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There’s no right way to plan a funeral. Finding the right balance of arranging a beautiful goodbye for a loved one and keeping funeral costs to a manageable amount can be tricky. So here are some ways to reduce funeral costs without compromising on a memorable send-off. You don’t have to do them all – just choose the ones that work best for you.

1. Cremation instead of burial

Did you know that burial costs about £1,000 more than cremation? In 2024 the average burial cost £5,077 and the average cremation cost £3,795 (SunLife 2024). It’s a significant amount. So if your loved one didn’t have a preference, you could consider cremation to save on funeral costs.

How to keep cremation costs down

Consider scattering your loved one’s ashes.

This typically costs a lot less than burying cremated remains.

Ask about off-peak times for the service.

Weekday services in the morning tend to cost less than weekend services.

Ask for a shorter funeral service.

Some venues will give you a 30-minute slot instead of an hour.

2. Have you heard of unattended funerals?

If the person who died didn’t want a fuss and you’re working with a small budget, a direct cremation or burial (also known as an unattended funeral) might be best. This is when there’s no service and no one attends the cremation. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t have a memorial or get-together to remember the person who died. You could plan your own memorial service before or after. This could help you save on catering costs and remember the person in a way that’s personal to them.

3. Plan a simple funeral

Traditional funerals can soon add up. Ask your funeral director for their simple funeral package. This is usually a less expensive option which doesn’t include optional extras like limousines or floral arrangements. But it’s no less dignified. You’ll still be able to celebrate your loved one respectfully.

4. Choose a simple coffin

Is there a simpler coffin that costs less? Check with your funeral director. Cardboard coffins are usually the least expensive option and can even be personalised with drawings or artwork. Chipboard and veneer coffins have the look of a solid wood coffin but also cost much less. 

5. Ask about embalming

Is visiting the body before the service important to you? If not, ask if the funeral director can reduce the cost. A funeral director will usually embalm the body of the person who has died before you view them. So if seeing the person who died isn’t part of your plans, ask the funeral director not to carry out the embalming process so you can save on funeral costs.

How to keep burial costs down

Compare costs at different cemeteries near you.

The difference in the cost of burials in privately owned cemeteries and local authority ones can be surprising. Choosing a plot in a natural burial ground, for example, can cost less than a plot in a local

See if the location of the grave affects costs.

If it’s close to a path it may cost more, so check this with the cemetery.

Ask about shared graves or reclaimed graves.

But keep in mind that a headstone may not be possible with this option.

6. Look at transport

Could you and other guests drive to the funeral instead of hiring limousines? Some funeral directors may also have less expensive ways of transporting the person who’s died such as a private ambulance so that you don’t have to pay for a hearse if you don’t want to.

7. Ask friends and family to be pallbearers

Would you and your family like to carry the coffin yourselves instead of asking for other pallbearers? Usually, the funeral home’s staff can help with carrying the coffin but if you and other friends and family are happy to do it then you may be able to save on costs.

8. DIY flowers

Did the person who passed away want flowers? Consider buying your own flowers locally and arrange them yourself. You could even buy artificial flowers online. It doesn’t have to be professional to give your loved one the send-off you want.

"You don’t have to go all out"

“I think it’s easy to get really carried away when you’re planning a funeral. Like you can when you’re planning a wedding. You start looking at all the expensive stuff. But I don’t think a lot of that is needed. We were basic with parts of Mom’s funeral. In the meal options we chose, picking the music ourselves, taking photos ourselves. You don’t have to go all out with the most elaborate options.”

9. Make your own order of service

An order of service isn’t essential – your celebrant will help friends and family follow the service. But if you’d like to have one and still keep funeral costs down, you could always make one yourself. There are lots of online design tools with easy-to-use templates like Canva, where you can create a bespoke order of service.

10. Use an online funeral notice

Lots of people like to place a funeral notice in their local newspaper when a loved one passes away. But if you’d like to reduce funeral costs you could try an online funeral notice service instead. That way, you can still share it with friends and family, and you could always save a version for yourself as a keepsake.

11. Pick an alternative memorial

Headstones can be one of the most expensive parts of planning a funeral. In 2024, the average cost of a memorial was £1,037 (SunLife 2024). So you could memorialise your loved one in a different way. You could scatter their ashes somewhere special, plant a tree in their memory, or place a memorial bench in your garden.

How to keep memorial costs down

Ask for a lawn grave with just a headstone and no surround.

This may cost less than a traditional grave that has a surround.

Flat and slanted headstones are a cheaper alternative.

Explore all your options before making a decision. You might find the traditional upright headstone isn’t what you’re looking for after all.

Ask about different materials.

Typically, granite is a cheaper option than marble, sandstone or slate.

12. Have the wake at home

Funeral wake costs are not usually included in funeral directors’ pricing lists. So you’ll need to pay extra to hire a venue. If this isn’t in your budget, you could have the wake at home. It’ll keep things personal. And it may even help you and other guests feel more relaxed and comfortable sharing stories and photos. You could even set up a photo slideshow on the TV.

13. Provide your own catering

Professional catering for the wake isn’t essential. You could make your own buffet. Or ask family and friends to each provide a dish. Even a comforting cup of tea or coffee will do the trick. As long as you’re there to celebrate the life of your loved one, there’s no need to spend lots on food.

14. Shop around for a funeral director

Get as many quotes as you can from different funeral directors in your area. This will help you compare their plans and save on funeral costs. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use a funeral director after speaking with them on the phone. Tell them you’re getting quotes and will call back if the plan is on budget.

Search for a funeral director online

You can use our online funeral director finder to make this easier and get a starting point for costs.

15. Ask for a breakdown of costs

Ask your funeral directors for a breakdown of costs so you can see where the money is going. Ask them about third party costs too. These are sometimes known as disbursement fees and include things like doctor’s fees and burial/cremation fees – these costs aren’t optional but they’re not always included on pricing lists. Having everything in front of you could help you choose the parts that are most important to you and opt out of those that aren’t.

16. Spread the cost of the funeral

Could you spread the cost of the funeral? Ask the funeral director if you can pay them in instalments so you can organise the funeral you want for your loved one and make the cost more manageable.

17. Arrange the funeral yourself

Did you know that you don’t have to use a funeral director to plan a funeral? There’s no legal requirement and it could help you plan a low-cost funeral. Read our guide to organising a funeral yourself and see if it will help you keep costs down.

Still worried about funeral costs?

Reducing costs is one way to make it easier to pay for a funeral. But you may be able to get other help too. For more info on how to get help with funeral costs visit our advice centre.

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Photo by Gerd Itjeshorst on Unsplash.