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How to save money on funeral expenses

With end-of-life planning services, you can save your loved ones both time and money

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Some people know exactly how they’d like to be remembered after their death — whether they’ve purchased a burial plot in advance or planned the readings for their memorial service. Other people are less sure of their final wishes, and may not even know which options are available.

That’s where Lantern comes in. Lantern is an end-of-life planning service that allows people to consider their final wishes, choose between their options and — in many cases — save money on final expenses.

“End-of-life planning is actually much more straightforward than people think,” explains Liz Eddy, co-founder and CEO of Lantern. “It takes the financial responsibility off of the people you love, ensures they have clarity on your wishes, and gives them fewer tasks to complete while grieving.” (Eligible Haven Term policyholders can enjoy no-cost end-of-life planning services from Lantern through the Haven Life Plus bonus rider.)

We asked Eddy to share a few time-saving, cost-saving tips to help people as they begin the planning process. Here’s what she told us.

In this article:

Traditional burial is often the most expensive option

If you’re thinking about a traditional burial — for yourself or for a loved one — take some time to compare costs. “Traditional burial, especially with certain caskets and embalming, is generally the most expensive option, and the most detrimental to the environment,” explains Eddy.

Traditional burial is generally defined as burial with a casket, with the body having been embalmed beforehand. And according to recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial is $7,848. The median cost of a funeral with cremation is $6,971. While this thousand-dollar price difference might not matter to some families, others may want to take it into account when considering final expenses.

Environmentally friendly options may be more cost-effective

If you’re interested in leaving an environmental legacy, you’re not alone. The National Funeral Directors Association reports that 60.5% of surveyed Americans are interested in environmentally friendly cremation or interment options, also known as “green funerals” or “green burials.”

If you are choosing between a traditional cremation and a traditional burial, the cremation is likely to be the greener option — but Eddy notes that there are many companies offering even better choices.

Solace Cremation, for example, offers carbon neutral cremation options for people in Portland, Oregon and Southern California. Better Place Forests allows families to spread a loved one’s ashes into the soil around a memorial tree in a dedicated conservation forest. You can even become a tree with Transcend. Or choose a cremation alternative like aquamation. Your state may have additional options to consider, so take some time to look at what is available.

It’s worth noting that many environmentally friendly options are less expensive than traditional options — especially if you work with a service that offers direct cremation, which is an option that allows the body to be cremated immediately after death. By skipping the embalming process, the casket and the viewing, you not only conserve resources but also save on cost — which could be one more way of passing your values down to your loved ones.

If you work with a funeral home, ask for prices in advance

Some families may choose to work with a funeral home — either because they prefer a traditional visitation, funeral and burial, or because they want to work with a team of people who already know how to handle the ins and outs of end-of-life planning. Unfortunately, this expertise often comes with a cost. Fortunately, funeral homes are required to itemize these costs before you make any decisions.

“Funeral homes are required by law to provide a price list with each expense delineated so there should be no surprises,” Eddy explains. “You can often find the price list on their website. But if not, they will send it to you over email if you ask.”

It is also possible to work with a funeral home while still working from a budget. Many people don’t realize that they can provide their own urn or casket, for example, as long as it meets certain requirements — and that big-box retailers like Costco often offer these essential supplies at much lower prices than funeral homes.

“Avoid buying a casket from a funeral home,” advises Eddy, “and don’t buy flowers.” Friends and family who want to contribute to the service will often have bouquets delivered — and you can often rely on these same friends and family to provide other gifts and services such as food, live music and memorial displays.

Lastly, you can get much of the same funeral planning and after loss support outside of the funeral home. Lantern offers a self-serve, step-by-step offering as well as a concierge service. These services offer lower-cost options for professional support.

Make your wishes known as early as possible

The best way to ensure that your final expenses are as cost-effective as possible is by making your wishes known in advance — the earlier, the better. “Create a plan, share it with your beneficiaries, determine what you want for your funeral, and begin a savings account for those expenses,” says Eddy.

Lantern allows you to begin this pre-planning work for no cost — and once you’re ready to continue the planning process, the Haven Life Plus bonus rider can help eligible Haven Term policyholders access Lantern’s full pre-plan premium membership and 1-on-1 post-loss consultation, normally valued at $149.

Not all families feel comfortable discussing end-of-life wishes, and some families have an even harder time talking about finances. But one other step you can take now is to make sure you have financial protection for your loved ones in the form of an affordable term life insurance policy, which can help provide all-important peace of mind.

If you’re concerned about having these kinds of difficult conversations with your loved ones, keep in mind that having a hard conversation now could save your family both time and money in the future. By providing your family with a guide to your final wishes, you’ll also be helping them during what would otherwise be a time of grief, stress and confusion.

“Making an end-of-life plan is one of the most selfless and loving things you can do for the people you care about,” Eddy explains. “If you start before you have an urgent need to do so, it is much easier to shop around, reflect on your decisions, and share it with loved ones in a meaningful way.”

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About Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker has been a full-time freelance writer since 2012, with a focus on personal finance and habit formation. In addition to Haven Life, her work regularly appears at Lifehacker, Bankrate, CreditCards.com, and Vox. Dieker spent five years as a writer and editor for The Billfold, a personal finance blog where people had honest conversations about money, and is the author of Frugal and the Beast: And Other Financial Fairy Tales.

Read more by Nicole Dieker

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: https://havenlife.com/plus

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