How to Save Costs

Are Funeral Costs a concern?

Funeral costs can easily run into several thousand dollars.  And some people are happy to pay whatever the funeral home charges.

However, if you are wanting to keep costs down, there are still many options available to you.

Ultimately Funeral homes are in the business to make money.  And they do this by encouraging you to use them as much as possible.

SDF started for families who didn’t want to spend a lot of money and still have a funeral that was meaningful to them and professionally managed.  Families who wanted the professional care without the professional expense.


Embalming isn't essential.  Especially if the burial or cremation is happening within a few days.  If you didn't have a chance to see the person before they died, in some ways seeing them not embalmed is a better experience.  

Many people chose to remember the person when they were living, but for some seeing them after is also important.

The only time embalming is really necessary is if there are several days before funeral and sometimes if the body begin to deteriorate quickly.

Comments I hear is that people prefer to be buried or cremated with their own blood in them, rather than it drained away and replaced by chemicals.

Funeral Services

Many think that you need to have a certain type of service and do what the funeral home suggest.  But this isn't the case.

Ask what kind of service do you actually want?  There are so many options besides using a funeral home.

Below are just a few options that could save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

    • Having the funeral director at the service costs.  And often you don't actually need them - especially if it is a memorial service.  They are usually there to take care of the coffin.  But the coffin really doesn't need to be there.  You could have a private burial or cremation beforehand and then gather later for the service.
    • Contacting a florist directly is easy and they can arrange flowers as you want.
    • Service sheets aren't really needed.  If there is a hymn / song, which usually happens in churches, there is a screen that can display words. 
      The other alternative is designing a service sheet yourself and getting a local printer to make enough copies.
    • Registry Book - buy your own and put it by the door.  You can even have someone encourage people to sign it.
    • Catering is contracted out through the funeral home.  So if you can do this directly it will save costs.

For some people trying to organise a funeral alongside dealing with grief and loss is too hard.  Maybe think about taking some time.  If you do want a public service, you can always have a private one first, then arrange a public service later.

Keep in mind that a funeral service can be anything you like.  At its core is remembering the person and being with family and friends.  Many very simple funeral services have been incredibly meaningful.

The Coffin

Many people are having a direct cremation first, then the service later.  There are many benefits to this.  See Memorial Services to read more. 

In terms of savings, if the coffin isn't there, then there is no need for the hearse or funeral directors to be there.

Often a family will have the ashes there or a picture board, etc as a focal point.  Even with a burial, you can still have a funeral service later without the coffin.

Why pay thousands of dollars for a coffin?  The person inside doesn't care and this beautiful coffin will be buried or cremated.  Coffins have become a bit of a gimmick really.  I agree, some look great, but really having one that costs more than a car and is seen for only a few days is a huge outlay.  There are things you can do with a plain coffin:

  • put a cloth cover over it
  • paint it
  • load flowers on it
  • place photos on it

The coffin does not reflect the person inside, or the love for that person even though funeral homes promote this because of the commission they get selling them.  I think of the pearl inside a shell.  

Alternative Funeral Services

In the past funerals were done by a minister and the undertaker and everyone else went along for the ride.  Today there are so many alternatives.


The venue can be almost anywhere.  Often a place will not charge if they are able to cater for you.  Or it could be in a park or at a home.  Perhaps the thing to keep in mind is where the person and the family feels most comfortable.

So the location is up to you.  I often have people come for a committal service with family and close friends, then they go for a coffee or lunch afterwards.  Very simple and very appropriate.


There is no right and wrong way to doing a funeral service.  There have been terrible traditional funeral services and fantastic non-traditional services.  So focus on the things that matter - who will lead, the speakers, music, etc.


A Funeral Celebrant is often a great option.  They not only have lots of ideas, but their costs will not be as high as a funeral home.  Funeral Homes often employ the same celebrants to lead their services.


A quiet, small funeral service is totally acceptable.  If this is what feels right then do that.


Some people don't have any service and that is also an option.  But I would suggest marking the passing of a loved one in some way - even if it is a walk along the beach.

Streaming online

This is the new (old) fad so people far away can be there.  If you hire someone for this, which is what most funeral homes do, this can be quite expensive. 


For smaller funerals I have had families use their phones and people watching through this.  There is no cost. 


There is also recording the service on a phone.  It means that people are seeing the funeral service a little later.  Plus you have a recording of it also. 


Again, you could hire someone, but today's phone technology means it is easy to do (ask a teenager).  


I know that not being there in person can be hard and technology has its place.  These suggestions are for those who want ideas to cut these costs.

Funeral Directors

Like all places there are good and bad operators.  At the end of the day a funeral director is a businessperson.  As such, the bottom line is a huge focus - even if they say it isn't, it is.


The funeral home would like to do as much as they can for the family.  Because the more they can do, the more they can charge.  So with skill and tactics they have methods of getting families to do more.


The main thing a funeral director really does is transporting the body.  They collect it from the hospital or home and take it to the funeral home.  Then they take the person, in the coffin, to the funeral service or their last destination - burial or cremation.


They do this because transporting a body and a coffin is tricky.  Some families have done this, but for many - it is something they don't even want to think about.


The paperwork for a death and funeral is very foreign to most people because they don't do it very often.  This is often what ultimately puts people off doing funerals themselves.


 And funeral homes generally won't just do the paperwork without any other involvement.  Just like they often won't sell only a coffin, because they want the opportunity to do more and therefore earn more.


Keep in mind that everything a funeral home does for you will cost money.  Flowers, service sheets, viewings... the list can go on and on.


As mentioned before - if you are having a service with just the ashes you don't need a funeral director there.


In many cases a funeral celebrant or even a family friend is more than capable to run a service for you.


Keep in mind that funeral directors will use tactics to encourage people to do more.  There are terms and phrases that really puts the pressure on families to do more than perhaps they first wanted.  Check out the blog 15 Things Funerals Homes don't want you to know.

You can spend as much money as you want on a funeral.  No one is stopping you.  But for those who don’t want to over spend, there are so many alternatives that can still provide a great funeral service for a loved one.

Ultimately, I think every family wants a “send off” that they are happy with.  This is definitely possible without excessive costs.  

Simple Direct Funerals began because I saw how much funeral homes were over charging families who wanted a simple low cost funeral.  I saw how these homes would subtly increase costs so the final invoice was a shock.

I wanted families to be able to have a good funeral, that they wanted, without the financial pressure.

Inside Wakapuaka Crematorium Chapel
Car at cemetery