It’s human nature. Many of us, when we think about our own funeral, picture ourselves as not just the guest of honor, but the host. Even if we don’t believe in the afterlife, some of us want to be at our own funeral in spirit. We want people to share funny stories and not be too sad (well, maybe just a little…). One thing most of us can agree on is that we don’t want our loved ones to get stuck with a hefty funeral bill.
Not having enough money to pay for funeral costs can haunt people who believe that they aren’t long for this world. The average cost for an adult funeral in 2012 was $7,775, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. Going out in style isn’t cheap. But if you’re perfectly comfortable departing the world in coach rather than going with a first-class ticket, here are some ideas.
Prepay funeral expenses with an installment plan. Many funeral homes encourage this practice, and it isn’t a bad idea if you truly believe you have, say, two years or less time, provided you work things out in advance with a funeral home and inform your relatives. Things can change. You could check out far earlier than you planned, with almost none of your funeral prepaid, and then have relatives decide to go with another funeral home. Your money could be wasted if there’s a no-return policy on the plan, or if the funeral home isn’t notified by your next of kin of your earlier-than-expected demise.
But the reason to not prepay too far in advance is that there are many stories out there of people prepaying a decade or so in advance, only for their family to find out after the funeral that another bill is being passed onto them due to inflation costs or the prepurchased casket no longer being available. This strategy may work for you, but please tread carefully.
Tell the funeral director you’re working with a limited budget. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. They’ve heard it all before. Odds are, they can steer you to a less-expensive casket.
Consider cremation. As you probably are aware, cremation is far cheaper than an open-casket funeral. The average price of a cremation is $1,650, which includes a memorial service, according to the Cremation Association of North America. Skip the service and suggest that your family organize a gathering elsewhere like a house or a park, and you’ll save, on average, about $900.
Are you a member of the military? Some veterans can get a free burial spot in military cemeteries.
Donate your body to science. If you’ve never thought about it before, this option can sound a little strange or morbid, and certainly, it isn’t for everyone. But if you aren’t bothered by the idea and feel like doing something worthwhile with your body, this can be one option to explore, since most medical research facilities take care of the costs of burial.
It’s certainly more glamorous than letting your body go unclaimed, in which case it could wind up in an unmarked grave in a potter’s field or be taken to a body farm where human decomposition is studied.
But donating your body to science is noble and inexpensive, eliminating not just funeral but cemetery expenses. The one negative is that your family might have to wait several weeks — or years — until your ashes are returned, and that may not sit well with them. Still, most medical facilities have periodic, somber and meaningful memorial services for those who have donated their bodies. If the ashes aren’t in an urn, many will put the remains in a repository for bones or bodies of the dead (and, yes, it’s the least that they can do).
These options will help prevent leaving your loved ones with a lot of debt. If there is a lot of crying at your memorial, you want it to be over you, and not your funeral bill.
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