As Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote, death and taxes payable to the federal government are the only certainties in life. But the costs of a funeral service, as well as the process of death more generally, have been on the rise in recent years. This has created a marketplace full of options when it comes to sending off our loved ones.
In order to understand why funerals are so expensive, and to buck the cost-enhancing trends that drive up your particular bill total, it’s important to get to the root of it all.
The Traditional Funeral
Traditionally, funerals in the United States have involved an embalming process, awake, a memorial service of some kind, and then a burial in your community’s cemetery. These steps are capital and labor intensive and have risen in price alongside the inflated U.S. dollar over the years. However, funeral directors have also been pushing expensive and exquisite caskets onto unsuspecting mourners for many years, driving the price of burials up even further. Alongside premium cemetery burial plots, the costs of a funeral done the traditional way have never been higher. The average casket, for instance, costs about $2,000, but most buyers choose one of the first three they are shown at the funeral home. This has led to a trend among funeral directors that sees a showroom stocked full of the most expensive models in order to drive up the sale price of these containers for our loved ones.
In addition to the price of a funeral service, your loved one will need to be waked in their clothing. Many families must choose between burying a loved one in their favorite wide calf booties and other clothing styles and purchasing a new outfit for the occasion. Buying new knee boots or skirts for the deceased can add an additional expense to the procedure.
The truth is that no one really needs an expensive box to hold their remains. No casket, no matter how durable, will keep out the moisture and other elements in the ground (and funeral directors are no longer legally allowed to tell you that one will). This means that the deterioration of the body is inevitable, no matter what quality craftsmanship went into the construction of your loved one’s casket.
Only so many people die in a community every year, meaning that funeral homes must work to sell you on the highest-priced services they can. After paying for medical supplies or medical equipment to assist with the final months of your loved one’s life, this extra expense can feel like a major burden. While a dignified funeral home will work with you to provide your family with the sendoff that your loved one deserves, at the end of the day they are still in the business of making money.
The Cremation Alternative
Cremation is the preferred alternative to the burial option for millions of Americans. Many people choose cremations for their final sendoff as a way to create an intimate family moment and to reduce the costs of these final expenses. Cremation is far cheaper than the traditional burial option, and a memorial service, including the wake, can still go ahead as it might happen otherwise.
The only difference is the final dispensation of the remains. Instead of placing your loved one in a casket in the ground, a cremation burns the remains. This leaves you with an urn full of your loved one’s ashes, giving you the freedom to do as you see fit. Many families choose to end up searching for ‘cremation services near me,’ selecting the option that works best for their needs, and placing these remains in a conspicuous place in the home. This allows a sense of that person’s presence to remain always with you. Others opt to spread the ashes in an important or memorable place that was special to their loved ones.
Discuss these options with your loved ones.
Whether you are approaching the golden years of your life or are the daughter or son of an elderly parent, the need to discuss funeral arrangements remains an important part of familial relationships. Creating a will can help speed this conversation along, and everyone should take part in planning for their own passing.
Stipulating your desires about passing property to heirs or other beneficiaries and outlining your preferences for making funeral arrangements can help children focus on grieving and recovering rather than trying to decipher the wishes you may have held during this difficult time. Thinking about your options is an important step in the aging process, and will help those that you will eventually leave behind progress into the healing phase of their grief.
Funerals are an expensive part of a person’s final act. Planning for the expense and weighing your options in order to make a cost-effective and still dignified choice is a crucial part of passing on. Make sure you begin planning for this inevitable need now.