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How to cut the cost of a funeral

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
The cost of a funeral has rocketed in recent years leaving many loved ones with added anguish when it comes to paying for the service. Here are five ways to cut the costs.

Funerals are now one of the UK’s fastest rising costs, outstripping inflation, wages and pensions with the average cost of a basic package now standing at £3,897 – a 5.5% increase in a single year, and more than double the £1,920 reported in 2004.

We all want to give our loved ones a proper send-off but with the spiralling costs, it can add further grief to the already emotional and stressful situation.

Here are five tips from SunLife to help lower the cost of planning your final goodbye for your loved one:

1) Make use of all available help

It is possible to recover the costs from their estate as long as there’s enough money available. Funeral costs are usually paid first, although secured debts such as a mortgage do take priority. Therefore, it’s worth finding out as early as possible how much money is available in the estate to help cover the costs as this could also dictate exactly what you can and can’t include for the service.

If you’re on a low income and are responsible for arranging the funeral, you may qualify for a funeral grant from the government called a Funeral Payment. However, how much you get and how much has to be repaid will be determined by your individual circumstances and the government will also look at how much money is available to you from the deceased’s estate.

2) Cut the funeral director’s bill

You don’t have to use a funeral director and there’s no reason why you can’t organise everything yourself with the help of family and friends, though it’s worth considering if you want the extra pressure at this delicate time. A compromise could be to use a funeral director for the more specialist areas such as preparing the body, while you take care of the service yourself to trim some of the costs:

  • Cremation: Choose cremation over burial, as it tends to cost much less. You can use SunLife’s free funeral cost calculator to compare costs where you live.
  • Timing: Hold the funeral either early or late in the day as charges are generally lower for less popular time slots.
  • Embalming: Opt out of embalming especially if you’re not looking to display an open casket.
  • Coffin: Keep the coffin simple – the funeral director will have a range to choose from.
  • Transport: Instead of hiring a hearse and limos, use your own transport or for short distances from the service to the wake, you could consider a funeral procession on foot which can be very moving.
  • Pallbearers: Ask friends and family to carry the coffin.
  • Music: Use your choice of pre-recorded music rather than an organist.
  • Orders of service: Could you or a friend design something simple to print at home?
  • Flowers: Instead of buying from a florist, flowers from the garden or a favourite beauty spot could add a personal touch that costs nothing.

3) Spend the money on what you know they wanted

If you know what someone wanted for their funeral, focus spending on their choices rather than on things that meant little to them. This is why it’s so helpful to talk about funeral wishes when we’re alive and well.

If you don’t know exactly what someone wanted, spend on elements that will reflect what they valued or enjoyed and cut costs elsewhere. For example, if the person loved singing, you could go to town on a choir but opt for a simple coffin.

4) Homemade can be more personal

Another way to cut costs is on the wake – rather than hire an expensive venue, you could invite people to your home for homemade sandwiches and cake.

Or if you’d prefer not to play host, the local pub, cricket club, or community hall could be an option. If they knew the person well they may even let you use it for free. And remember, everyone likes to help at a time like this, so you could ask guests to bring a dish.

5) Plan ahead

Making advance plans for your own funeral could be one way to help with funeral costs and make sure you get the send-off you want.

With a funeral plan, there are many decisions you can make now to reduce the bill for your funeral and help those closest to you both financially and emotionally when the time comes.

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