According to the National Funeral Cost Index, the average price of a funeral in 2017 had reached £3,784. For many people, that’s simply too high a price to pay, meaning that on average, Britons take on debts of £1,680 after paying for the funeral of a loved one.
What’s more, such estimations don’t even take into account the expenses not associated with the service itself, such as paying for the burial plot, tombstone and estate administration. Factoring these extra costs can mean that dying becomes an incredibly expensive business indeed – reaching almost £9,000 on average.
With that figure as low as £6,000 as recently as 2007, the costs associated with dying have risen far more quickly than inflation. Why? Here’s a look into the factors driving up the price of the modern-day funeral – as well as some pointers on how to cut the cost without cutting corners.
The funeral director factor
By far the biggest expense for a standard funeral is the director. This individual does provide a valuable service which can help to ease the strain on those grieving at a time when they need it most, but not all funeral directors charge the same price for their services – or indeed, offer exactly the same service.
As well as sourcing the location for the funeral itself and overseeing all the necessary preparations, a funeral director will also take care of the storage and preparation of the body until the day of the ceremony, as well as supplying the coffin and pall-bearers for the occasion. They can also perform tiresome administrative tasks such as the legal paperwork necessary to register the death and obtain a death certificate.
Although outsourcing all of these tasks can take a huge weight off your mind, lack of competition (especially in smaller towns and villages) mean that some funeral directors have something of a stranglehold on the market and can charge prices not concurrent with the level of service they provide. That’s why it’s so important to find the right funeral director for your unique circumstances, who can give you the help you need at a price you can pay. Rather than plumping for the first director you contact – even if they are the family’s regular port of call – it’s a good idea to get a number of quotes from different sources, as well as a feel for each, to make sure you get the decision right first time.
Of course, you could always do without a funeral director altogether. While all of the services mentioned above are important components of a successful funeral, there is no legal requirement for you to contract a funeral director to look after any of them. If you wish, you can bypass the embalming process altogether and store the body in your own home, then arrange for friends to act as pall bearers at the service. You can either build a coffin yourself or buy one online (the most affordable options begin at around £250 for a cardboard one), which will be far cheaper than leaving it up to the funeral director to handle. You can also sort out all of the arrangements on your own for the actual service itself.
Going it alone is not the right option for everyone and is not a decision to be taken lightly, but if you’re struggling to cover the costs of a dearly departed’s passing, it’s certainly one to consider.
The bells and whistles
There is a certain temptation for us to equate the amount we spend on a loved one’s funeral with the affection we bore for them. It’s almost as if we feel that not blowing the best part of £200 on an elaborate floral arrangement or commissioning enough food at the wake to feed a small army means we never really loved the person at all.
Of course, such an outlook is nonsensical – but it’s one that’s easy to fall into and which can have a huge impact on the bottom line of a funeral bill. When it comes to deciding which extras to include in any funeral, it’s most important of all to take into consideration the wishes of the deceased party themselves. What would they have wanted? Would they have craved the most lavish send-off possible? Or would they have seen it all as a monumental waste of money and not worth the bother?
Next, it’s vital you have a realistic budget in mind. It’s no good throwing an ostentatious funeral for your beloved partner, friend or family member, only to end up to your eyeballs in debt. Even if they were the sort of person who’d have preferred all of the bells and whistles at their funeral, they surely wouldn’t have wanted them to come at the expense of your own well-being. Make sure you factor in all the variables and set aside enough money to cover everything, without bankrupting yourself in the process.
If you know that the deceased would have enjoyed a glamorous send-off – and you’re in a financial position to give them one – by all means go ahead with it. Just make sure you don’t spend the rest of your own life paying off the costs incurred at the end of theirs.
The no-frills alternative
An increasingly popular option nowadays is the dispensation of a funeral service altogether. Instead, people opt for a direct cremation, which simply involves the cremation of the body into a simple urn and the necessary paperwork. As well as being far more affordable than a traditional funeral, it also gives the family the flexibility to hold a wake in their own home (or other location) at a time and date of their choosing. This can be especially attractive when friends and family are scattered far and wide and may find it difficult to come together at short notice.
In short, a funeral is similar to a wedding in the sense that it can be as expensive or as affordable as you choose to make it. Whichever route you decide to take, make sure you have researched all of the options available to you and settle for a service that’s right for your situation. If you need any advice during the process, feel free to give us a call on 01983 754 387 and we’ll be happy to help.