How to bury loved ones without going broke in the process

by Kacie Whaley

With death being a natural part of life, funerals are inevitable. Grieving over a deceased loved one can take its toll on your mental and emotional state, but for those low on cash, another unfortunate factor of funerals is scrounging up funds for the service. Funerals can be quite pricey, with fees for the ceremony staff, transportation, casket and embalming included in the cost. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost for a service was $8,343 in 2012. To ease some of the unrest that paying for a funeral can cause, Black Enterprise’s personal finance expert, Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, comprised several tips on budgeting ceremony costs.

Khalfani-Cox first suggests researching the deceased’s life insurance policy. The life insurance, which could have been bought or provided by the deceased’s job, could be enough to cover a major chunk of the funeral’s fees. Khalfani-Cox recommends speaking to the insurance agent personally or over the phone to learn the “details, limitations and stipulations associated with the policy.”

Considering low-cost burials is also an option. Cremation can be a few thousand dollars cheaper than purchasing a casket, but if you do choose to use a vault, shop around for the best deals. Also, “green burials” have proven to be inexpensive. Green burials are totally natural, and do not include embalming fluid or concrete vaults. According to Greenburials.org, the body is either placed in a “bio-degradable casket, shroud, or a favorite blanket.” An organic burial even promotes growth of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Keep in mind that some states do require embalming the body.

Khalfani-Cox adds that taking out a personal loan from a bank or credit union can also help with funeral finances. “Avoid taking out a cash advance on a credit card because you’ll be responsible for paying very high interest charges,” she suggests.

Asking family to pitch in with fees can be helpful. If you ask all family members involved how much they can contribute, you could end up covering a good portion of expenses. Try devising a concise cost sheet to keep track of all expenses.

Lastly, Khalfani-Cox writes that asking your county’s coroner’s office for help could pay for much of the funeral if you don’t have the funds. Once you sign their release form, the county or state will contribute funding toward the burial or cremation process. “The county may also offer you the option to claim the ashes for a fee,” Khalfani-Cox writes. If the ashes are not claimed, they will bury them in a common grave.

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