Even people who pre-plan funerals for themselves or a loved one can be vulnerable to the subtle and dignified –but nevertheless very manipulative – marketing for which the funeral business is notorious. Granted, funeral directors have to make a living like everyone else, but some are truly exploitative and are masters of the unnecessary up-sell.
Whether you are pre-planning arrangements or have been hit with an unexpected need, there are some things you can do to ease the monetary strain if not your heartache. You do not have to simply accept the default or traditional way of doing things. Here are a few points to keep in mind.
1. There is nothing shameful or undignified about wanting to economize. This may be the most important point of all, and the most difficult for some people to accept. A simple, basic funeral or memorial service is just as dignified and respectful as the most lavish, expensive event. There is absolutely nothing shameful about needing or desiring to save money on final expenses, and economizing certainly does not indicate a lack of love and respect for the departed. If you really feel that you must splurge, do so with an after-party that is a true celebration of the person’s life. That’s a more fitting tribute than a solid gold, silk-lined casket or a limo parade.
2. The government may be able to help you with costs. If you or your partner are on a low income and receiving any of a number of specific government benefits, you may be eligible for a Funeral Payment and/or Bereavement Payment from the Social Fund. Check this page to find out more about these benefits: https://www.gov.uk/browse/benefits/bereavement
3. There’s no law that says you have to use a funeral home. Certainly there are laws in place regarding the handling of remains, but there is absolutely no law that says you have to use a funeral home, with all of the expense that involves. More people these days are opting for “do it yourself” arrangements, handling most or all of the details without going through a traditional funeral home. And increasing numbers of funeral directors are adopting more flexible policies where they offer “a la carte” services. For a cost that is much less than an entire package, they will assist the bereaved with certain details, such as keeping the body cool whilst the family is tending to the other arrangements. The Natural Death Centre (www.naturaldeath.org) is a wonderful resource for exploring your options and planning a “do it yourself” (or a partially or mostly “do it yourself”) memorial service.
4. You can still save money even if you don’t “do it yourself.” You can economise on virtually every aspect of the funeral: the casket; the handling of the body (embalming is not required by law); vehicles; flowers; memorial marker; the service itself… and the list goes on. Do not let that earnest, soft-spoken sales director talk you into spending more than you can afford – remember, there is nothing shameful or undignified about wanting to economize. The aforementioned Natural Death Centre has a page of suggestions and links for economizing on funeral costs.
As is the case with many choices in life, it’s always better if you can plan ahead – even if you do nothing more than sit down and think about what you want, and write down your wishes so your family will know when the time comes. But sometimes planning ahead is simply not feasible. The important thing to remember is that there is plenty of help available to assist you in making the best decision, making this difficult time a little easier on everyone involved.