While no one wants to think about funerals, most of us will have to plan at least one in our lifetime. If enduring the loss of a loved one isn’t already enough, there’s always the financial burden of having to pay for the funeral.

With the average cost of a burial in Australia being around $19,000, price is going to be a factor for most families. In this article we’ll look at 8 practical steps you can take to save on funeral costs.

If you haven’t done so already, you should also check to see whether you’re eligible for any assistance with funeral costs.

1. Understand the Costs

Before you even begin speaking to funeral directors, it’s important that you understand the key costs. This way, you won’t feel overwhelmed, you’ll be speaking the same language as the funeral director and know the right questions to ask.

  • Professional Services Fee – covers the arrangement of the funeral, such as meeting with the family and organising the venue, newspaper notices, death certificates, celebrants and other third parties
  • Transfer Fee – transportation of the deceased to the funeral home
  • Mortuary Care Fee – preparation and storage of the body
  • Viewing Fee – visitation of the deceased before the funeral
  • Third Party Fees – any services supplied by third parties, such as a celebrant, musician, funeral flowers, newspaper notices, venue hire and catering
  • Coffin or casket

If you opt for a cremation, you will also need to account for the cost of the cremation fee and urn. If you opt for a burial, you’ll need to budget for a gravestone. In both cases, if you plan on interring the remains at a cemetery, you will also need to purchase a burial plot (known as a right of interment), a burial vault or grave liner, and pay the opening and closing fee for the grave.

2. Consider a Cremation Instead of a Burial

Cremations can be significantly cheaper than burials, primarily because you don’t have to inter the remains in a cemetery. With the populations of major cities increasing, combined with only limited space for cemeteries, the cost of burial plots has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. In Sydney, the cost of a burial plot can anywhere range from $4,000 to $52,000.

In addition to avoiding the cost of the burial plot, opting for a cremation also means you don’t have to pay for opening and closing fees, a grave liner or a headstone, which are each significant costs in their own right.

When you compare the average cost of a cremation ($7,500) with the average cost of a burial ($19,000) it’s easy to see why cremations have grown in popularity. In Australian cities, cremations now account for almost 70% of all funerals.

3. Better Yet, Consider a Memorial Service

Without a doubt, a “no service no attendance” cremation (or direct cremation) is the cheapest funeral option. With all-inclusive packages starting from around $1,500, the savings are dramatic. However, as the name suggests there is no service for the deceased, and for many families this option lacks closure and the chance to say farewell.

An option that is growing in popularity is a no service no attendance cremation coupled with a memorial service. A memorial service is a service that takes place after the burial or cremation. They can be held at the family home, a park, beach or other place of significance.

As you can imagine, holding a memorial service is also much cheaper than a traditional funeral service because you don’t need all the staff and equipment that is normally required to have the body present at the service.

4. Shop Around

For most people, a funeral will be one of the most expensive purchasing decisions they make in their life. Like any other consumer service, it’s important to shop around to find the best price and service. But let’s face it – doing the ring around following the death of a loved one is the last thing that anyone wants to do. Thankfully there are now a number of websites that can help families with the research. For example, Gathered Here is a free funeral comparison website that lets families compare the prices and reviews of over 600 funeral homes around Australia.

5. Don’t be Afraid to Talk About Price

It’s the most normal thing in the world to feel uncomfortable talking about the price of a funeral. Yet unless you do, it’s likely that you’ll be steered towards more expensive products and additional services that you don’t need.

Asking about the most cost-effective options in no way diminishes how much you love someone. If your funeral director is making you feel “cheap” or like you owe the deceased “the best” of everything, it’s a sure fire sign that you should take your business elsewhere.

6. Ask for an Itemised Price List

When you are getting quotes from funeral directors, make sure you ask for an itemised quote. Some funeral directors will do their best to avoid giving you specific details so that there is some wiggle room in the final bill for some additional extras.

Keep in mind that according to state legislation, it is your right to request an itemised quote, so don’t settle for anything less.

7. Ask for the Coffin Price List

When choosing the coffin, in addition to being physically shown the different options, ask for their coffin price list and ask them to explain their cheapest options. It can be common practice for funeral directors to not display the cheapest options and to start families on a mid-range coffin, hoping they’re wont ask any questions.

For more information on the cost of a coffin and cheap coffin options, see our Guide to Coffin Prices in Australia.

8. Know the Extras You Can Skip

In addition to the core services, there are a number of non-essential items that, while seemingly smaller costs, can really add up.

  • Flowers (+$300) – instead of a full flower arrangement, opt to adorn the coffin with a single rose or a photo.
  • Sealing (+$200) – you might be offered a sealed coffin to offer more protection to the body. As the body will ultimately decompose in any case, skipping this is an easy way to save.
  • Embalming (+$800) – this procedure is only legally required if the body is to be buried above ground in a vault or mausoleum. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no evidence that embalming is a more hygienic option.
  • Funeral cars and limousines (+$400) – rather than having funeral cars to transport the family, drive yourself or arrange for other family members to drive.
  • Newspaper Notices (+$300) – with just about everyone being on social media these days, many families are opting to skip newspaper notices altogether and instead share the details of the funeral online for free.

The bottom line is that funerals are expensive, but by making some sensible decisions it’s possible to save thousands of dollars. However, before you get to the stage of cutting costs, it’s important to properly understand the wishes of your loved one. Make sure you’ve taken the time to discuss it beforehand, and that you know what is important and what isn’t. More often than not, it’s not about the fancy coffin and flowers. You might be surprised by what you find out.

For more guidance on finding a funeral director in and around our major cities, see our capital city guides:

See the full picture and make fully informed decisions. Move forward in the certainty that your loved one’s memory will be looked after. Funeral Homes are Gathered Here.

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