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How to plan a funeral on a budget

Money-saving tips for a stressful time, from the end-of-life planning experts at Lantern

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Lantern specializes in pre-planning and after-loss services, providing guidance and support for navigating life before and after a death. For eligible Haven Term policyholders, a full pre-plan premium membership and one-on-one post-loss consultation services are available at no cost through the Haven Life Plus rider, a suite of bonus services. Learn more here.

Disclaimer: Burial, cremation, and funerals are regulated by individual states and laws vary. Check with your funeral director or cremation service before making plans.

When a loved one dies, there are many reasons why you might want to keep costs down. You might not know the state of that loved one’s finances, for example, and what kind of legacy they left behind. (Like whether or not the person had a term life insurance policy, with a payout that can be used on funeral expenses, along with many, many other things.) Or you might know the state of your finances, and realize you can’t afford to overspend on a funeral. Or maybe you just don’t want to commit to an expensive funeral and then regret it when bills come due.

If so, you’re not alone in worrying about money during the immediate stages of grief—as funeral costs in America rise, families are now spending upwards of $10,000 for even fairly basic funerals.

Saving money on a funeral can be a challenge—you want to give your loved one the send-off they deserve, and it can feel hard to pinch pennies. But that doesn’t mean you have to mortgage the house, either—there are things you can do during the funeral planning process to ease the burden on your bank account. We asked the end-of-life-planning experts at Lantern for their advice. Here’s what they told us.

In this article:

Know your rights

The Federal Trade Commission requires all funeral homes to keep an updated master price list on file and make it available to consumers upon request. Plenty of funeral homes make their master price list available online, too. Examine the list closely, and don’t feel bad about shopping around. While you might not end up going with the least expensive option, it’s worth getting a sense of what different funeral homes charge for similar services.

Bring your own supplies

One thing the FTC makes very clear is that funeral homes aren’t allowed to charge you extra for using a casket or urn you’ve purchased somewhere else. As long as it meets the requirements of your cemetery, you’re allowed to use it. Considering the markup on caskets, this is a great place to save money. Costco, for example, sells caskets at a fraction of the cost of funeral home prices. (We know it’s Costco, but avoid the urge to buy in bulk.)

If you’re opting for cremation, your options are even broader—any container that will hold cremains safely works.

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Opt for direct burial or cremation

In addition to being the best options for the environment, direct burial and cremation are also significantly less expensive than funerals and burial ceremonies that involve embalming a body. Note: a direct burial is different from opting for a simple burial. A direct burial means the funeral director does the burial without the family present.

Don’t be afraid to customize

You may find, in working with a funeral home, that you don’t actually need all the bells and whistles they offer. One place it often makes sense to think about saving is the viewing—many funeral homes suggest four hours’ worth, while it might make sense to have only two.

Stay close to home

Rather than an expensive post-funeral event at a restaurant or event space, consider having a gathering at home. You’ll save on food and drink costs, especially if you ask guests to bring a dish or bottle of wine to share. If you feel bad asking, remember—people want to help, and in many cases will be grateful to you for including them.

Paying for flowers—don’t do it

Even if you don’t have any funeral at all, or expressly tell people not to send flowers, or text everyone you know a link to your loved one’s favorite charity, it’s a fact that some people will not be able to stop themselves from sending flowers or plants. Take advantage of this! If someone wants to send flowers, incorporate them into the funeral decor and then bring them along to the cemetery. There’s no reason for you to spend money on something so many other people will want to give you.

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About Angela Serratore

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Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our editorial policy

Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.

Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.

Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

Our disclosures

Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.

MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.

Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit:

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