Dying is expensive


I had dinner with a dear friend who recently lost her husband.

While she had expected the restless nights, the loneliness, the moments of overwhelming sadness, she didn’t expect the cost.

See, they didn’t plan on him dying so young. So they didn’t buy any funeral plans or put money aside for the kind of tragic event you don’t usually want to think about.

And she was shocked when she went to the mortuary to plan the funeral and found out that everything — from cremation to the urn the ashes come in — was so expensive.

Funeral costs can exceed $10,000, especially when you factor in catering, hall rental and flowers. That’s a huge expensive on top of your pain, grief and loss. And how can you say no or skimp on the funeral of someone you love? It’s hard. (Here are some tips from Smart Money on how you can save on costs.)

It’s a difficult situation to find yourself: you’re dealing with the death of your loved one, you want to make his funeral special, the funeral director is ringing up the costs and it’s starting to exceed the cost of a year of college tuition. What do you do?

Not to sound morbid, but I’ve asked a lot of my, ahem, older friends what their end-of-life plans are. Do they want to be cremated? Do they want their ashes scattered at their favorite surf spot? Do they want a traditional funeral or a big party? And how much is all of this going to cost?

It’s better to know now then be surprised — or surprise your survivors — later.

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12 Responses to “Dying is expensive”

  1. uncleb February 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm #

    Last year, when my aunt passed away, she made it easy for me with specific instructions on what she wanted done. I was to cremate her and place her in a plot that she had purchased long ago. It still cost me about $2K and she did have funds available for that cost so I had no expenses out of pocket. She wanted a private service so only five of use were at the burial.

    My parents both purchased funeral plans back in the mid 60’s so the only cost to us when my father passed away was the catering after the service. He was a member of our local church so we were able to hold the service there. The monetary gifts (koden) given to us was a benefit for my Mom but would have

    I haven’t decided what to do for my Mom when she passes and will need to talk to my sister about it. Her expenses are already taken care of by the funeral plan so I may go the same route as my Dad.

    When I go, even though I own a plot next to my parents, I’ve decided to get cremated and have my ashes scattered on the North Shore. Less expense for my family and I’ve advised key members of my family about my wishes.

  2. uncleb February 25, 2013 at 10:28 pm #

    Meant to say “The monetary gifts (koden) given to us was a benefit for my Mom but would have covered the cost of his funeral expenses if he didn’t have a plan.”

  3. Melissa February 25, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    I’ve learned that the caskets and the urns are some of the biggest costs. My family goes with cremation, and the cheapest urn (in some cases, we have our own vessel of choice). Even the box you get cremated in can be the cheapest one—but if you yourself don’t have a personal preference and are OK with that, you need to convey it to your family. It gets hard to choose the box at the time of death because of all the emotion attached to the person and the ceremony of death.

    When my dad passed, we went with middle-of-the-road choices for things because we didn’t know that the money collected would actually cover the cost of everything. You just don’t know, right? So for my mom, we knew it was better to skimp on many items, but be sure the party was very well catered.

    BTW, funeral homes do accept charge cards. So if you have a credit card that gives you airline miles or other rewards, use it!

  4. Amy1 February 26, 2013 at 2:04 am #

    When my dad passed away mom was still young and we did not have any plan money for funeral. Lucky dad friends gave monetary gifts that helped a lot for mom and all in my family to so. Dad worker com help mom and social security survivor benefit helped her while she stayed at home from job to grieve.

  5. M February 26, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    Hello Cat,
    My parents has a funeral plan but my wife and I don’t. A fews years ago my friend passed away and the family held the funeral at my friends beach house and scattered the ashes right there in the ocean.

  6. David Jackson February 26, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    I worked for a while as a controller for Rightstar, forget the name of the entity that owns Valley of the Temples now, and had an up close look at the business. Dying is expensive indeed. But make sure you carefully evaluate the business you are going to use to handle your loved ones end of life experience. Some operators are not terribly good and go out of business. My advice…

    You can buy an insurance policy that covers the costs, make sure it is portable. In other words you can use it at any company not just the funeral home/cemetery that sells the policy. Also, make sure you understand the difference between Pre-need and At-need services and make sure what you want covered is covered.

    The business revolves around taking care of your needs. Make sure they offer services in the faith you represent, if they don’t have that find someone who does. Make sure that the ‘extra’ charges are managed properly. Auntie or Uncle chose what they chose. Don’t let someone convince you to buy the ‘Cadillac’ of caskets if what was desired was cardboard box. Dig it up years later it all looks pretty much the same.

    Just remember you are vulnerable. People in that position are more likely to buy the extra stuff and regret it later. This is how funerals and weddings are the same. Five years later no one remembers a thing about all the niceties except for you… and you may still be paying for them.

    As for me, barbeque me and feed me to the fishes… the ones that swim in KBay. I sailed that bay many days on a Nacra 5.8. And it is hard to top the view.

    And Cat, sorry for your loss. You’ve had a lot of friends go of late. Hang in there.

  7. M February 26, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    When it’s my time I would like to have my funeral at my friends beach house, simple and lots of food. I want it to be a happy celebration as I go into my next life then scatter my ashes in the ocean.

  8. Annoddah Dave February 26, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    CAT: Getting a plan is probably the best. The funeral home even charges for the cardboard box the deceased is cremated in. I believe you need a permit to scatter ashes in the ocean or anywhere else in Hawaii.

  9. zzzzzz February 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    When I was a kid, I remember that relatives and neighbors pitched in to help when someone died. They cooked and provided all the food, as well as helping with things like picking up out of town relatives, watching kids, and house sitting during the services. Koden covered most of the other expenses

  10. J February 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Family friends experience: parent injured in an accident while visiting kids. When status didn’t look positive at the hospital, family was advised to prepare… So they looked into at pre-need plans at a funeral home. Made their decisions, price was set and the paperwork was drawn up.

    During the meeting to finalize details and sign the contract, they received a call to return to the hospital. When they returned to the funeral home to sign the papers, they were asked about their loved one. When they told the representative that the parent had passed away, the rep said that since their situation was no longer pre-need, they would now have to pay the standard costs, which was about double the price.

  11. Funeral-cover February 28, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    Catchy post name. I agree wholeheartedly that funerals are extremely expensive and that is why having funeral cover is so essential.

  12. bumper March 3, 2013 at 12:00 am #

    Most people I know either realize this will be expensive and make prior arrangements with mortuaries or with their kin, or specify that they simply want their ashes scattered along with a low-cost remembrance. We did the latter for a family who unexpectedly died. We paid the cost of cremation and catered some takeout to eat beachside after returning him to one of his favorite surf spots. That wasn’t costly at all, and it was beautiful nonetheless.

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