Money at 30: How Much Does a Funeral Cost?
Did you know that dying is expensive? More specifically, the costs associated with funerals can really add up. That’s something my wife and I have unfortunately learned recently as her dad passed away a couple of weeks ago after a brief battle with cancer. Luckily, he and my mother-in-law had made some preparations, such as purchasing plots ahead of time. Still, there are plenty of other expenses and options to be decided as part of a person’s “final arrangements.”
So how much does a funeral cost? To give you an idea, let’s go through the actual numbers from my father-in-law’s.
Funeral Costs and Considerations
One of the largest expenses was also the first one explored after my father-in-law’s passing: the casket. Obviously, casket prices can vary greatly, but the one my wife and her mother choose came out to $3,100 — not the cheapest option but far from the most expensive. In fact, while looking through the options, they came across some that were upwards of $50,000 (with the funeral director noting that Prince and Whitney Houston had such products).
In their case, the funeral home worked directly with a trusted provider, allowing them to order exactly the option they wanted. This also allowed for the casket expense to be added to the total funeral home invoice and paid for along with all the other items and services we’ll discuss.
If discussing the casket wasn’t morbid enough, fair warning, this is probably the section that will make you squirm the most. First, there was the cost of embalming the body, which came to $775. Then, there was dressing, cosmetology, and hairdressing to consider. These totaled $250.
Lastly, another $2,000 covered “basic services of funeral director and staff.” These are listed in the same section but I suspect they relate more to the administrative tasks that need to be completed rather than items related to the preservation and presentation of the body. Either way, the total for this section came to $3,025.
Immediately after the doctor pronounced my father-in-law dead, she mentioned that they could coordinate with a funeral home to make arrangements. This is not something I really expected as it’s definitely not a conversation featured in films or television shows featuring such scenes. Nevertheless, it is something to consider and, of course, corresponds to more expenses.
The transfer of the body from the hospital to the funeral home came at a cost of $300. Presumably, this is based on distance and time. Then, there was a charge for $325, which covered the use of the hearse.
Of note, while I’ll discuss other potential expenses later, something we declined was the use of a limo or sprinter van as part of the funeral procession. These of course would have resulted in an additional cost. As it stands, this section came to $625 before tax.
For my father-in-law, we had a four-hour visitation session the day before the formal funeral. This was held at the funeral home, which not only provided the room but was also more than willing to accommodate requests, such as including places to display photos, playing specified music during the event, and much more. At a cost of $175 per hour, the rental of the space totaled $700 while an additional $350 for the use of equipment and staff brought the total to $1,050.
Did you know that it may not only cost money to get a death certificate but you may also need to order multiple copies? That was news to me too. As it turns out, in Ohio, these cost $25 each. So, with my mother-in-law electing to order 10, this was another $250 expense.
While those mourning a person’s loss may send flowers to the funeral home for display, my wife’s family also decided to order some flower arrangements that would adorn the casket during the viewing and were then moved to the church for the funeral. This was actually a surprisingly large expense, nearing $600.
Lastly, another major cost came from the cemetery (but was included on the funeral home’s bill). While, as I mentioned, the plots had been purchased, the “opening and closing” fees came to $2,040. This included the digging of the grave and the process of placing the casket in its final resting place — which helps explain why this is one of the largest expenses of the weekend.
Other potential costs
Although this article highlights the expenses that my wife’s family experienced for my father-in-law’s funeral, they don’t necessarily represent all of the expenses that others may face. For example, since they were active members of a local church and friends of the pastor, the funeral service was hosted in the church at no cost. Furthermore, the luncheon (also held at the church) was catered for free thanks to the church’s funeral fund it maintains for members. Meanwhile, as mentioned, we also avoided additional transportation costs by utilizing our own vehicles to get from the church to the cemetery rather than renting a limousine.
After taxes, fees, and discounts were considered, the total for my father-in-law’s funeral (and related events) came to around $11,000. Incidentally, this seems to be right around the average price. Of course, there are a nearly unlimited number of factors that could change this number and so every person’s experience is likely to be different.
Ultimately, even though these figures might not perfectly correspond to what experiences you may incur for a loved one’s funeral, hopefully they’ve given you a better idea of what to expect. In turn, you may want to consider how you’d look to cover these expenses if necessary — potentially including life insurance policies, trusts, or other savings. Although funerals are not something anyone really wants to think about, the realities of life mean that these costs are something for you, your partner, and your family to consider.