How to Plan Your Own Funeral
Planning your own funeral may sound morbid, but it can save your loved
ones a substantial amount of money. According to the Nation Funeral
Directors Association, (NFDA) the average cost of a funeral is over
$6,000.Add flower arrangements, transportation costs and other
incidentals, and the price of a funeral can easily reach the $10,000
range. Apart from alleviating the financial burden of your survivors,
planning your own funeral ensures that you will have the funeral you
want, and relieves your survivors of the guesswork entailed as they try
to figure out what kind of funeral you would have wanted.
Plan a Burial Service
1Consider all the elements involved in a burial. Although the personal
details you want incorporated into your final service can be the same for
either a burial or a cremation, there are different factors to decide
upon if you choose a traditional funeral.<
2Choosing a casket. This is often the most expensive element of a burial
service, and is often a heartrending choice to leave to your survivors,
who might opt for a very expensive casket while in the throes of recent
grief. It isn¡¯t necessary to have a top-of-the-line casket with satin
lining; you can save thousands of dollars by choosing a simple casket to
hold your remains. Shop around for a casket; visit at least 3 funeral
homes to look at their options. You can even purchase a casket online;
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ensures that funeral homes will accept
any casket you purchase.Wood caskets range from $345 to $12,000.
Metal caskets range from $1,000 to $12,000.
Cardboard caskets (they are made to resemble wood) range from $50 to
3Decide on a vault. There is no state law that requires a vault or a
grave liner, but most cemeteries do require them. The purpose of a vault
or liner is to prevent the grave from sinking and to keep the cemetery¡¯s
grounds from becoming uneven and unsightly. All caskets will eventually
experience deterioration, so a vault or liner will prevent a grave from
collapsing in the future.
4Factor in cemetery costs. The fees charged by cemeteries are in addition
to funeral home costs. You will need to purchase a burial plot (which can
be as much as $4,000) and pay for grave digging and vault preparation.
The cemetery also charges a fee for the placement of a headstone or grave
marker. Many cemeteries take a percentage of the plot cost and put it
into a perpetual care account; be sure to find out if there are any
additional charges for perpetual care of your gravesite. (Public
cemeteries are maintained through local taxes.)
5Arrange for a headstone or grave marker. The cost of a granite headstone
can be $1,000 or more. #Don¡¯t forget about basic funeral home fees. Even
if you pre-purchase your casket, vault and other items, you will still
incur costs for basic services provided by a funeral home. You can also
negotiate and prepay for standard and necessary services, such as housing
the remains, obtaining the death certificate and getting a burial permit.
6Arrange for religious services. If you want a religious service, you
will have to cover the fees charged by the church, synagogue or mosque.
The actual use of the building is usually free of charge, but you will
have to arrange payment for at least some of the following
services:Minister, priest, rabbi or eulogist
Musician(s). This may include sound systems and soloists.
Funeral programs, mass cards or memorial cards.
Food. (Due to state laws and insurance regulations, most church¡¯s cannot
allow food prepared outside.
Plan a Cremation Service
1Consider cremation instead of a traditional burial. Having your remains
cremated can be a fraction of the cost of a funeral, but it can also cost
just as much as a traditional interment; it all depends on the choices
you make. You can arrange to have your remains directly cremated and have
no memorial service for as little as $1,500. Or, you can choose a variety
of options that will increase the cost by as much as $6,000.
2Arrange for a low cost cremation that includes a memorial service. Shop
around for package deals that offer direct cremation with memorial
visitation as well as funeral services (without the body present.)Choose
a cremation service that is similar to an interment. A ¡°full¡± cremation
service usually includes the following:
Use of a casket for viewing the remains and for the funeral ceremony.
(The body is taken to a crematorium and cremated after the funeral
Cost of an urn to hold the ashes.
Stipend for a minister or eulogist.
Cemetery costs (for graveside services and urn placement if the ashes are
Scattering services (if you wish for your ashes to be scattered)
3Investigate regulations regarding the scattering of ashes. There are no
hard and fast rules and laws concerning the scattering of your ashes,
probably because there are no safety, health or environmental problems
associated with the practice. However, use common sense and check your
local jurisdiction to see if there are any ordinances that would prevent
you from your site choice. This is especially important if you are
considering an area that is within town or city limits, or a public park
or facility. Other factors to keep in mind:Obtain permission if you want
to have your ashes scattered on private property.
Understand that the ashes of human remains are actually conspicuous. They
are very white and therefore very visible. This isn¡¯t a concern if ashes
are scattered over a body of water, but on a windless day, the ashes
could remain on the ground and very visible for quite some time.
(Scattering ashes on a very windy day presents a very different problem).
Keep in mind that some people and cultures find the practice of
scattering ashes repulsive and offensive. Be discreet about your choice
Plan the Details of Your Service
1Make a list of everything you want to be included in your service. It¡¯s
best to devise a list of all the elements you want included in your
funeral. (Once you have refined your choices, you can interview funeral
directors armed with your wishes and easily eliminate any funeral home
that cannot accommodate your last wishes.) You may want to include some
or all of the following on your list:Eulogy. If you would like one or
more people to deliver eulogies, approach them and express your desire.
It gives them time (hopefully years) to write a thoughtful eulogy.
Write your own obituary. No matter how well your family knows you, they
are likely to forget pertinent details about your life if they are called
upon to suddenly produce an obituary. Either write your own or provide
all the information your family will need to write it for you.
Write personal letters to your family and friends. You can arrange to
have these letters delivered after your death, or you can arrange to have
the letters read out loud at your service.
Select music for the service. Music does not have to be traditional.
Think about making your own CD of the songs you want played at your
service. Pick a genre you love, or choose songs from a particular era
that¡¯s dear to you. Try to have fun with this; include at least one song
that will elicit smiles, if not laughter.
Choose photographs you would like to be displayed.
Make an audio or video recording. You can make a video of yourself
sharing memories. Be irreverent, make funny faces and say whatever you
like. It¡¯s your last word.
Consider a green burial and lessen your carbon footprint on the Earth for
eternity. You can purchase a burial shroud that is biodegradable.
If you have enough storage space in your garage or shed, you can save
even more money and have an unassembled casket pre-shipped to your home
and assemble it yourself.
Do your family a favor and tell them where they can find all your
important papers. Keep everything stored in an easily accessible
No matter what kind of funeral you plan for yourself, be sure to check
the laws in your state. For example, your state may not require a vault
or embalming, so make sure you don¡¯t pay for those services, or inform
your family ahead of time about the regulations and laws governing
funerals in your state.
Some states require a waiting period before cremation occurs; be sure to
inform you family of this so that they can plan a memorial service that
will include your ashes.
Sources and Citations
Burial vaults and grave liners
Estimate your funeral costs
Find out the cost of cremation in your state
Shop for cremation urns