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Advice & More January 2016

Dollar Sense

What You Need to Know about Saving Money on the Cost of a Funeral

By Teresa Ambord

Many people hesitate to comparison shop when a loved one has died, not to mention it’s a tough time and the last thing you want to think about is money. But the truth is, most of us have to consider cost.

Nobody wants to talk about the day they or a loved one will pass on. But the odds of that happening eventually are one out of one. No one gets out of this world alive, and the older we get, the more important it is to think about our “final wishes.” A funeral can cost upwards of $10,000. But it doesn’t have to.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) takes funeral pricing very seriously, perhaps because people faced with paying for a funeral may be overcome with unexpected expenses and may also feel guilty if they try to hold down the costs. Here are some points you may not know about saving money on funerals, based on information from Jim Miller. Miller is a frequent contributor to the NBC Today Show, as well as the author of “Savvy Living.”

Did you know? You can save a lot of money, at least 50% on the price of a casket, if you buy your own.

You may be asking yourself, where does one go to buy a casket? Believe it or not, Miller says two great sources are and They also offer urns. You’ll need to have it delivered to the funeral home, so before you make the purchase, contact the funeral home to make sure they will accept it.

Did you know? You can save $1,000 to $2,000 (not counting cemetery charges) by having a direct burial.

This means that the body is buried shortly after death, without embalming. It also means you will not be using the funeral facilities for the memorial service, and of course, the body is not available for viewing. Instead you can have a memorial service graveside, or perhaps at your church. All funeral homes offer this option.

Did you know? Cremation is a choice that a growing number of people are making.

The cost varies from around $600 to around $4,000 or more, depending on the provider and the services you opt for. You can find cremation providers in your area at Or look in your yellow pages under “funeral” or “cremation.”

Did you know? Veterans and some family members have some burial benefits.

As a veteran, the spouse of a veteran, or the dependent child of a veteran, you are entitled to a free burial at a national cemetery, and a free grave marker. Find out more about what you are entitled to at or by calling the VA at 800-827-1000.

Did you know? There are free websites devoted to helping compare funeral prices.

Many people hesitate to comparison shop when a loved one has died, not to mention it’s a tough time and the last thing you want to think about is money. But the truth is, most of us have to consider cost. You can get free help comparing local prices on funeral costs, by going to websites, like You can also find help at, or by calling 802-865-8300.

Did you know? You can easily obtain an itemized price list of products and services related to a funeral.

Funeral home directors must provide you with these lists, but you may need to ask for it, by phone or in person. This is part of the federal funeral rule that funeral home directors must abide by.

Did you know? Donating your body to science may sound creepy, but it’s beneficial to science and free to the family of the deceased.

If you choose to donate your body to a medical facility for research, when the research is complete it will be cremated at no cost to your survivors. You can find information about this at

Did you know? You don’t’ have to be on your own when looking for funeral pricing.

There are volunteer groups that will help you find the information you need to put together a funeral. You can log onto, or call them at 802-865-8300. You can also try where you can compare prices and, where you can get an estimate from a funeral home local to you, depending on what you want.

Many Funeral Homes are Not Telling the Whole Story

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires funeral home directors to abide by the “Funeral Rule.” But a recent national survey by two concerned agencies shows this is not always the case. The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) collected information about prices and price disclosures, from 150 funeral homes in 10 different regions of the country. The prices for a full-service funeral varied significantly, from $2,580 to $13,800.

CFA Executive Director, Stephen Brobeck noted, “The huge price ranges for identical funeral services within individual areas indicate that these markets lack effective competition. The lack of price competition is unfortunate given the relatively high cost of funeral services and the reluctance of many bereaved consumers to comparison shop for these services.”

Another result of the survey showed that most of the funeral homes studied did not adequately disclose prices. Only 38 out of 150 show prices on their websites (though this is not required by the Funeral Rule). Twenty-four failed to fully disclose prices on their websites and in response to a phone call or email.

The Federal Trade Commission’s “Funeral Rule,” was last amended in 1994. This rule requires funeral homes to provide price information over the phone, and a price list to an in-person visitor.

The lack of recent review may explain why the Rule does not address the issue of disclosure of prices on websites. Executive Director of the FCA, Josh Slocum believes this should change. “Most funeral homes need to give consumers much better access to price information,” said Slocum. He added, “The Federal Trade Commission should update antiquated disclosure rules developed in the pre-Internet 1980s, just as California has successfully done.”

California, for example, requires that funeral homes post on their websites, the same prices the FTC requires funeral homes to disclose by phone or during an in-person visit. Of the 15 California funeral homes surveyed, 13 complied with the disclosure requirement.

Based on the results of the study, the FCA and the CFA are submitting their research to the Federal Trade Commission, urging the agency to update the Funeral Rule.


Teresa Ambord is a former accountant and Enrolled Agent with the IRS. Now she writes full time from her home, mostly for business, and about family when the inspiration strikes.

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