Great Savings Tip #88 – Cremation


Funerals are expensive so plan ahead.


Today’s tip: Think Cremation Over Burial


This post is #88 in our Great Savings Tip series, designed to help you find ways to spend less and save more. For more ideas see our Great Savings Tips page with a complete list of all our tips. Here is today’s tip you can put to work immediately:


Rest in peace.

Will your death leave a heavy burden for loved ones?

The Costs Are Staggering


Tip #88) Think cremation over burial.  Death is something a lot of people have trouble talking about.  For that reason, making financial decisions about death is doubly hard.  Still, with the average cost of a casket and funeral running anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 thousand dollars, not including the cost of a burial plot, the cost of dying may be a huge burden to those left behind.  If you want to know what funeral expenses run in your state see the Funeral Consumer Guardian Society’s website here.


Cremation Costs Less


A beautiful rose.

A conversation about death can be trying.

Though by no means inexpensive, the cost of cremation is significantly less than a burial. Depending on the services, the cost of cremation will generally range between $1000 and $7000, though the more expensive range should include viewing a body in memorial prior to cremation and funeral services. Again, see the site above for the cost applicable in your state.  Incidentally, the least expensive route is to skip visitation and embalming and have an immediate cremation.  That runs around $1000 in most states.  You can also save on funeral expenses by having your own service at home or perhaps at a park or otherwise.  Be aware, however, that spreading ashes in parks or public places may require a permit.


Deciding What To Do


Talk to your spiritual adviser.

For many people the question of burial or cremation is a personal one.

For some, the choice of burial or cremation may end up being a religious decision.  If you’re uncertain how your church views cremation find out by speaking with your spiritual adviser.  Otherwise, if you’re trying to decide which route to go consider asking those closest to you whether or not they have an opinion.  Parents are often surprised by their kid’s preference to go one route or another.  In the end, the decision is yours, but those left behind are the ones that have to come to terms with it.  This makes talking about death and dying long before it ever happens a good choice.




Other considerations beside cost can include environmental factors.  Cremation typically doesn’t involve the use of embalming fluid (i.e. formaldehyde) and the resultant ash therefore doesn’t contain it.  Formaldehyde is a toxin.  Cremation also requires less space since the ash can be stored anywhere or dispersed into the environment without posing an environmental hazard.  Burial plots or more elaborate tombs require a bigger “footprint”. The use of land for this purpose may be an issue for some.  Though a coffin and the vault it may be placed in in are sealed, the potential for contaminants like formaldehyde to enter the environment are marginally greater.  This depends on the materials and method for burial and the risk of any contaminants coming into contact with the underground water table.  Though it’s rare, there are cases where cemeteries have been disturbed due to flooding (i.e. Hurricane Katrina).


Planning Saves


Talk to family members and loved ones.

Are your plans in place?

Ultimately, each person must decide how they want their remains to be cared for at the time of death.  Still, a little planning can go a long way.  For example, if you don’t have funds to pay for your burial right now, you might be able to start saving for it, or you might increase the amount of your life insurance to help cover the costs.  If you’re older and worrying about qualifying for insurance, check with the AARP.  To keep funeral expenses to a minimum, you might also join an organization like the People’s Memorial (a Washington State co-op) or a company like the Trident Society.





Don’t Forget Veteran’s Benefits


Veteran's may be eligible for benefits.

If you or your loved one is a veteran, the Federal government offers certain benefits available to help defray the cost of a funeral.  As long as space is available, U.S. Veterans are entitled to be buried or have their ashes interred in any National Cemetery at no charge. However, the government is not in the funeral business so this will not include the cost of cremation or funeral services.  Currently, the Veterans Administration (VA) operates 131 national cemeteries, though not all are available for burial or cremation.  Check the website to see what’s available in your area.  As with most things, these programs and their associated benefits can change at any time. For more additional information go to the VA’s website which is loaded with information.  For burial benefits click here. For survivor or spouses benefits click here.


Start Developing Your Plan


Whether you decide you want to be buried or cremated it’s important to have a funeral plan and let a loved one know what that plan contains.  In fact, it’s good to have all sorts of end of life financial plans.  For planning tips about end of life and after life issues, visit this page at the People’s Memorial.


Ease The Burden


People who are left behind to handle the details of dying generally have enough to worry about without the additional burden of guilt for either spending too much or too little on a funeral.  A funeral plan provides all the information for loved ones to make good financial choices about your funeral.  That means it can also reduce the chance loved ones may fight over arrangements.


Get Some Help


You can either make your own funeral plan or rely on a company or organization familiar with the process to help you.  One of the sites mentioned above (i.e. People’s Memorial) has several forms to help get started.  Or here’s another free form from




Finally, consumers are advised to be cautious about “pre-paid” funeral services.  For a lot more information on this and on making funeral arrangements, see the Federal Trade Commision’s website.


A setting sun.


To see a list of all our Great Savings Tips click here.


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