Save an Arm & a Leg: Pre-Plan to Reduce Funeral Costs

By Gail Rubin, CT

Making funeral arrangements under the duress of grief is akin to buying a car in one afternoon without research because the car you’ve been driving for years suddenly dies. Buyer’s remorse can set in as soon as you drive off the lot and wonder if you paid too much.

When you shop around before someone dies, with the luxury of time, you can get the best deal possible on products and services. Once someone has already passed away, you are not in a position, emotionally or time-wise, to shop around.

Glenn Taylor, past president of Selected Independent Funeral Homes, an association of family-owned funeral homes, recommends finding a provider with whom you feel comfortable having an engaged and open conversation, as well as shopping for price.

“Pre-arrangement is free. It doesn’t cost a dime to create a roadmap for your family and put your wishes and dislikes on file,” says Taylor. “If a funeral home is running a pre-need program and they’re not willing to talk to you about just a pre-arrangement without funding, you’re in the wrong place.”

Here are a few cost-saving suggestions, in addition to shopping around:

Cremation: Cremation is among the least expensive options for disposition. Cremated remains don’t have to be buried, eliminating the cost of buying a burial plot. Omitting embalming, viewing, interment, and memorial services through the funeral home, a cremation can cost under $2,500.

Donate the Body: Giving your body to science for research costs nothing, but it does require advance arrangements. You’ll need to sign consent forms, place copies with advance directives and wills, and arrange for the medical school or tissue bank to be notified when you die. Not all schools need cadavers at any given time, so research early to find where your body would be most appreciated, and have a Plan B in place with a national body donation service such as MedCure, BioGift or LifeLegacy.

Pre-Purchase a Burial Plot: If you plan to live out your days in the same town and want to be buried after you die, investing in a burial plot before you need it can result in savings. After all, real estate prices usually go up, not down, and your final resting place is no exception.

Having a meaningful, memorable end-of-life event does not have to cost an arm and a leg.

Gail Rubin, Certified Thanatologist, is the host and author of the award-winning television series and book, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die.

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