You may need to have a cheap funeral, but you don’t want to. After all, if money wasn’t an object, you’d celebrate your loved one’s life and legacy with extravagance, sparing no expense.
But the reality is that our pocketbooks are only so deep. If you’re on limited resources, how do you plan an inexpensive funeral service that still honors your loved one, and looks beautiful?
Here are 50 ways to do just that. We’ll start with the absolute cheapest option.
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What is the cheapest funeral possible?
The cheapest possible funeral is direct cremation with a memorial service at home or at your church, followed by a potluck reception.
Direct Cremation. This method involves the body going directly (hence the name) to the crematorium and being cremated within a few days. Depending on local factors, direct cremation may cost around $1,000-$2,500. You can shop for a quality, affordable urn, or simply use the plastic box provided by the crematorium. Direct burial is the same idea, but with full-body burial instead of cremation. It’s slightly more expensive.
DIY Memorial Service. Host it at home, in your backyard, at your church, or wherever else you might obtain free use of space. Borrow chairs and tables, print your own free funeral programs, play music from your phone, have someone give a eulogy, and keep it all as simple as possible.
Potluck Reception. This is another easy one. People are already looking for ways to help out, so they’ll be happy to bring a home-baked dish. Provide tables, chairs, and paper plates and let everyone enjoy spending time with one another and sharing memories.
Collect Donations. You can go a step further to offset costs by setting up a memorial fund. EverLoved is a free platform that allows you to create a memorial website with a subtle, tasteful donation feature.
Funeral Planning Your Own Way
Before we get into the specifics of how to plan a frugal, affordable funeral, let’s make this clear: You won’t be able to do all of these ideas.
Some of these cheap funeral planning tips are just about asking the right questions. Others are designed for the crafty and creative DIY crowd.
Some ideas may inspire something you didn’t realize was a possibility, while other ideas might not suit your circumstances.
That’s ok – there are plenty of ways to have a budget-friendly funeral. Sometimes, using just one or two of these can save you quite a bit on your overall funeral costs.
The keys to an affordable funeral on a budget are simple:
- Research your options
- Educate yourself
- Ask questions
- Don’t get stuck on particular (expensive) things
- Consider alternatives
- Shop around
- Delegate and accept help from others
Lastly, remember that sometimes it’s worth it to pay a professional to help. That’s what they are trained to do, and that’s why many people choose the professionals!
So take into account your limitations of both finances and time and energy, then use our cheap funeral planning tips as best as you can.
50 Tips for a Cheap Funeral That Still Looks Great
1. Learn your options.
Reading articles like this is the perfect start, of course. But learn a little more about final arrangements options as well. For instance, direct cremation is a very low-cost cremation option, and there are many “traditional” services you can forego to lower the bill.
2. Shop around.
Call up the funeral homes in your area and ask for pricing. This will also help you decide if the funeral home is the right fit – if they get short and snippy, you’ll know it’s not a good fit. If they are friendly and helpful in explaining their pricing, it’s probably a great, service-oriented facility.
Related: How to Choose a Great Funeral Home
3. Be up front about wanting to keep costs down.
Tell the funeral home you would like to keep costs to a minimum. It’s their job to make arrangements that suit your needs, and they can help you best when they know what you want.
4. Ask for an itemized price list.
Once you’ve decided on a funeral home, ask for an itemized price list in advance of all the services you will be purchasing. This will ensure you don’t have any surprise charges tacked on.
Just by talking about pricing, you may be able to work with a funeral home or crematorium to get better rates on certain products or services. At the same time, be sensible; the funeral director and staff need to earn a living.
6. Set a budget.
Research funeral costs beforehand so that your budget is reasonably attainable, then set a budget and stick to it.
7. Consider a different burial/disposition site.
You may go with Funeral Home A, but find that the cemetery at Funeral Home C is either closer, more beautiful to visit, or less expensive. Thankfully, you can do both! Just because you are working with one funeral home doesn’t mean you have to use their cemetery.
Here are 13 questions to ask when choosing a cemetery; many of these questions will help you get what you want for the best value.
8. Ask your clergy for help.
Churches and other religious organizations often have some or many services available, either free for members or at a lower cost than at a funeral home. At the very least, pastors and clergy members can often give good recommendations.
9. Pre-plan as much as possible.
The more you and your loved ones pre-plan for your funerals, the less “in the moment” decisions need to be made. Those are typically the more expensive ones.
10. Make the obituary brief.
11. Bring a relative or friend.
When you go to the funeral home to discuss arrangements, bring along a friend or relative who can be a little more impartial. Most funeral directors are genuinely helpful and non-manipulative, but you’ll be surprised at how strong the pull is to add all the little bells and whistles. Having someone else there who knows what you want and what your budget is will help you save.
12. Skip the embalming.
13. Ask for low-cost burial plot locations.
Sometimes cemeteries will charge more or less depending on the location of the burial plot. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
14. Skip the burial vault.
Many cemeteries will require a burial vault in addition to the casket. They do this to protect their grounds. However, state laws do not require one, so you may be able to call around and find a site which does not require a vault.
15. Skip the burial.
16. Donate your body to science.
When a body is donated for scientific research, once the research is complete a cremation is provided for free and the ashes are returned to the family member. It’s a zero-cost disposition option.
17. Shop around for an urn burial vault.
When burying an urn, you may be able to price compare urn burial vault options; for example, we offer an array of burial vaults for cremation urns that meet the requirements of most cemeteries and can save you quite a bit.
18. Limit visitation.
Ask about the different rates for visitation at the funeral home. Lessening the visitation by one or more days will often bring down the cost.
19. Have a home visitation.
Alternatively, if you’re comfortable with it, consider having the viewing visitation at home. Here’s how.
20. Rent an urn or casket.
Depending on what you choose to do for the final disposition, renting an urn or casket for the funeral or memorial service might make sense.
21. Make your own casket.
22. Make your own urn.
23. Order an urn online.
We have a wide selection of premium cremation urns at a much lower cost than most funeral homes. See here.
24. Order an urn in advance.
Because an urn is fairly small and portable (about 10-12 inches at the longest dimension), you can get a cremation urn ahead of time and store it in your garage, attic, or closet. Just be sure to note in your final arrangements file where it is!
This will save on any need for expensive rush shipping costs, and will allow you to get the exact urn you want at the optimal price, even if it needs several weeks to be made to order.
25. Ask about discounted urns/coffins.
You can ask the funeral home or most online retailers, they may have scratch-and-dent, discontinued, or unlisted low-end items that they can offer you at more affordable prices.
26. Don’t buy an urn at all.
The funeral home or crematorium will give you the remains in a plastic bag inside of a durable plastic or cardboard box. They call it a “temporary urn,” but you can make it permanent if you like.
27. Go natural.
Green, eco-friendly, and natural burial options are often much less expensive than their traditional counterparts. While some nifty earth-conscious products can be expensive, there’s a simple reason why, generally, natural burial is cheaper: Less waste, and less stuff you don’t need.
28. Supply your own flowers.
If the funeral home supplies them, it will likely cost more than getting them yourself from a local florist, or from your own flower garden.
Did you know each flower type has a specific meaning? Check out our article to learn what they are.
29. Limit the flowers.
If the funeral home recommends ten bouquets, you can do eight. Or one. Or none. Remember: You are in charge and it is up to you. You can also tell people, “In lieu of flowers, please….” and fill in the blank.
30. Don’t buy flowers from the funeral home.
Sometimes the funeral home will have excellent deals, but just as often you can get nice arrangements at a grocery store for a fraction of the cost. As always, shop around.
31. Supply your own clothing.
The funeral home may offer clothing for the deceased (for a price), but you will have a closet full of them available. You can always bring your own, or purchase an inexpensive men’s suit or women’s dress. Note: The clothing will likely be cut in order to aid the mortician in dressing the decedent.
32. Don’t buy a new suit for the funeral.
Of course you will want to be respectful in how you dress, but you don’t need to purchase new clothing such as a suit or dress for the service. Here are a few tips on what to wear.
33. Supply your own pallbearers.
This will not only save you a line item on the bill, it will afford the men (and/or women) who were close to you or your loved one an opportunity to be involved. Here’s everything you need to know about pallbearers.
34. Check for veteran’s benefits.
If your loved one was a military service member, they will often have burial and funeral benefits available to them.
35. Check for funeral assistance programs.
Many states have funeral assistance programs for those who need it. Ask your local funeral director what might be available to you.
36. Consider a home funeral.
This is growing trend, which is more work for you and your family but provides what can be rather therapeutic tasks that help you productively work through your grief while lowering your costs quite a bit.
37. Do your own invites.
Funeral homes will have nice options, but generally you can save big by choosing an alternative source. Send e-invites for free. Get dollar-store cards that you hand write or print at home. Even simple ones ordered from a local print shop will most likely be less.
38. Do you own funeral programs.
Same as above. Here are some beautiful templates that you can design online and print yourself.
39. Consider alternate reception venues.
Churches, community centers, homes, and even parks can provide a location for the funeral reception. These often cost less than the funeral home facilities (but not always).
40. Order your own guestbook.
Here is a low-cost yet “premium” option, and here is a popular “affordable” choice. And here are 18 more creative guestbook ideas, some more or less expensive than others but most will be less than purchasing from the funeral home.
41. Scatter the ashes.
Instead of paying for a burial plot, a columbarium niche, or an expensive cremation urn, you can scatter the ashes your own way at no or a very low cost.
42. Make your own reception centerpieces.
43. Make your own decorative memorials.
Whether for use at the funeral/memorial service or for a special display area in your home, here are 11 nifty memorial crafts you can easily do yourself.
44. Make your own memorial service favors.
Here are 25 simple memorial favors you might consider.
45. Skip the restaurant.
You don’t need to host a big reception at a nice restaurant or have it catered. Have a simple reception at home or at a fellowship hall. Serve simple finger-food snack trays, or have a potluck reception.
46. Ask for donations instead of flowers.
Everyone understands that sometimes money is tight. It’s ok to ask that people skip the $20-150 flower arrangements and instead provide a donation to help cover the funeral costs. Here’s a free memorial website platform where you can also collect funeral donations.
47. Start a crowdfund to cover funeral costs.
Ever Loved provides a space for you to create a lovely memorial website where others can donate to help offset funeral costs. Go Fund Me is another popular option, which is strictly for raising money.
48. Have sympathy meals delivered.
Many people will likely bring food after the death of a loved one. You can freeze the meal or the leftovers to last throughout the month.
If you’re a relative or friend reading this to help a grieving family member, set up a “meal train” to deliver sympathy meals after the funeral. If you’re the grieving one, ask a friend or someone from church to start this up for you. It’s a huge help!
Be sure to read our Complete Guide to Sympathy Meals After a Funeral for more info.
49. Get a good book.
For further information, order a good resource book to help you plan and think through these options. The slight cost of a good funeral book can end up saving you big in the long run. Here are a few suggestions:
- Funeral Planning Basics – A comprehensive resource, with a new 2022 edition. I’ve used the 2017 edition for years and have always found it helpful.
- I’m Dead. Now What? – An end-of-life planner to guide those you leave behind.
- The Green Burial Guidebook – Everything you need to know to plan an affordable, environmentally friendly memorial.
50. Start a funeral fund.
If you’re in the middle of planning a funeral right now, this may be advice that is “too little, too late.” But if you can, start saving for funeral expenses by setting up a separate account. This will help you determine a budget, and keep within that budget. Here’s How To Start A Funeral Fund In 5 Easy Steps.
Is there anything we missed? What other ideas have you come across that helped save on funeral expenses?
Read Next: What Is the Least Expensive Burial Option?