How to Put Your Deceased Loved One in the Ground for Under $1,000

Ben Franklin once said, “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” We spend a lot of time discussing taxes and how to pay the least amount as possible but why doesn’t anyone discuss the other certainty in life? Let’s face it, you are going to die, I’m going to die and everyone else you know is going to die. What most people don’t consider is that dying is expensive and since when you’re dead you don’t have to pay for anything anymore so the costs get passed on. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg when someone dies if you do a little planning.

Life Insurance

The best way to save money when someone dies is to make sure the person who is doing the dying has life insurance that can cover the costs. The average funeral costs anywhere from $6,000 – $12,000 and that generally doesn’t even include the price of the burial plot and headstone.

That is a lot of money, especially if the death is unexpected and no planning has been done. It doesn’t take much of an insurance policy to cover those types of expenses, so everyone should have a very basic policy. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case and you still find yourself needing to fork out a few thousand dollars when someone dies. Then it is up to you to try and save as much money as possible.

Skip Embalming

Embalming alone can run between $3,000 – $4,000. You can easily eliminate this cost by opting for a closed casket (check your local state regulations first). While it may be nice to be able to view the loved one for a last time this will also incur hidden costs. First, the preparation of the body for the open casket. They will need to apply makeup, adjust the hair, remove blemishes and generally dress them in decent clothing. This can amount to a few hundred extra dollars on top of the embalming alone.

A Casket Without Bling

When you walk into a funeral home you are presented with beautiful caskets made out of solid mahogany with ivory inlay and gold trim, but don’t be fooled. Again these items alone can run upwards of $5,000, and for what? To almost immediately be buried under six feet of soil never to be seen again?

This doesn’t mean you should ask uncle Harold who likes to build things with wood in his garage should head to Home Depot to put together a casket. But you can skip the fancy trim and polish of an expensive casket and find one that is plain yet presentable for a fraction of the price. Better yet, if you opt for cremation you can often rent a casket or even use a temporary box that is used to house the body before it is cremated.

Sales Pressure

A grieving individual is susceptible to making emotional purchases. First, shop around. Don’t settle for the closest or first funeral service provider you find simply because you want to get the process over as quickly as possible. While it can be a difficult time it can be costly to make quick decisions. Also, don’t let the funeral salesperson talk you into a package deal. Yes, it can be easier to pick a pre-designed package and let someone else handle everything but you will end up spending a lot of extra money and probably receive items or services you really don’t need.

Donate to Science

Did the deceased individual have an interest in science? What better way to honor them then by donating their body to science. Whether it is for research or organ harvesting in many cases this would be completely free. Of course there may be some religious conflicts with this method so it isn’t for everyone.

Conclusion

When you die, it costs other people money. Do your family a favor and have a basic life insurance policy. If you don’t you are only bringing additional hardship to your loved ones in an already very difficult time. If you are on the paying end of a death then keep in mind that while it may be an upsetting time, you still don’t have to shell out thousands of dollars to deal with it.

There is nothing fun about death but it is a fact of life. We all have to deal with it so it should be a topic of discussion. Sometimes we get caught up in saving pennies on our electric bill, worry about correct tire inflation for gas mileage and even make a big issue about a fraction of a percent expense ratio on a mutual fund, yet we are completely unprepared when it comes to one thing that is absolutely certain in life.

Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle

My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

3 comments
Rob O.
Rob O.

My Mom recently passed away very suddenly and I found out all too quickly just how pricey this process can be. Even with going with fairly minimal options, we spent about $11.5k - and none of us were financially prepared to shoulder that unexpected load.

Note that even if the decedent had life insurance to help defray these kinds of costs, you won't see that money for a few months.

One thing I did to save was to buy a "pre-owned" plot. There are ads in the classified all the time for burial plots and these are half or even a third of the price of a new plot and can be in much more scenic, older sections of the cemetary. These are typically plots that families bought as a grouping, but then someone moves away or such and they don't end up needing all of them.

Strange as it may sound, I also bought a discontinued, floorstock casket. It was far nicer - a pretty maple design with roses carved on the sides and a rose-themed pink lining - than the comparably-priced new models.

Think long and hard about some of the other trimmings like the marker or tombstone. Are you truly likely to revisit your loved one's gravesite often? If so, then splurging an extra $1000 on a flower vase may well be worth every penny. My family is spread far & wide across the U.S. and I'm not the "go sit at the cemetary" type, so we opted to keep things very simple.

You really do have to keep in mind the wishes or personal tastes of the person who has passed away. Again in our case, we knew from Mom that she placed little value on elaborate caskets or ornate headstones - she had always said that "any old pine box and a hole in the ground will do." She was very practical in nature, often remarking how what happens with her body after she's done with it is won't matter to her.

Though not at all a financial issue, one last thing I'd urge people to consider is organ & tissue donation. A very common thread to our Mom's life was that she always left a place better than it was when she got there. If we visited relatives, we helped clean up before we left. When we left a campsite, it was litter-free. Well, this theme carried over after she died too - even though she had not previously made arrangements for such, I felt it only fitting to allow for organ & tissue donation via a very respectful non-profit organization called Legacy of Life. Once again - and quite literally - Mom left a place better than it was when she got there. I couldn't think of a finer tribute than to know that even after she was gone, she was still helping others.

plonkee
plonkee

I'd add that you should let other people know your wishes. I mean, I want as cheap a funeral as possible and I've written a short set of instructions to that effect.

tanyetta
tanyetta

i have insurance and i've stated that i want to be cremated and for my family and friends to have a party. NO funeral, etc..Now that I think about it, maybe even being cremated costs money. Geez, and I thought I was saving money. Thanks for this post :)