Picking up Nickels

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Funeral Costs: Do your homework

We had a death in the family recently, which has cut back on my blogging a bit. However, it did make me want to discuss some things that everyone should consider when they are planning a funeral for a loved one.

This may not seem like the time to be concerned about money, but it is important to make sure you do not spend beyond your means for such an expensive purchase. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a typical funeral costs about $6,000, and many funerals cost $10,000 or more. Spending such a large amount of money is certainly a good incentive to compare prices and negotiate the best deal that you can.

Since the death of a loved one can be a very emotional time, it is not difficult to be coerced into spending far more on funeral arrangements than budgets and common sense allow. Some people may want to give the deceased a lavish funeral to show everyone how much they were loved or they may be pressured to overspend by a family member or funeral home. So where do you begin?

The first thing to do when discussing funeral arrangements with a funeral home is to ask for a written price list. Under the FTC's Funeral Rule, the funeral home must give you a written price list that shows the goods and services that they offer. This list will be invaluable to you when choosing the items and services that are important to you. For more information on the Funeral Rule, check out the FTC publication, Funerals: A Consumer Guide.

Another good consumer resource is the Funeral Consumers Alliance web site, funerals.org. They have quite a bit of good information on funeral planning, including a How to Read a General Price List guide.

In my opinion, the best way to approach this subject is to discuss your own funeral wishes with your loved ones while you are still among the living. Before my grandmother died earlier this year, she told us that she did not want a viewing or any other elaborate funeral arrangements. She wanted to be cremated and insisted upon a small church service followed by a family dinner, and that's exactly what we did. When it's my turn, I also want to keep things simple and inexpensive.

When my time comes, I wonder if my sons will do their homework and decide to buy a casket or urn at Costco (Caskets, for less, at Costco)? That works for me, as long as Costco had the best price.

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