemetery cost around $200 and $3,000. Including these factors, a burial will cost between $3,000 to $12,000 on average.

The cremation cost depends on the type chosen – flame cremation or aquamation.

Flame cremation

Flame cremation uses extreme heat to cremate a body. A flame cremation funeral package can range from $1,000 to over $4,000.

Aquamation or water cremation

Aquamation, sometimes called water cremation, uses the chemical reaction of alkaline hydrolysis to reduce organic matter into ashes. This process is more expensive than flame cremation, but the difference is not drastic. Packages ranges from $2,000 to over $4,500.

Like burials, the cost of a cremation funeral will increase if you choose additional services, such as a viewing or visitation or a wake. Cremation urns, which hold cremation ashes, can be expensive costing anywhere from $10 for a basic container to $2000 for an ornate decorative urn. Choosing to bury or inter a loved one’s ashes in a cemetery or mausoleum will also incur additional costs. Internment in a niche or columbarium ranges from $700 to over $2,500. A burial plot in a cemetery costs $200 to over $3,000. Nonetheless, cremation is likely to be a cheaper funeral home service.

5) Go direct

Another way to reduce funeral home fees is to have a direct cremation or direct burial. This involves a body being buried or cremated shortly after death. With this option, expensive ceremonies or services are limited or eliminated, reducing the price significantly. Direct cremation falls within the $1,000 to $3,000 range. Direct burials fall in the $3,000 to $5,000+ range.

6) Consider alternative options

Outside of traditional funerals, there are also alternative funeral options.

Green burials

Green burial is a term used to describe funeral practices that aim to minimize environmental impact. Because this type of funeral uses fewer resources and services, it costs less.

A burial following green practices must allow a body to decompose and incorporate into the soil more naturally. This means that chemical preservation techniques, such as embalming, cannot be used (saving fees). The body must also be buried directly into the ground or in biodegradable caskets or shrouds. These are often cheaper than standard caskets. A headstone and grave liner is also unnecessary. A green burial’s cost is similar to that of a direct burial because fewer funeral home services are needed, which reduces the overall fee. Green burials cost around $3,000 to $6,000 on average.

Body donation

Another alternative option is to donate the body to science. This almost eliminates funeral home involvement, as end-of-life services (e.g., cremation) will be handled by the facility that receives the body. Therefore, families will only need minimal funeral home intervention, such as transportation, documentation, obituaries, memorials, etc.

7) Skip embalming

Embalming is a chemical form of preservation that stalls decomposition. It also allows for the body to be displayed for public viewing. Embalming prices range from $200 to $1,000+. 

Embalming is not legally required in Canada in most cases, and refrigeration can be used as a substitute. (An exception is if a body is being shipped across provincial borders.) However, certain provinces have regulations about how long a body can go without being embalmed. For example, in Nova Scotia, a body must be embalmed for a viewing or visitation that takes place 72 hours after death. Nonetheless, skipping embalming (if possible) can be a good way to reduce funeral fees. 

8) Simple casket or urn

Caskets cost anywhere from $900 to $20,000, and urns range from $10 to upwards of $2,000. Many funeral homes sell these products, but prices are often marked up significantly. A good way to reduce cost is to opt for a simple casket, shroud, or urn. These products can have minimal designs or be made from cheaper materials such as wood or plastic. Purchasing from a supplier directly can also reduce the cost. You are not obligated to buy a casket or urn from a funeral home.

Some funeral homes will rent caskets for visitation or viewing purposes. Casket rental fees run $900 to $2,000 range for this service. 

An urn purchase may not even be necessary. Most crematoriums return ashes in a temporary cremation container. If scattering ashes, the temporary container can be used instead. 

9) Have a home funeral 

A home funeral refers to death care carried out partially or entirely by family and friends of the deceased. They take care of funeral responsibilities, including preparing the body and planning services in their entirety or with the help of funeral homes. AS a result, many commercial funeral home services are avoided or minimized. 

Services offered by the funeral home are often expensive and may not be needed or wanted by the deceased or their family. Avoiding these services can save hundreds or thousands of dollars. However, minimizing them can also be cost-effective, as families will only be paying for specific services. In addition, funeral homes are required to handle particular services (like cremation), so it is important to check local laws and regulations before opting for a home funeral. 

10) Pre-plan a funeral

Another way to get a good deal from a funeral home is to pre-plan or prepay for a funeral long before it is needed. This can be set up with a funeral provider using a prepaid final arrangement contract through an insurance company. 

An insurance policy can be purchased to cover funeral costs and that money is held in trust until it is needed to pay for services. These can cover all or most funeral expenses, such as service fees, supplies (e.g., urn or casket purchase), funeral staff fees, internment or scattering rites, etc. One of the benefits of a pre-planned funeral is that services are guaranteed at a price paid in the contract even if prices increase in the future.

If a person does not want to enter into a contract, they can instead have money allocated in a will from their estate to pay for funeral services when the need arises. 

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