Cheap Funerals

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When a loved one dies, comparison-shopping is probably not the first thing that comes to mind.

But the average funeral costs over $7,000. That’s a lot of money, even if we weren’t living at a time with 10% unemployment. A Hartford Courant story tackles the normally taboo topic of spending less on funerals:

“When you can’t afford the cost of living, you certainly can’t afford the cost of dying,” says Joshua Slocum, director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit, funeral industry watchdog organization. “We’re hearing from funeral directors and consumers that the economy is affecting choices. People are planning ahead. They’re reconsidering long-held traditions for simpler, more personalized funerals.”

What a world we live in: Who knew there was such a thing as a “funeral industry watchdog organization”?

Among the trends involving the recently deceased: The number of cremations, which are considerably less expensive than traditional burials, are way up, and discount retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco are selling caskets and urns.

Also, because land is so expensive and traditional burials are losing ground to cremations, towns are increasingly less likely to devote space to cemeteries.


I didn't realize that walmart and costco had started selling discount coffins.  Funerals have gotten pretty expensive lately and people are becoming more aware of it.  My great uncle has terminal cancer and as his day draws near, we are looking for a quality yet affordable funeral home. 


Not only are discounters like Wal-Mart and Costco selling funeral products, but cremation urns and other memorial items are widely available online at 60% or more less expensive than in traditional funeral homes (we have just such a store). Why do funeral homes markup so much for urns and similar products? It's important to keep in mind that the basic economics of running a funeral home are based on earning over $7,000 per funeral, but only doing a relatively small number of funerals each year. The economics of cremation are substantially lower margin, so funeral directors look to merchandizing to help to close the gap. The FTC Funeral Rule gives consumers the right to purchase urns and other products from outside vendors rather than from the funeral home itself -- a fact that is not widely reported, but true.