Saving Money on Burial Related Expenses

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Death and dying aren't things that people like to talk about, but it is, unfortunately, a fact of life, and one that we all have to deal with at some point or another. On top of the grieving process that everyone goes through when they lose a loved one, there is also the added factor that when someone dies, their loved ones have many extra expenses.
My grandmother died two and a half weeks ago, and my mother was telling me about all the expenses that have come up since then, expenses that she hadn't necessarily thought about in advance. In addition to funeral costs, there was the expense of dealing with the will related bureaucratic issues, packing up my grandmother's apartment and moving it, among other things.
My mother now is in the process of arranging a headstone for my grandmother's grave, and today, my mother was telling me about what she decided to do to save money.

Now let me backtrack for a second and say that I know many would bristle at the idea of even saving money on burial related expenses- our loved ones deserve the best that money can buy, don't they?

Fortunately, I have never been in a position where I have had to arrange the burial of a loved one, but my mother would agree with you. It is worthwhile to spend more to give the best to your loved one, and not skimp and not give them a proper send off or burial. However, it is possible to get as good quality, for less money- so you still give them the best, but without paying more than you have to.

My mother was telling me that the standard headstones locally are made out of limestone marble, and these are cheapest to get. While they look beautiful at first, they are entirely white, and in order for the letters to be seen, they need to be painted in, and the paint comes off over the years. After 20-30 years, they need to be repainted, otherwise they look bad, and they also start crumbling. She decided that her mother deserved better than this- she wanted to get her a granite headstone, as they don't require paint, and they hold up much longer.

However, the first price she was quoted for a granite headstone was approximately 4 times as expensive as that of a limestone headstone. But she didn't want to just pay that, no questions asked. So she called up a few other places, and each of them charged between 2.5 and 4 times as much as the limestone headstones, and all of them had an additional price per letter on the headstone.

Then my mother thought about it- they recently had their kitchen redone, and put in granite counter tops. She thought- why not ask the guy who did the granite countertops if he also makes headstones? So she called him up, and he quoted her a price that was much lower than all the other places- it was the same price as a limestone marble headstone would be.
However, he didn't do letters. So she'd need to find someone to carve the letters on to that headstone.

With the quoted price in hand, she called up the place that offered her the lowest price for the granite tombstone, and told them the price that the granite cutter quoted her, and asked them how much they'd charge to carve letters on it. They, instead, suggested that she do the whole thing with them, and gave her a price half way between their original quoted price and what the granite cutter quoted her, and they also threw in another thing on the tombstone that my mother wanted, that would have had an additional cost, free of charge.

By doing a little comparison shopping as well as thinking outside the box, my mother is now getting a great quality granite tombstone, "the best money can buy", for a fraction of the cost that it would have cost her, had she not shopped around.

When doing something in the memory of a loved one, it's not an insult to their memory to try to save money. You can save money without skimping on quality.

And knowing my grandmother, she wouldn't have wanted a lot of money to be spent on her burial. She was such a giver, and would be happy to know that instead of this money being spent on her unnecessarily, it now can go instead to her children and grandchildren to enjoy.

While this is how my mother saved money on the headstone, the same would apply to all aspects of the burial related expenses (such as coffins, funeral services etc...)- comparison shopping, bargaining, and thinking out of the box regarding craftsmen, etc... can all be ways to help, so that your pocket book isn't hurting as much as your heart is.

Would you try to save money on burial related expenses, or would you consider that an insult to the memory of a loved one? If you would try to save money, or have in the past, what did/would you do?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. we saved money by prepaying it all. meaning that when we knew my mother in law was going, we prepaid it all. the price went from 22,000 (dollars that is, and that would have been the price for everything if we had paid after she died) to 7,000. that was just the funeral. we did all the stuff with the court by ourselves instead of hiring someone, and we threw a party of my mil's closet friends to get rid of the stuff we did not want ourselves. everyone got to take whatever they wanted and what was left was very little

  2. I am sorry for your loss.

    This is why it's important for your family that you have a plan, especially if you are elderly or terminally ill. No one wants to talk about it so at the very least, write your wishes down and put them where they can be found. My mother died of cancer and she clear that she wanted to be cremated and did not want embalming or anything like that. We just had a simple memorial service at their church. That's pretty much what I want too. Spend the money on something else or pay off bills! That might not work for everyone, but it's okay by me.

    I actually read an article on this topic the other day:

    There are some good tips here, but some might not work for everyone. Not everyone would be comfortable with the idea of washing and dressing their loved one and in some cases, it would not be possible. Many might not want to live with the sadness of turning their home into a funeral parlor and that's fine, too, but we should be open minded to options.

    I also remember driving through Georgia (about 200 miles from home) and saw a sign for a place that advertised low-cost granite headstones because the quarry is right there. Sometimes going a bit out of your way can save you money, too.

  3. I think one of the best things a parent can do is prepay and arrange their funeral arrangements ahead of time. It can be difficult dealing with one's own mortality, but it saves a lot of hasty and difficult decions at a very difficult time. Also, even if the deceased leaves money as an inheritance, the recipient will still have to pay inheritance taxes, and may have to wait awhile to receive the money thereby putting strain on their own finances. This is not the case if prepaid.
    I see nothing wrong with getting the best deal, and I think in general people don't skimp, but often the costs of funerals and related items are beyond what they have to spend, and are forced to choose cheaper options or go into debt.

  4. Of course people want to save money on burial/funeral expenses. That's why you can choose between a plain pine box and various types of wood/fabrics/metals...each with a different price tag. It's not an insult to the loved one; THEY don't know the difference. The money that we spend on these things is for us... Where I live basic funeral expenses are covered for everyone by the equivalent of social security. The catch? You bury your loved one where you're told to - which cemetery, which plot. If you want to reserve a plot for yourself (let's say you're burying a spouse) so that you can be buried alongside them that costs extra - a LOT extra. But if it's that important to you then you have the right to spend that money. Your choice. If you don't like the location of the plot you can choose another one - but that is also an "upgrade" and you'll pay extra for it.

  5. There is a kind of insurance/prepayment program where I live that takes care of everything from the moment you die, and this is what my husband has. Once the person dies, the company takes care of everything--the service, burial, and reception--and all they really need is a list of who to send the notices to, as paper notices are still required. I haven't seen headstones at any of the five funerals I've been to; my understanding is that land here is so expensive that graves are re-used (after a few decades, one presumes) so a headstone would just be an obnoxious waste of space.

    I'm glad my husband arranged this, because I know I couldn't possibly manage everything within a week (law requires the deceased be buried within a week).

  6. We prepaid for my parents, and of course as soon as the check was cashed heard horror stories about funeral homes going out of business and taking the prepayment with them. (With my folks, the money was kept in some sort of annuity.) No idea if any of the stories were true, but we were happy the place was still around when my parents finally did pass. It came to about $10,000 (US) for them both, much less expensive than if we'd waited.

    Were it up to them, my parents (who grew up in the Depression) would have chosen the cheap funeral; we went for something a little more special, but as Marion Rosen said, that was for us. It cost a bit extra but we were happy.

  7. My mother has told us that if we spend a lot of money on her burial expenses, she will come back and haunt us! That certainly nips any guilt responses in the bud and is also a quote that can be used against pushy salespeople.

    I read a blog entry about someone whose relative had pre-paid for her burial expenses and the people who ended up taking care of this actually knew about that (which is good), but they didn't know the details and had to do a lot of research--it turns out she'd done this when she loved in a different place hundreds (or thousands?) of miles away, so it wasn't exactly handy!

  8. Must a comment be reviewed and approved before it will be posted here? Or did I just lose a very long and carefully-thought-out response because I failed to sign into my Google account from this page first? I think some instructions should be listed here below all the comments for certain unfortunate first-time posters like me before they lose all their typing (as I did).

    1. I didn't delete anything- but yes, most posts need to be approved first. But yours never even got sent to me for approval. I have the standard commenting that comes with blogger. I'm really sorry for you losing your post- that really stinks!

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