Burial is more expensive than cremation. Primarily because of the added costs of purchasing a plot and the opening and closing fees charged by the cemetery.
The least expensive burial option is a package called Immediate Burial. There is no embalming, no viewing and no funeral service, and often the family is not present at the burial. Shop around as prices vary enormously (in NJ $900 – $6,500). However, most funeral directors will add on a Graveside Service for a reasonable charge (in NJ $100 – $1,295 but the majority in the $375 range).
If you choose immediate burial or have no viewing and/or a viewing at home, a religious institution or elsewhere, and/or a service at home, religious institution or graveside – you do not need to use a local funeral home! You can save thousands of dollars using a funeral home outside your immediate area.
Even if you want to have a viewing at a funeral home, while you’ll want to choose one that is convenient, consider looking in a wider radius. You probably don’t restrict your dining or shopping to a 15 mile radius.
Save money at the funeral home:
- No embalming (some funeral homes require it, others don’t, so shop around)
- No viewing, or
- viewing immediately before service (many funeral homes charge less for this option)
- viewing and service at religious institution vs. funeral home (sometimes more expensive, sometimes less, shop around)
- Skip the funeral home and/or religious institution and have a graveside service.
- Shop around online, search for “discount casket” and you should be able to find a nice metal casket for under $1k. Print out the information and bring it with you to the funeral home. They may prefer to come closer to the online price than lose the sale completely.
- Ask for a “cremation casket.” They can be attractive wood veneer, less expensive, and there is no reason you can’t use them for burial.
- Have the funeral home meet you at the church (and/or at graveside) so you don’t pay for a limousine and hearse for a processional.
- Buy prayer cards and a register book online.
- Do not buy clothing from funeral home; your loved one can wear their own clothes.
- Newspapers charge for obituaries. Compare prices and consider placing just one.
- Don’t order more death certificates than you really need. If the deceased had one bank account and owned no property, you probably only need one or two.
Save money at the cemetery:
- Opening and closing costs are often less expensive during the week than on weekends.
- Shop around. Some cemeteries don’t require vaults.
- If you must purchase a vault, get a “grave liner,” “rough box” or whatever is the least expensive outer burial container the funeral home offers.
- Call several funeral homes, explain what you want, and ask for a ballpark estimate. Federal law requires that they give you prices (not an estimate) over the phone.
- Remember that prices are negotiable.
- Be honest with the funeral director about how much money you do or don’t have to spend.
- Don’t work with a funeral director that makes you feel bad or guilty about wanting or needing to save money.
- Make appointments to go in and talk with two or three who gave you the fairest prices and, most importantly, were nice and sounded willing to work with you.
Prices associated with burial to ask about:
- basic services fee (unavoidable unless you are buying immediate burial)
- transfer of remains to funeral home
- dressing, casketing and cosmetology
- use of facilities for viewing (ask how much to have it elsewhere)
- use of staff for funeral service at funeral home, religious institution or elsewhere
- hearse vs. service car to move body to religious institution and/or cemetery
- casket (ask for range of prices)
- vault (if required by the cemetery)