Funerals can be expensive. But there are ways to save money and still have a good funeral.
I would first like to point out that there is nothing wrong if a family wants to have an expensive funeral. An expensive coffin with heaps of flowers, flash hearse, large gathering with refreshments – there is no limit on what you could spend. And if you want to do this – you can. There are Funeral Homes more than happy to accommodate those needs.
However for too long Funeral Homes have also overcharged and pressured families into spending more money. Look at my blog on 15 Things Funeral Homes don’t want you to know. There hasn’t been any alternative and so families had to go to these established Funeral Homes.
What are the most expensive costs with a funeral?
The coffin can be thousands of dollars. But why spend this when it is only going to be cremated or buried? Despite what Funeral Director’s might say – a more expensive coffin DOES NOT reflect greater love and honour for the person.
A traditional funeral service at the Funeral Home or arranged by the Funeral Home elsewhere, like a church or conference centre increases costs. There are lots of expenses involved with this – service sheets, minister or celebrant, flowers, transportation of coffin, music, slide show, food… the list goes on and on. Obviously the Funeral Home will need to take a cut from all these things.
Often you will see Professional Fees – which is any amount a Funeral Home can get away with. It is just a discretionary fee that sounds good, but it’s paying extra for what they should be doing regardless.
The cremation and burial plots are also expensive, but this cost is based on the council, who looks likely to increase the costs significantly later this year.
Sometimes it can be lots of little costs that quickly add up. Every time you tick a box for something the price increases.
More and more people are not choosing to be embalmed. I had one person say that they didn’t want their loved one’s blood poured down the drain and replaced with chemicals.
So how can you save money?
Sometimes people think this is the wrong attitude – because honouring the person who has died and making the event significant is far more important. However that is incorrect. You can still honour the person without going beyond your budget – whatever that may be. And for some people it isn’t the budget as much as having a simple process.
An approach many of my families do is to have a cremation soon after death and then a larger gathering later on. The cremation might include a short committal service for close friends and family or they say goodbye to the person where they died (e.g. at home) and the cremation takes place.
The gathering later on can be anywhere the family wishes. Often there is no extra charge if people chose to go to a restaurant or pub. And it is usually a place where the family feels most relaxed.
Some have had the cremation and then a large church service at their local church. They often don’t need to pay anything for this and there are those in the church who are happy to help with refreshments afterwards at little or no cost (except buying the food).
Using a funeral celebrant can give you lots of options and it is worth having a chat with them to see what they can offer. However many families are more than happy to focus on a more casual gathering where people share stories and maybe songs, poems, etc.
When I took funerals as a minister there were two things that I found people remembered the most at a funeral. One was the stories told about the person and two was the people they met up there. Often it was a reunion of old friends.
The point is this. You can have a get-together or a Memorial Service which doesn’t take much planning and is still incredibly important. There are many positives doing things this way. I know a family who I have done a second funeral for and they are going to the pub with the ashes in a few weeks, because that’s what they did last time and it was a “great time” (their words, not mine).
People have climbed mountains to scatter ashes, gone to sea, had a picnic… There are so many things you don’t actually need, but will be encouraged to use by Funeral Directors.
Even with a burial I have found that a simple gathering at the gravesite and saying a few words and then going back somewhere has been a great funeral. I have had dozens of people attend and it has been a meaningful special time. It means they are focused on the burial and then each other later as they share stories, etc.
There are so many ways to save money and still have a good funeral. And although SDF only has low cost options, families have been able to celebrate the life of a person in many different ways. Unlike all the other funeral homes I have absolutely no need to try and encourage families to spend more. In fact I often save them money.
But perhaps more importantly is the feedback I continually get from families on how they have been treated. Regardless of the price, it is the service they truly appreciate the respectful, comforting and caring approach throughout. Having a background in caring for people, it is my natural focus to ensure their needs are met.
So it isn’t only about low costs – it is also about offering a sympathetic and professional service.