15 Things a Funeral Director Won’t Tell You About Saving Money

They say that the funeral business is one of the few recession-proof industries in the country. That may be morbid – but it’s true. Funerals generate billions of dollars in business every year as people pay tribute to their loved ones.

Like it or not, death is an inevitable part of life, and funeral homes are the best place to celebrate the impact that life had on you. But funeral services are also notoriously expensive, which leads reasonable people to question whether funeral home owners are just taking advantage of people when they’re most vulnerable.

Want to save money on funeral services without feeling stingy? Read on for some expert tips on the mysterious funeral industry.

1. Never pay in advance

Funeral fund
Funeral fund | designer491/iStock/Getty Images

Yes, you’re definitely going to need a funeral at some point. But paying in advance might be a big mistake, especially if the funeral home you choose goes out of business. Even though the funeral industry is mostly stable, it’s not guaranteed. The total number of funeral homes has been steadily declining since 2004.

If you don’t want your loved ones to worry about funeral costs, simply set that money aside in a separate savings account rather than pre-paying.

Next: Your loved one might qualify for a free burial.

2. Veterans can get buried for no charge

Veteran flag in cemetary
American veteran flag in autumn cemetery | leekris/iStock/Getty Images

Any honorably discharged veteran is entitled to a cost-free grave, vault, opening and closing, marker, and setting for free at a Veterans Affairs National Cemetery. Some State Veterans Cemeteries also offer free burial services for veterans and their spouses.

Of course, they’ve already paid a price by serving their country faithfully.

Next: This place has discount caskets.

3. Find cheaper caskets at Costco

Casket | ene/iStock/Getty Images

If you’re a discount shopper for groceries and furniture, there’s no reason you can’t be doing the same for a funeral. Save money by ignorning marked-up caskets at the funeral home and purchasing your own model from warehouse clubs such as Costco or even at Walmart or Amazon’s websites. Another option is purchasing caskets right from the manufacturer to save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Next: Or, don’t buy a casket at all.

4. Consider renting a casket

Casket | kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

The most cost-effective option – and one that’s good for the environment – is casket rentals.

It works like this: your loved one gets a fancy casket for the service, but the body is placed inside a thick cardboard container, and that’s the part that actually gets buried. You can also rent a casket if you’re planning on having the body cremated.

Next: You never knew this standard practice was optional.

5. Embalming is optional

Morgue | Darrin Klimek/iStock/Getty Images

Most people associate death with embalming. But if you’re planning to bury the body within a few days, this costly option might not be necessary. Most funeral homes will have a refrigerated holding area that will keep the body preserved prior to the burial.

The United States and Canada are the only countries that routinely practice embalming.

Next: These people often employ sales tactics.

6. Funeral directors are salespeople

Funeral director
Funeral director | kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

They may be providing a valuable service, but at the end of the day, they’re running a for-profit business. Beware of hard sell phrases such as, “This is the best way to honor your mother,” or “Don’t you want what’s best for Aunt Rose, a woman of such excellent taste?”

Remember, there’s a fine line between honoring your family member’s wishes and blowing your budget because a salesperson said you should upgrade.

Next: The best deals for this might be hidden.

7. Ask to see all your casket options

Caskets for sale
Caskets for sale | KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images

The display room of caskets often features the priciest options. Don’t feel shy about asking to see the cheaper ones, which are sometimes stored in a separate room and never mentioned. Remember, the amount of money you spend on the burial is not linked to how much you loved the deceased.

Next: The funeral home must tell you this over the phone – it’s the law.

8. Do some comparison shopping

woman on phone
On the phone | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

There is no regulation for pricing in the funeral industry – but federal law does require them to provide pricing in advance over the phone. Don’t just walk into the first funeral home you see and accept their prices without doing a bit of research first. Personal recommendations from friends and neighbors can be helpful, too.

Next: Always bring this person when making funeral plans.

9. Bring someone with you to make final arrangements

Holding hands at a funeral
Holding hands | kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

The best way to ensure that your emotions don’t get the better of you when planning a funeral is to bring along a friend or loved one, preferably someone who wasn’t as close with the deceased as you were. This can help ensure the funeral director can’t take advantage of you at your weakest moments.

Next: Never pay for things you don’t need.

10. Don’t always fall for a packaged deal

Flowers at a funeral
Flowers at a funeral | RobertHoetink/iStock/Getty Images

It may seem easier and cheaper to buy your loved one’s funeral services as part of a bundle, but you’re always better off requesting an individual price sheet, too. There’s no reason to pay for add-ons you don’t need just because the package you pick includes them.

Next: Depending on your plans, you may not need this pricey purchase.

11. You might not need an urn

Diamond | da_cipher/iStock/Getty Images

Storing ashes in an urn is the traditional route, but it’s not your only option. You can also choose to scatter the ashes in your loved one’s favorite spot, have them crushed into a diamond that you turn into jewelry, integrate them into a coral reef, or even have them sent into space.

Next: You may not have considered saving money in this way.

12. Do this if you have a closed casket

Closed casket
Closed casket | kzenon/iStock/Getty Images

Planning to have a closed casket service for whatever reason? You might choose not to have the body present for the funeral and just have an empty casket on display. It’s much cheaper that way, and no one will know the difference unless you tell them.

Next: Don’t buy new clothes for the deceased.

13. Purchasing new clothing isn’t necessary

clothing on rack
Clothing rack | Sigefride/iStock/Getty Images

Even if Aunt Margaret’s favorite dress is a little snug, it doesn’t mean you have to go out shopping for a new one. Funeral homes are used to making the clothing appear to fit perfectly, even if it’s really a little bit too small or too large.

Next: This small detail can make a huge difference in pricing.

14. Figure out who owns the funeral home

For sale sign
For sale | lightandmotion/iStock/Getty Images

When corporate chains purchase funeral homes, they’ll typically keep the same name and appearance but will jack up the prices. Do a little sleuthing to figure out if that centuries-old funeral home is still family owned or if they’ve been bought out without you realizing it.

Next: This is the most important factor to keep in mind.

15. Remember, a beautiful funeral doesn’t have to be expensive

A coffin about to be lowered at a funeral service
A coffin about to be lowered at a funeral service | iStock.com/davidford

Sometimes the smallest, simplest, least pricey funerals are the most meaningful ceremonies. When planning for the funeral of a loved one, keep in mind that spending more is not the best way to honor their memory. Sharing stories, remembering their lives, and coming together to grieve with other loved ones doesn’t cost a penny, and it’ll be the part you remember most.