What Should Families Do If They Can’t Afford a Funeral or Cremation

a historic graveyard in youghal co cork ireland
YAYImages ID: 193692

With funeral costs going up all the time, it can be difficult for any family to pay for a funeral if their loved one didn’t make arrangements ahead of time. You want to show your family member that you respect them as a person and their life, but what should families do if they can’t afford a funeral or cremation? Here are a few options that can save you a great deal of money while still respecting your loved one.

What Should Families Do If They Can’t Afford a Funeral or Cremation? 

Currently, the average cost of a funeral and burial in the United States is $7,360 and the average cost of a cremation is $6,260.

These costs can be even higher depending on where you live.

This can cause financial hardship for families when they are already dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.

If you don’t have the money to cover these costs, things become even more difficult.

Even so, there are ways to cut these costs significantly.

Mourning Woman at Funeral with coffin -What Should Families Do If They Can't Afford a Funeral or Cremation
YAYImages ID: 36301978

Direct Cremation

One of the best ways to save a great deal of money is by having a direct cremation.

In a traditional cremation, the body is taken to the funeral home. Once there it is prepared for an actual funeral.

This includes embalming, dressing, and preparing for viewing for a memorial service. This is all quite costly.

Once the viewing is over, the body is taken to a crematorium and cremated.

You will receive the remains at a later date.

With direct cremation, the body goes from where the person died, such as a hospital or home directly to the crematorium.

It is possible that it might be held at the funeral home for a couple of days depending on how busy the crematorium is.

The big difference is there is no preparation done. 

The body is immediately cremated.

Once the cremation is complete, the remains are provided to the family.

It is then up to the family to hold a memorial service at their home or some other facility if that is what they want.

While a traditional cremation can cost over $6,000 dollars as mentioned, you can obtain a direct cremation for $600 to $900 dollars.

It is much cheaper as there are no body preparations or embalming.

This is what we did when my father passed away. 

He died at home and the people from the crematorium came and picked up his body.

We went there to pick out an urn.

They also made arrangements for us to obtain copies of the death certificate.

Keep in mind, you do have to pay for those.

We got ten copies.

That sounds like a lot, but you will need them for the insurance company and creditors as well.

In total, including the death certificates, urn, and cremation, it cost us $1,100 dollars.

The urn was about $200 of that.

We then had a memorial service at home.

It was everything we felt we needed and the funeral expenses were much lower than going with a traditional cremation or burial.

The crematorium service will also help you file for social security benefits and put the obituary in the newspaper.

With direct cremation, you will need to take care of all the funeral arrangements instead of the funeral directors doing so.

This isn’t a bad thing, but be sure to get the support and help you need from other family members during this difficult time.

Mourning People at Funeral with coffin -What Should Families Do If They Can't Afford a Funeral or Cremation
YAYImages ID: 36301934

Only Pay for What You Truly Want and Need

A funeral home will offer a lot of services.

While funeral directors aren’t pushy about all of them, you might feel pressured to include things you don’t really want or need.

You don’t want to look cheap or like you don’t really care about your loved one.

Do what you can to put these thoughts out of your mind.

Otherwise, the burial costs will skyrocket.

Chances are your loved one wouldn’t want to put you into a difficult financial position.

You can honor them and show your respect without spending a great deal of money.

Consider some of the following options:

A wooden casket will cost you between $200 and $1,000 compared to a metal casket which will cost $2,400 dollars on average.

Once they have been buried, no one is going to see it.

If you do have a funeral home arrange the cremation, you can provide your own urn.

This can save you several hundred dollars.

Don’t have the body embalmed.

It used to be the law that bodies had to be embalmed before burial, but that’s not the case any longer in most states.

Consider a Natural Burial

Depending on which state you live in, you may be able to do a natural burial.

This means you can bury your loved one on your own property and not in a cemetery.

Chances are, you would need to live outside the city limits to do this.

It is what people used to do a hundred years or so ago.

You can make your own casket or use a wooden one and any preparations you feel are needed for the body you and your family can do yourselves.

A natural burial typically costs under $1,000 dollars.

insurance policy form on desk in office
YAYImages ID: 1037672

Check Out the Insurance Policy

If the deceased has life insurance and you are the beneficiary, you can use that to pay for the funeral.

Some life insurance policies will also have a funeral attachment that will pay for some or all of the funeral expenses.

Be sure to call the insurance agent to find out what is and isn’t covered.

If the life insurance is through where the deceased worked, then call the HR department.

They should be able to help you out.

Buy the Casket Elsewhere

Considering the casket is one of the most expensive parts of a funeral, you can buy your own and have the funeral home use it.

Funeral homes have a mark-up on all their caskets. This is one way they make money.

Buying your own could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars.

You might be surprised to learn that you can even buy them on Amazon.

They offer free shipping and will ship the casket to the funeral home directly if that is what you want.

Ask Friends and Family for Help

Everyone already knows that funeral costs are high.

Chances are they will be happy to help cover them if you ask them to.

Just be upfront about it and tell them you are having difficulties.

You don’t have to shoulder all of these expenses yourself. 

Even if they can only add a couple of hundred dollars each, if you have a direct cremation, it might be enough to cover the expenses.

Blank US Social Security Background
YAYImages ID: 30816700

Don’t Forget Social Security

While you won’t get a lot from social security, you should get a $250 dollar benefit.

This can pay for an urn or even go towards a less expensive casket.

If you are using a funeral home they will help you apply for this benefit.

While it isn’t a lot, every little bit helps when it comes to paying for a funeral arrangement.

Your loved one might also qualify for other burial benefits or death benefits if they belong to a union or some club.

You might also enjoy:

Should You Send Money with a Sympathy Card?

How to Afford to Live Off Social Security Benefits – 14 Tips

Take Out a Loan

While this might not be the best option, if you have good or great credit, then you might want to consider taking out a personal loan.

This should be an unsecured loan.

Be sure to get the funeral costs as low as possible to limit the amount of money you need to borrow.

You usually have two to three years to pay this loan back.

Turn the Body Over to the County

If worse comes to worst, you can contact your coroner’s office and tell them you can’t afford to bury your loved one.

They will have you sign a release and the country and possibly the state will either cremate or bury the body.

If they bury the body it will go into a common grave.

You may have an option to pay a fee to claim the ashes if they cremate the body.

You may also enjoy:

Who Pays for a Funeral if There is No Money?

What Happens to Credit Card Debt When You Die With No Assets?

To Sum it Up:

You actually have some good options if you can’t afford to pay traditional cremation fees. Funeral services don’t have to be extremely expensive and a simple funeral at home can be more personal. While traditional funerals are expensive a direct cremation or green burial might be more affordable while still paying your respects to your loved one. 

Tax sign made of wood on a green background

What Happens to a Tenant if the Landlord Doesn’t Pay the Property Tax

Metal stop sign on the chain with stones in background

At What Age Should You Stop Saving Money and Start Enjoying It