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Planning a (Cheap) Funeral - Low-Cost Options to Honor the Dead

By S Matthews

Arranging the details of any funeral is incredibly stressful, but when you have budgetary constrictions the tension can really add up. From finding the right funeral director and/or final place of rest to deciding on cremation or embalming, it can all add to heartache and create additional anxiety. Funerals are notoriously expensive, and while it is possible to have a low-cost one, you have to know how.

Other officials, however, were not impressed at the lavish goodbye Mr Pingfa planned for his dear departed mom. Following the funeral, the bereaved son realized that he had lost not only his mother, but also his job.

We all want to give our loved ones the best send-off we can. But when someone passes on, we don't all have the cash required to give them a five-star luxury funeral. In fact, many of us find that funding a funeral is close to impossible, and worry that we won't be able to say goodbye to our loved ones in the style in which they were accustomed.

If you have the desire but not the dough, never fear. You can still stage a wonderful memorial service while keeping the costs way down. You might not have a mink-lined mahogany coffin, limousine procession or sit-down meal for hundreds, but you can still make your loved one's final goodbye an affair to remember. All it takes is some forward planning - and a little common sense.

Keeping the Costs Down

Funeral costs can easily add up to more than $10,000 in an instant - but it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, it is possible to have a fairly traditional family funeral for as low as $1,000, according to funeral directors.

They key is to know what you want, and not to be lured into any unnecessary expenditures. Embalming, for example, is not necessary when the body is to be buried within 48 hours - while it may sound overly macabre, in the vast majority of cases refrigeration is a legally acceptable alternative.

Here are other - hopefully less gruesome - ways to keep the costs down:

- Shop around when it comes to funeral homes. It may sound a bit tight-fisted and overly mean, but making a few phone calls can save you hundreds of dollars. See what is available - or ask a trusted friend to make the calls for you - rather than taking the first offer that comes along.
- Buy a cheap casket from outside the funeral home. Funeral homes often charge a substantial mark-up when they know they have a captive (and desperate) audience. But there is no reason why a home should refuse to use your chosen casket, or tack on an extra fee if you bring one in from the outside. Also, keep in mind that sealed caskets are more expensive than unsealed ones.
- Don't buy the whole package. Funeral homes often allude to a whole host of services on offer, but few people realize they can only purchase a few of them, and leave the rest behind. Don't be falsely lured into buying things you don't want.
- Hold a memorial service at home, at the park, in a woodland area. There is no need to do everything at the funeral home. It's cheaper and more personal to stage your own memorial. Inviting friends and relatives back to your place for a home-cooked meal will also save you a lot more money than inviting them to a restaurant for a five-course dinner with all the trimming. You can even make it pot-luck, giving the whole affair more of a cozy, family feel.
- Go for cremation rather than burial. Cremation is a lot cheaper than embalming and you don't even have to pay for an urn if you intend to scatter the ashes somewhere special. Much cheaper than purchasing a burial plot. All you really need in most states is a permit to cremate, along with a death certificate and transportation permit. You'll have to wait 48 hours until after death and then the crematorium will do the rest.
Look online for affordable funeral flowers. Don't just buy a cheap bouquet from the supermarket, as it will wilt and fade quickly. Instead, look for on-line specialists that claim funeral flowers don't have to be expensive to be beautiful. Mail-order bouquets are often the best.
- Ask a musical family friend to play at the memorial service, or play one of your loved one's favorite CDs. There's no reason you should have to pay for a musical extravaganza when something more personal is often nicer - and always cheaper.
- Make your own funeral programs on your home computer. Why pay for the use of a professional printer when there's really no need? Several on-line sites offer free or affordable templates.

Funeral Consumers Alliance

If you want a loved one to go out in style, not in debt, you might consider contacting the Funeral Consumers Alliance, or FCA (www.funerals.org). A non-profit organization that likes to think of themselves as the Consumer's Report of the funeral industry, they pride themselves on being "dedicated to protecting a consumer's right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral".

Among the goals the FCA has are:
- Increase public awareness about low-cost options to using funeral homes
- Expose national abuses by the funeral industry
- Expand families choices and control about funeral options
- Give advice and guidance to families
- Help everyone find a local FCA in their area

Arranging the details of any funeral is incredibly stressful, but when you have budgetary constrictions the tension can really add up. From finding the right funeral director and/or final place of rest to deciding on cremation or embalming, it can all add to heartache and create additional anxiety. Funerals are notoriously expensive, and while it is possible to have a low-cost one, you have to know how.

Try to obtain as much information and advice as you can, and don't be taken in by the first offer you get. Shop around for the best deal, and don't be lured by false promises about unnecessary items you just "have" to purchase. By honoring a loved one with a small memorial at home, with only close friends and family in attendance, you can keep your integrity as well as your bank account intact....

Sarah Matthews is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find a Healer at Yodle Local or more Health & Medicine articles at Yodle Consumer Guide.


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