How to Plan a Cheap and Respectful Family Funeral in the US

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is challenging, and the financial burden of arranging a funeral can add significant stress. Here’s how to manage funeral costs effectively without compromising on dignity and respect.

Understanding Funeral Costs in the US

The average cost of a funeral in the United States can range between $7,000 and $12,000, depending on various factors such as location, type of service, and additional expenses. Understanding these costs can help you make informed decisions to keep expenses manageable.

  1. Basic Service Fees: Funeral homes charge basic service fees for their professional services, including administrative costs, securing permits, and coordinating arrangements. This fee usually ranges from $1,500 to $3,000.
  2. Transporting the Body: This includes the cost of transferring the deceased to the funeral home, which can range from $300 to $1,000.
  3. Embalming and Body Preparation: Embalming is often required for public viewings, costing between $500 and $800. Additional body preparation, such as cosmetics and dressing, can add another $200 to $400.
  4. Funeral Service Costs: Hosting a viewing, wake, or memorial service incurs costs for using the funeral home’s facilities and staff. These fees range from $500 to $1,000.
  5. Casket and Burial Costs: Caskets can be a significant expense, with prices ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. Burial plots, grave markers, and related costs can add another $1,000 to $4,000.
  6. Cremation Costs: Cremation is often less expensive than burial, typically costing between $1,000 and $3,000, including the cremation process and a basic urn.

Strategies to Reduce Funeral Costs

  1. Pre-Planning and Pre-Paying: One of the most effective ways to save on funeral costs is to plan and pay in advance. This can lock in current prices and reduce the financial burden on your family. Pre-planning also allows you to make informed decisions without the pressure of time constraints.
  2. Shop Around: Funeral costs can vary widely between different providers. Obtain quotes from multiple funeral homes and compare their services and prices. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide pricing information over the phone and in person.
  3. Opt for Direct Cremation or Burial: Direct cremation or direct burial skips the embalming and viewing process, significantly reducing costs. These options are respectful and dignified, with direct cremation costing as little as $1,000.
  4. Consider Alternative Containers: Instead of purchasing an expensive casket, consider more affordable alternatives like a simple wood or cardboard container. These options can be much less expensive while still being respectful.
  5. Limit Extravagant Add-Ons: Extras like elaborate floral arrangements, expensive transportation, and high-end catering can quickly add up. Opting for simpler options can significantly reduce overall costs without detracting from the service’s significance.
  6. Explore Government and Non-Profit Assistance: Various organizations offer financial assistance for funeral expenses. For example, the Social Security Administration provides a lump-sum death benefit of $255 to eligible recipients. Additionally, veterans may qualify for burial benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  7. Crowdfunding and Community Support: Online fundraising platforms like GoFundMe can help raise money for funeral expenses. Community support and local charities might also offer financial aid.
  8. Green Burials: Green or natural burials are environmentally friendly and often less expensive. These burials forgo embalming, metal caskets, and concrete vaults, significantly reducing costs.

Legal Rights and Protections

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Funeral Rule provides essential protections to consumers, ensuring transparency and fairness in funeral services:

  • Price List Requirement: Funeral homes must provide an itemized price list upon request, allowing you to compare costs and choose only the services you need.
  • Right to Choose: You have the right to select and pay for only the goods and services you want, without being required to purchase a package deal.
  • Casket and Outer Burial Container Rule: Funeral homes must allow you to use a casket or outer burial container purchased elsewhere without additional fees.


Arranging a funeral for a loved one is a sensitive and often overwhelming process. By understanding the costs involved and exploring various strategies to reduce expenses, you can honor your loved one’s memory without facing undue financial hardship. Pre-planning, comparing prices, and considering simpler, dignified options can make a significant difference. Remember to utilize available resources and legal protections to ensure you receive fair and transparent service.