The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
When we think about preplanning our own farewell, or when we lose a loved one and have to make decisions about their farewell, we have two options: interment or cremation. It is hard to think about our own dying, so making the decision on how we want our body disposed of can be daunting. When we lose a loved one, grieving is immediately with us, and it is an individual journey we each do in our own way.
We ask ourselves how do we will best remember someone we loved so dearly? How will we commemorate his or her life?
Some of us may want to send off our loved one on his or her next adventure in style, while others may want to keep the farewell simple and private. Interment and cremation can do either. Both can be expensive and elaborate or simple and private. However, cremation will always be more affordable than interment.
Once you choose between burial and cremation, you will need to decide on the process. If you chose cremation, this article will be of great benefit to you because it offers information about how to assure the cremation you decide on is affordable and done with dignity.
Plan for what is difficult while it is easy
20 Tips For Affordable Cremation
1. Make a Plan
Elizabeth Keebler Ross, author of On Death and Dying, believed we should make death our friend, and hold her hand as we journey through life, using her as a gentle reminder of what we all know is our end. If we can manage to do this, then it will be easier to plan ahead for yourself and for others. Rather than feel maudlin or dark, you will be addressing life’s reality and making sure that when the time comes, emotions can be experienced, and grief can be managed. The added stress of worrying about what our loved one wanted or how much could be spent on the farewell will be eliminated.
2. Write down what you want done
If you don’t know where you are going, you end up someplace else.
These words should be taken to heart when it comes to making decisions when someone dies. If there is no plan, costs can soar because emotions can affect decision-making. The result is that what should be affordable, ends up breaking the bank. It may sound dark, but if you talk with your loved ones and get an idea of what they want and share what your wishes are money can be an set aside to cover expenses.
Remember that farewells are for the living, so your wishes are a guideline. However, the guideline will keep expenses down and rash decision making to a minimum.
A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
3. Turn Your Wishes into the Goal for an End of Life Plans
We often talked about my mother’s wishes for when she died. However, to assure her goal of cremation was met, she set a plan, found a crematorium, contacted it and then gave us the information. Her wish had a plan and her final farewell was as she wanted. No fussing, no quarrels, no what ifs. Because my mother was a depression child, she was frugal. She did her research, found the most affordable, credentialed crematorium, and made her plan.
My mother said she wanted to be cremated and strewn in the Pacific Ocean. We did this. Her plan cost $1,500.00.
The extra costs incurred came from our emotions after her death. Her goal for simple and quiet was accomplished, but we also had a memorial for her where we grew up and put part of the ashes with our father. This was for us, and so we paid. The memorial was simple, private and very affordable.
My father said he wanted to be buried in the Catholic Cemetery, and he wanted a party. We buried him and enjoyed his Irish Wake, just as he would have. He died in 1957 and the casket alone cost $800.00.
4. Make a Cremation Budget
Budgets are important, and no one wants to have to be worrying about the cost of a funeral when so many other things have to be dealt with. Assuring you keep within the budget is the best reason for preplanning. If you know what can be spent, then you can research the options to find what fits your needs.
5. Know How Much a Funeral Costs
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2017, the costs of caskets have gone up 230% from December 1988 to September 2017.
- The National Funeral Directors Association shares that funerals can run anywhere from $6,600 to $26,000, depending on the casket, the funeral home and its fees, embalming and a cemetery vault or plot.
- The high cost of funerals is one reason cremation is becoming a more popular option. It simply costs less.
6. Open Up a Funeral Account and Save the Money Needed for What You Want
My Aunt Margie, in conjunction with the local funeral home, arranged her funeral and put money in each year until the bill was paid. She lived to 107, but she had her funeral paid for by the time she was 85.
You can also set up a savings account or buy a CD to be cashed in upon your death. However you decide to save for the cremation is up to you, but with the money set aside, the budget is a reality and can be followed. It’s the simple question, I have this much money so what can I afford with it?
7. Buy Burial and Funeral Insurance
Remember, the money is for your funeral, so it can be used for cremation. The insurance is affordable, about $21.00 per month, and it will cover whatever your decision is for your final farewell.
I have burial insurance policy for $10,000, and my children are the beneficiaries. When I die, they will receive the amount of the policy. They have decided to cremate me and divide my ashes among the three of them. I am told they will use them to make the flowers grow.
The cremation bill will be about $2,500.00. The rest of the money will be used to enjoy a celebration of my life at a time they decide upon, with the rest going to Habitat for Humanity. My mother believed everyone should have an affordable safe home; thus, she was a passionate supporter of Habitat. So am I.
If I did not have this policy, my children would have to make do with a budget of about $2500.00. With this sum, they could pay for a cremation and have a little money left over.
8. Eliminate Costs
Cremation, the disposing of a person’s body by burning it to ashes, is relatively inexpensive compared to traditional funerals.
The following expenses are non-existent if you choose cremation:
- Cosmetology for the body, make up and hair
- Cosmetology services add up, running anywhere from $195 to $700, depending on the state and the facility.
- Transportation from a funeral home to a church
- A casket
- Embalming fees vary from state to state and facility to facility
- In Minnesota fees for embalming add up to about $700.00.
- New Jersey’s fees run about $950.00.
- Burial plot and service
- Though you can choose to bury the ashes in an urn, to do so in a cemetery requires you buy a plot, which can cost over $5,000.00.
- You will also incur cemetery fees and gravesite service fees.
9. Comparison Shop for Cremation Fees
This disparity in the above fees is one good reason to ask the questions about cremation fees because there may be hidden ones you need to be aware of.
- The body will have to be transported from the place of death to the crematorium or the funeral home. This costs money.
- If the body has to be stored before cremation, there is also a fee.
- Before you are faced with making a decision and because you know from state to state and facility to facility fees vary, check out what all the costs are, hidden and up front.
10. Find Out What a Funeral Home Charges for Cremation
Using a funeral home for cremation is more costly than a crematorium.
The funeral home has to send the body to the crematorium because it does not have a crematorium on site. This means you have two costs of transportation, one from the place of death to the funeral home and another from the funeral home to the crematorium.
The funeral home may also have a handling fee, which is a fee for incidental costs concerning a cremation.
You can pick up the ashes yourself, but if you are planning to have a service through the funeral home, you may incur another transportation fee.
If you do not ask for immediate cremation, the funeral home will charge a storage fee, just as a crematorium does when the body cannot be cremated upon arrival or within hours after it arrives.
11. Compare Services Provided Between Crematorium and Funeral Home
Often, a local funeral home seems the safest way to manage the decision to cremate because you can just share your plan and all will be taken care of. The crematorium does not take care of everything, but it does help out and it charges less.
When my mother died, we had to contact the crematorium to pick up her body at the hospital. We asked for a room where her body could be lain, so each of us could have a private time to say goodbye, since everyone was not in town when we had to move her from the hospital morgue. The crematorium arranged a room for us to see her. She was in the same hospital gown she died in. Nothing had been done to her at all.
We had to see the crematorium, which was off site from the little office of the facility, where my mom’s body was stored. Cremation took place 4 days after she died, so we had a higher storage fee. We chose that time period so all her children and grandchildren could get to Maryland.
We chose to be with my mother when she was cremated. You do not have to do that and most people do not. It is not encouraged. Our bill was $1,500.00
My sister was cremated, using a funeral home. We had to do nothing, and we asked for nothing; however, when we came to see my sister, she was in a gown her daughter brought, and she was tidied up a bit. She was not made up nor did she have on a head cover, which she wore for so many months after losing her hair to chemo. She was laid in a nice room with some flowers and candles. Soft music was playing.
The funeral parlor arranged everything: taking her body from the hospice to the funeral home, arranging our private family visitation and arranging the time and date of the cremation as well as selling us an urn for her ashes. Our bill was $4,000.00.
12. Know the Most Affordable Cremation Option: Immediate/Direct Cremation
- Immediate/direct cremation can run up to $1,200, depending on the area in which you live; however, it is usually much less.
- Immediate cremation is a popular choice because it is the most cost effective. The disposal of the body is taken care of, and then, at a later date, you can plan a memorial service.
- The only costs with this option of cremation are the fee charged by the facility you choose, the transportation fee of the body and the storage fee, as most bodies cannot be cremated immediately upon arrival to the crematorium.
If you are not burying the ashes, you can take them home in the container provided by the cremation facility. Initially, my sisters and I took our mother’s ashes home from the Maryland crematorium in a plastic bag within a cardboard box. We had a memorial service at a later date, and we put the ashes in a wooden box made by her grandson. Some were buried in a box where my father was buried, and the rest were strewn into the Pacific Ocean, followed by beautiful roses that floated out to sea, along with her.
13. Find a cremation facility near you
If you choose a facility near you, transportation fees will be less. You will also be able to get a better idea of the reputation of the crematorium from local business people and neighbors. Trusting the facility you choose is imperative for your peace of mind during this emotional time.
14. Shop around
Before deciding on the facility, shop around. Most communities have more than one crematorium, so comparison shop. Go to the facility, ask your questions and get a price list.
15. Ask for a price list
Crematoriums have price lists that should include all fees. They will also include container prices. If you have any questions after you see the list, be sure to ask them.
16. Watch out for extra fees
When my sister was at the funeral home before cremation, unbeknownst to us, we were charged for how they tidied her up before we saw her. We did not ask them to do that; however, we were glad it was done.
When we stayed when our mother was cremated, we were charged a fee for being there. It was minimal but we were charged.
17. Investigate package prices
Crematoriums offer packages. If you choose to select the urn from their facility, you get a discount. However, if you have the price list, you can compare to see if the package really is a bargain.
The biggest oops I see is that the packages include expensive urns. Though up front they look life a deal, in reality, you will pay more for the package because of the urn.
18. Compare the Cost of an Urn to a Container
Urns can be very expensive. If you select one from a funeral home or crematorium, prices can run into the 1000’s. However, you can buy an urn on Amazon for less than $50.00.
You do not have to have an urn for the ashes either. As I said before, we took our mother’s ashes home in a plastic bag, inside a cardboard box. Her final container was a box made by her grandson.
If you are strewing the ashes in the ocean or burying them in your garden or planting a tree and putting the ashes around it, you do not even need an urn.
Be wary of salespeople trying to sell the top of the line urn. It matters not if it keeps the cold out or won’t let insects in. Do not even worry about these things should you choose to bury the ashes in an urn.
19. Learn About the Cheapest Way to Dispose of a Body
Though donating your body to science is not technically cremation, when the scientists are done with the body, what remains can be cremated. You can ask to have the remains returned to you; however you may want to ask what the time frame for research is so you know if asking for the cremated ashes will make sense, based on a time frame. Then you can keep them on a mantel, put them in the flowerbed or strew them in a river.
20. Talk Things Over
It is always a good idea to talk things over before you make the final decision. Like a shoulder to cry on, having someone to share these decisions with is helpful. Whether it is a friend or family member, it will help to say out loud what you have researched, learned and decided upon.
Because you get what you pay for, it is important to do your research when it comes to cremation. It is best to have a plan concerning the final farewell of a loved one. The plan should include a budget. Find facilities close to your home, get price lists, ask about extra fees, and do a comparison before you decide. Then, talk things over with someone you trust. Cremation is becoming a popular choice for the disposal of the body after death because it is a simple process that can be done at a reasonable price.