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The Guide To Avoiding Unnecessary Funeral Costs

Updated: Sep 27, 2015 21:34
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At one point of the whole process, I found myself telling my family, “Funerals aren’t for the dead, they’re for the living.” — David Fisher (played by Michael C. Hall)

For some reason, speaking of funerals appears to be a taboo subject in Western culture. While others around the globe approach death with vigor and annual celebrations covered in marigolds, Westerners shift in their seats when the subject is mentioned. Throw in the topic of money and you’ve got a double whamey. But, I’m not here to sugarcoat the difficulties that lie ahead. You need to know how to avoid unnecessary funeral costs, and so, this is your guide to avoiding unnecessary funeral costs.

From the ages of 1 to 14, I spent four days a week with my nana. She was my second parent. For 14-years a man in a suit would visit my nana once a month. The routine was the same; he’d kindly knock, she’d offer him a beverage, he’d offer her gossip, “Did you hear so and so had a baby/was in jail/died?” This was her life insurance man. I don’t know how much she paid every month, but come hell or high water, she paid something.


When she passed away on May 17, 2015, the arrangements needed to be made hypersonically. Unfortunately, it seemed the brunt of the arrangements rested on the shoulders of my nana’s executors – my mother, my oldest cousin, and me. Fortunately, there was a little life insurance. Unfortunately, it was just enough to cover the cost of the funeral home arrangements.

That left us with the upfront balance of $5,800 for the cemetery. No payment installments. This came from our pockets. I wiped out my savings and my mother took out a bank loan. I then scurried to scrounge up whatever I could from the rest of the family; $400 from family in Philadelphia, some from my godmother. In our moment of grief, we were still being taken for tens of thousands of dollars. But, what if you don’t have savings or insurance? Does your family let you sit in a meat freezer while they have a car wash and try to $5 their way to $5,800?! And while I would wish this on my worse enemy, I wouldn’t wish this upon you. So, here’s my guide to having a cheap funeral.


Pre-plan your arrangements.

Not only does it take a whopping load off your family’s chest, but you can make payment installments and you get a discount. Even $10 a month for the next 50 years will be enough for a cremation.

Call the funeral home.

If you know for sure that you’re dead and aren’t looking for answers for the reason why you’re dead, don’t call the coroner. It costs more money and really the coroner’s only job is just to confirm expiration. Have your body taken directly to the funeral home, the staff is trained to appear much more delicate to your needs and hiding the gruesome reality behind death.

Make the decisions quickly.

Make sure the funeral home you call is the one you want to work with. Otherwise, there’s a hundreds of dollars transfer fee directly from the place of death to the funeral home and also a possible thousands of dollars fee if you transfer between funeral homes. After you choose which funeral package you want, you only have 3 days of refrigeration before they charge you storage prices, $225 a day.

Don’t have an open casket.

Embalming costs more, in this case $675. We’re all one with the earth anyway. One chemical method just prevents us from dissolving a little slower than the other. Some people even pay extra to be directly buried out in nature; nothing between them and the earth other than a cotton shroud.


Don’t let grief control your ability to be coherent and apply common sense.

Believe it or not, I learned so much about the business side of funereal services from one of my favorite shows, Six Feet Under. I learned about product markups, the struggles of a ‘mom and pop’ operation, strong arm tactics from corporate funeral businesses and how the human body functions well after expiration. People who provide funereal services got you where they want you. It’s all about the Benjamins, baby. Even when you can barely lift your head to sift through that projector screen of endless options of cleverly marketed casket names like, “Taurean Emerald,” “Diamond Aries.” Because they know some sad schmuck is going to say, “Ohhh…let’s get that one because nana was a Taurus and her birthstone was an Emerald.” Yeah, no shit. 500,000 other people will have the same zodiac sign and birthstone. “Just place me in a pine box,” you said? While that is the cheapest way to rest your head until your grave is defiled, even the pine box was listed retail at $1,800. Costco has caskets, shipping is supposed to be included in the cost.

Buy the flowers yourself.

One bouquet of roses to lie on the casket was $300. You’re allowed to bring your own grocery store flowers; they’re cheaper and have no overwhelming floral smell to attack the senses whilst your confined in a chapel.


Transfer the flowers yourself.

Otherwise you have to purchase their $250 “utility vehicle,” which exists solely to transfer flowers from the chapel to the gravesite. And you don’t have to worry about the smell, they’re from the supermarket! They have no smell.

Have an online obit.

It costs a pretty penny to tell the world you’re dead. The Sacramento Bee lists their prices as:

The rates for a death notice are: $4.85 per line per day for the text of the notice. Sunday only notices: $5.85 per line of text. Photos are considered 15 lines. $.50 cents per line for bold. Our online obit would have been $140.65 per day, but we placed it on the funeral homes website for free and for…as long as it lasts in the system.

The rates for In Memoriams are: 2 to 15 lines is $50, each additional line is $4.85. Photos are considered 15 lines.

So, if you weren’t a Veteran who was forced to become a cannibal during WWI at Verdun and crawled your way to safety with the remaining survivors of your brigade attached at the hip, keep it online.

Burn yourself.

My cousin took cremation off the table because…Catholicism. But, when you’re staring at a $5,800 hole digging fee and thousands for funeral costs…as opposed to $3,000 for cremation including the urn…meh. Not to mention the idea of my casket floating down the road whenever the ground gets too saturated, being defiled by some psychopath, or being re-located when they finally do need that land to build those half-way condos for substance-abusing, homicidal pederasts…#hardpass.

I want my ashes spread anyway, so skip the urn and settle on a Folger’s can.

Get yourself a good therapist.

Even your spouse is going to find it hard to be there for you all the time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, imagine how they’re feeling knowing they are virtually helpless. $30 a session is a deal when you’re basically paying someone to non-judgmentally endure your shouting, uncontrollable sobbing and confessing your attempts at ending your life.

After all was said and done, I was still mourning. I mourned at the reception as I looked down at my Hometown Buffet fried chicken. I mourned as I picked up the death certificates. I mourned as I helped remove everything down to the tack and nails from my grandma’s apartment. Exactly a month after my first visit to Puerto Rico, I lost one of my best friends.

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  1. Alexandra Liss
    June 11, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    super important article! Thank you!