Losing a loved one is a challenging experience, no matter the circumstances. There are choices to be made about the funeral, viewing, and whether you will be doing a burial or a cremation. If your loved one is cremated, you will have questions about the costs of that. Most people may not know that you have choices for cremation. Some decisions will keep costs low or raise them. Knowing all of your options before making a final decision for a loved one will help you feel more prepared. Those choices include:
- Cremation - Costs to Consider
- A Cremation Urn
- Cremation Casket
- Headstone and Plot
- Direct Cremation
- Cremation or Burial?
- Donating Your Body
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Cremation - Costs to Consider
When planning a cremation, you must take all costs into consideration. Do you want there to be a service and a viewing? What type of casket do you want your loved one cremated in? What will you do with their ashes after the cremation? Will you put them in an urn? And what type of urn? Will you have a plot in a cemetery with a headstone to give family and friends a place to come and mourn? There is a lot to consider regarding cremation cost, but being prepared is the best route to take.
A Cremation Urn
The ashes can be put into an urn when a loved one is cremated. There are a lot of different options for an urn. The container can cost anywhere between $75 - $350, depending on the size and type of material it is made of. Some urns are meant for two people, also known as a companion urn; these can run anywhere from $350 - $600.
An urn is not required for cremated remains. The remains can be stored in a plastic bag or even a plastic container. If you are looking to save money with your loved one’s ashes, you could temporarily store them in an alternative container until you can afford an urn.
An alternative to an urn is to take the ashes of your loved one and make a ring or necklace out of them. That way, you can have a part of that person with you all of the time. You could even have several made as gifts for all that loved them. What an amazing keepsake that each friend or family can have to always remember the person they lost.
An expense that many people don’t think about is the container in which your loved one’s body is cremated. It is required that the body be placed in a container for cremation. When a body is cremated, it is placed in a box that does not have metal parts on it, so it is different from a standard casket in that way. The box can range from a sturdy cardboard box to a pinewood casket. These range in price from $150 - $600.
If you plan on having a viewing or service before the cremation, you can work with the funeral director to see if a traditional casket can be rented. A rental will save a lot of money compared to purchasing a casket. Most rental caskets range from $750 - $1500, depending on the funeral home you are working with.
A funeral is an optional cost and can fluctuate depending on how big of a service you hold. If you want to celebrate the life of your loved one and are looking to do a funeral service, then you will need to consider several costs:
- Location (funeral home, church, etc.)
- Cosmetology and dressing of the body
- The luncheon
- Obituary or online memorial
- Photographs to display
- Printed programs
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Each of these items is optional. You can save on costs by not doing a funeral or viewing. However, if you plan to do a service, the costs can range from $6,000 to $8,000. Keep in mind that this price is average for the service, not the preparation of the body. Again, there are different ways to save on costs if you would like to celebrate the life of your loved one without having to pay a large amount.
A cremation funeral is a common practice. Allowing the deceased loved ones visitation helps those people mourn and celebrate their life. You can choose to do the viewing before the cremation, or you can have a celebration of life after the cremation. As mentioned before, you can rent a casket from most funeral homes so that you can have a viewing before your loved one is cremated. Some people even decide to bury the ashes of their loved ones at a traditional cemetery. So you could opt for a graveside service as well.
Headstone and Plot
When a body is cremated, the common thing to do is to take the ashes and put them in a container, like an urn. Another common practice is to scatter the ashes in a place that has meaning to you or your loved one. However, another option is to purchase a burial plot and headstone so that your loved ones have a place to go and mourn.
Headstones can range significantly due to size. The plot, cremation, and headstone installation can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000. There are alternative options to give friends and family a place to mourn. Instead of purchasing a plot in a cemetery, you can have a bench erected in a park or a location. You can have a tree planted in your loved one’s name. If there is a special place for the person who has died, you can spread their ashes there and go there to remember them.
There are companies throughout the world that will take cremated remains and turn them into nutrients to grow a tree. When you plant the biodegradable urn into the ground and then place the roots of a tree on top of it, the tree will use the nutrients from the ashes and grow into a beautiful memorial that your friends and loved ones can always see and be reminded of you.
The most cost-effective type of cremation is direct cremation. Direct cremation is when a deceased person is brought to a funeral home to be cremated right away. There is no funeral or service of any kind before the cremation, and then the ashes are handed over to their loved ones. The cremation is also usually performed quickly after death and inside a combustible container.
The biggest difference with a direct cremation compared to a traditional cremation is that there is no body preparations done by the funeral home. That means that the body is not embalmed or dressed as it would be for a viewing. In most cases, the body will go straight from a hospital or morgue to a crematory.
The cost of a direct cremation is usually between $800 to $3000. The price will normally include a funeral home transporting the body, the container used in the cremation, and the cremation itself. Direct cremation may not be your first choice as a funeral arrangement but your loved one will still be taken care of and treated with respect.
Should I Choose Cremation or Burial?
The bottom line is, it is cheaper to cremate a loved one than to bury them. Besides the money that will go into your decision, other factors will be the family’s decision, if the deceased expressed what they want, religious beliefs, timing, and state of the body.
If your loved one was an organ donor and could donate organs at the time of death, most states will cremate their remains for free. If this is the case, you could use the allocated money for a memorial service for that person.
If you decide to go with a burial the funeral home is going to be a great asset to you to help you understand the average funeral cost. A traditional burial includes:
- Transportation of the body to the funeral home and to the cemetery
- Embalming of the body
- A casket
- A burial vault (is the outer burial container that goes around the casket before it enters the ground)
- A grave marker or a headstone
- Facility for the funeral
- Obituary or online memorial
- Clothing the body is dressed in
Funeral planning and the burial cost are two significant factors to consider when deciding between a traditional funeral and burial or cremation. If price plays a vital role in your decision, cremation will be the best route. The average cost of a traditional funeral is between $7,000 and $12,000. The average price for a traditional cremation with a service is $6,000 - $7,000. There is a potential of saving several thousand dollars by going with a cremation. If there were no previous arrangements made, such as a prepayment for a funeral, then a cremation will be a better financial decision while still honoring your loved one.
Donating Your Body
You have several alternative options when you die instead of a funeral. There are several different ways to donate your body to science at no direct cost for your loved ones. Some of the different types of donation include:
- Organ donation - as mentioned above, the deceased’s body can be cremated at no cost after donation
- Medical education - medical students can use a donated body to practice surgical skills and learn more about organs and the body’s makeup.
- Body farm donation - this is where the body is put in different elements (weather, heat, cold, etc.) for educational purposes to study the decomposition of the body.
- Research companies - instead of donating your body to a medical school, you could donate your or your loved ones’ body to a research company that will use your body in a nonmedical way. An example of this could be to test what happens to a body in a car crash for a car company.
- Organizations for medical research - if your loved one has died of a specific illness there are organizations out there that will want to run tests on their body to aid in finding a cure for that illness.
Some extra forms and regulations go along with donating your body, but the costs are mostly covered by each organization. Most of the time, the body will need to be donated immediately, which means there will be no time for a viewing or traditional funeral. In some cases a cremation service will be provided after the body is used for research and then their ashes will be sent to their loved one. This can save tremendously on costs.
What to Do Next
Once you have decided between a cremation or a burial for your burial, you will need to contact the funeral home caring for their body. The funeral director will go over your options and the next steps.
If your loved one has a life insurance policy, now would be the time to work on cashing that out so that you have the funds to pay for the funeral service and burial or cremation. You can also check to see if there are any retirement funds or money set aside for the services.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have lost a family member and cannot pay for the funeral. If you have questions about this, you should ask the funeral director. There are different programs through your local government that will help you.
Funerals can be expensive for your loved ones. Making arrangements for a casket, funeral home, and being clear about if you want to be cremated or buried will help ease the burden of funeral costs, especially when your family is grieving. If you are fortunate enough to save ahead of time and plan for your funeral, your family will benefit from that.