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Celebrating your loved one’s life may cost more than you think: The average funeral cost in the U.S. is in the thousands of dollars, with the median ranging from about $6,700 to $7,700, according to National Funeral Directors Association statistics from 2019.
Planning a loved one’s funeral is important. You want to honor their wishes, which may include a gathering with friends and family for a traditional funeral or memorial service.
But you might be worried about how to pay for things associated with funerals, such as a casket, cremation or burial.
Some insurance companies offer insurance that will cover funeral costs, or they may prepay funeral homes or have funds set aside in a special account. If that’s not the case, though, funeral expenses fall on their surviving loved ones.
For that situation, we’ve got tips below to help you understand the average costs of different components of funerals, the best ways to save for a funeral and some tips to help you save money and make the best funeral arrangements possible for your loved one.
What is the cost of a funeral?
While the National Funeral Directors Association reported average funeral costs in the U.S. were between $6,700 and $7,700 in 2019 — depending on whether people opted for cremation or burial — it’s important to know that prices also vary depending on different components of the funeral.
A funeral provider should show you a price list that includes the direct burial or direct cremation cost as well as a breakdown of other costs plus a final expense, according to Federal Trade Commission regulations known as the Funeral Rule.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common funeral costs and what you might expect to pay, according to 2019 median cost statistics from the NFDA.
- Basic service fee: $2,195
- Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home: $350
- Metal casket: $2,500
- Embalming: $750
- Hearse: $340
- Service car: $150
- Cremation fee: $350
- Cremation casket: $1,200
- Urn: $295
- Use of funeral staff/services for viewing and burial: $925
It’s important to keep in mind that these statistics assume the funeral will include a viewing. And funeral prices vary depending on whether you want a traditional burial held graveside or something costlier like a burial vault.
They also don’t include some other costs you might incur such as buying a burial plot, gravesite, headstone or grave marker, grave liner, death certificate and funeral flowers. All of these other expenses will add to the total cost of the funeral.
If possible, it’s a good idea to compare prices among funeral homes.
How can I save for a funeral?
While this may be uncomfortable to think about, it’s ideal to save ahead for funeral costs if you have time and the means. Whether you believe you’ll need the money for you or a loved one sooner rather than later figures into the type of savings account you might want to choose.
If you want to be able to access the money quickly and on short notice, your best option may be a high-yield savings account. High-yield savings accounts typically have higher annual percentage yields, or APYs, than traditional savings accounts. And you’ll be able to withdraw your money relatively easily compared to a certificate of deposit, where you generally have to leave your money in for a set period of time or face penalties.
You can start by budgeting and setting up an emergency fund. You can use the 50/30/20 rule as a guide: 50% of your budget goes toward essential needs like food and rent, 30% goes toward wants, and 20% goes toward savings or paying off debts. Some of those savings could eventually be used later for funeral expenses.
Do you avoid dealing with finances? Here's why — and ways to change.
Generally, we procrastinate or put off doing things that make us stressed or anxious, according to the American Psychological Association. Money is a top personal stressor for most adults, the APA’s 2019 Stress in America survey found. In addition, the APA says many people have negative feelings about money that stem from childhood experience, leading to “money avoidance” behaviors as adults. To change, let go of shame and guilt, says the APA — and acknowledge your anxieties. Then work on a spending plan (a budgeting guide might make it less scary). And try tools like auto-payments and financial apps to help keep you on track, the APA suggests.
What are some alternative ways to pay for a funeral?
A high-yield savings account might make sense when saving long-term for expenses like funeral costs. But what happens if your loved one’s death happens much sooner than expected, and you need money fast?
Here are some possible options.
Credit cards — Funeral homes may allow you to put most funeral costs on a credit card. If you can, use a card with a 0% introductory APR on purchases so that you can pay down the balance over a period of time without interest. But going into debt for a funeral should be a last resort — The Funeral Consumers Alliance advises against it.
Personal loan — If you consider a personal loan, look for the lowest APR possible to avoid as much interest as possible. As with a credit card, debt and paying interest for a funeral should be a last resort.
Family or friends — Depending on the relationships and financial situations involved, turning to your loved one’s closest surviving friends and relatives may be an answer. Pooling resources for an end-of-life celebration can be a way for others to feel they are helping in a meaningful way during a difficult time. If your loved one had other close relatives and friends you can contact, it may make sense to ask.
Veterans benefits — People who were in the military may be buried in a national cemetery at no charge — or the Veterans Administration may pay toward a burial plot somewhere else.
Other government benefits — Surviving spouses may receive a small death benefit from Social Security, and some states may help pay for funerals for the certain disabled people, people who were murdered or killed in a DUI, or who are indigent.
Planning a funeral can feel overwhelming, especially while grieving the loss of your loved one.
Before shopping around to compare burial costs, it’s important to get an idea of what the fees are for basic services and other funeral costs. Having a pricing checklist before you visit your local funeral homes and asking each provider for a general price list can help you identify what will work best for your budget while honoring your loved one’s life.
The FTC provides a guide to shopping for funeral services as well as a checklist of items to compare prices that could be helpful. The Funeral Consumers Alliance website also has resources for funeral planning.