Making funeral arrangements is never easy, but it's crucial to prevent your loved ones from incurring an emotional and financial toll. After all, funeral costs can be exorbitant, so it's essential to consider prepaid funeral plans, burial costs and other details to mitigate unexpected expenses for family members and loved ones grieving. According to the funeral home comparison website, you can expect the average funeral cost for a traditional service to be between $8,000 and $10,000.

As unpleasant as it may be to think about, you need to plan ahead to reduce costs with long-term budgeting . "Despite amazing advances in medical science and technology, the mortality rate for human beings stands at a whopping 100 percent," says Elizabeth Fournier, an undertaker and the owner of Cornerstone Funeral Services in Boring, Oregon. "Funeral and burial arrangements are one of life's large expenses, and like purchasing a house, a wedding or a car, paying for after-death care can have a substantial effect on your wallet," Fournier says.

To stay prepared, take the following considerations into account when it comes to funeral expenses.


Here are crucial funeral costs to plan for and what you can expect to pay, according to the National Funeral Directors Association:

Casket price: $2,000 to 5,000

Embalming: $500 to $1,000

Preparing the body, such as hairstyle and makeup: $250

Headstone or grave market: $2,000 to $5,000 if upright; $1,000 if flat

Flowers: $500 to $700

Transporting remains to the funeral home: $325

Facilities and staff to manage a viewing: $425

Facilities and staff to manage a funeral ceremony: $500

But there are some other expenses to be aware of when it comes to funeral-planning. Jen Lyon, actress, writer, producer, documentary film director and owner of Alphadu Productions in Milford, Connecticut, has unfortunately become an expert on funerals. "(In 2017) I lost my mother, father, brother, aunt and even my dog all in one year. All unexpected, and all a few months apart from each other. No one had prepaid any burial expenses," she says. Her brother died of bone cancer. Her parents died three months apart, each of a heart attack. Her aunt passed away from cardiac complications.

What to Do With Costly Life Insurance

As for funeral expenses, Lyon spent approximately $2,250 on the funeral services. She says the casket for a green burial was $1,495 and she spent $440 for a cremation. But some of the expenses she did not consider included the cost to deliver the casket for $256, an autopsy examiner for $100, a death certificate for $15 and cremation services, including preparing the body, transporting the body and the cost of the container, for $1,715.

While Lyon's father had life insurance , her other family members did not have insurance. And Lyon's father had done an early withdrawal on his life insurance to pay for his wife's medical bills . What was left over went to pay for upkeep on their family farm, in accordance with the father's wishes and which is where Lyon's family is buried. " The loss of my family cost me my 401(k), my entire life savings and ultimately my home to pay for all the funeral costs," Lyon says. "There is a reason that GoFundMe is filled with thousands of memorial requests. Dying in America can bury those left behind in bills and debt ," she says.


Here are other financial factors to consider when it comes to funeral costs.

Prepaid Funeral Plans

With a prepaid plan, the selling points are, of course, that you get a cemetery plot that you want, and you know how everything will go, after you go. The possible downsides: The funeral home you've paid could go out of business or the funeral director may be shady and abscond with your money. Also, if you change your mind and want different funeral plans, you may not be able to get your money back. According to, run by the nonprofit Funeral Consumers Alliance, prepaid funeral plans can pose a risk. According to the site, "Unless Medicaid requires you to 'spend down' your own money to qualify for benefits, you're better off planning ahead without paying ahead."

The Funeral Consumers Alliance suggests options such as looking into burial insurance or putting money into an account and designating someone you trust to take care of the allocated money and use it for funeral costs.

Options if You Can't Afford a Funeral

Consider donating your body to science. Like pre-planning a funeral, this is a decision best made before death. It may sound creepy to some, but there's no question that people who leave their body to medical science are doing a service, and most medical research facilities that accept bodies handle all of the transportation and burial costs. In fact, many research facilities offer an annual memorial service for those who have donated their body to medical science, and if you prefer not to receive an urn of ashes, many will put the body in a repository for bones or bodies of the dead.

But do your research first. For starters, donating your body to science is different than donating organs (since the organs are taken but the body stays for the funeral), and if you donate your body, you can't also be an organ donor (researchers don't want your body without the organs).

Alternatively, bodies can be claimed by the local or state government, which then decide what to do with them. For instance, in Los Angeles, since the 1890s, an annual mass funeral is held for unclaimed bodies.

Comparison Shop

Fournier says that you can have someone directly cremated – as in, there is no funeral service – for as little as $450 and possibly as high as $3,000. Direct burial can range from $1,500 to $6,000, according to Fournier, and a traditional funeral cost can range from $2,000 to $10,000.

But if you're paying for a variety of services from a funeral home, you should have a breakdown of the exact expenses. "Federal law requires that these packages be listed on every funeral home's price list," Fournier says. "These will include transportation, paperwork, state filing fees, caskets, body preparation, embalming, the cremation cost and so on."

She adds that in many states, families are free to act as their own funeral director, buy their own casket online and forgo embalming. But every state has its own laws involving embalming; in many states, the body must be embalmed within 24 hours. For more information, check out


You might also consider having a cremation or burial, but forgoing a service and opting for a get-together to honor the deceased at your home. Ultimately, it's more important that you say goodbye to a loved one than where you meet to say farewell.

"I do urge people to spend more time with loved ones, less money on things that don't matter and to do all the things you want to today, because tomorrow may be too late," Lyon says.

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Raymond Mitchell, Author

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