What Happens If You Can’t Afford A Funeral? [Free options]

Funeral expenses have been rising rapidly over the past several decades.  Once you total the cost of the burial plot, the casket, the memorial service at the funeral home or church, and the many other final expenses, a funeral service can easily run you $10,000 – $15,000.

However, most Americans have less than $1,000 in their bank account, so paying thousands of dollars for funeral services would far exceed their budget.

If you can’t afford to pay for a funeral for your loved one and the deceased does not have a burial insurance or life insurance policy, you have two options:

Choose kindness.

You never know what battles people may be fighting.

Funeral Costs Have Skyrocketed

Understanding funeral costs in 2023 is crucial for families who are facing financial challenges and looking for free options to manage a loved one’s final arrangements.

According to statistics compiled by the funeral industry, funeral costs have risen rapidly over the past few decades.

Given increasingly scarce land for burial, the cost of a burial plot has increased significantly. Add to that the already high price of wood, or even metal, caskets, and you can see how burial costs comprise over 75% of the total cost.

On top of this, as church attendance has decreased over the years, memorial services (whether funeral services or cremation services) have increasingly been held at funeral homes. In turn, the funeral provider has become a quasi-event planner, with the cost of the full service often resembling that of a wedding reception.

The traditional funeral service and burial are now unaffordable for most Americans.

Raise Outside Funds To Pay Funeral Costs

Understanding funeral plan costs can be crucial for those concerned about affordability, as some prepaid options might not be as beneficial as they first appear.

So what happens if you can’t afford a funeral at the above prices?  Unfortunately, you won’t get help from Social Security or Medicare for funeral expenses.

If you can’t pay for a funeral for a family member (or other loved one), you have two paths to choose from in raising funds:

  1. Host a fundraiser (either publicly via a site like GoFundMe or privately among friends and family)
  2. Take out a loan (either via a funeral loan or a credit card cash advance)

These are not easy, cheap options by any means, and worse, you have another factor working against you: time.

Host A Fundraiser (Public Or Private)

The first option is to host a fundraiser and get the funds from third parties.

This could be done online via a site like GoFundMe. In this case, the money could come from anyone: from those you share the donation link with to kind-hearted strangers on the internet who come across your fundraiser’s page and choose to donate.

This could also be done more privately by either (1) reaching out to family and friends individually or (2) hosting a large event (such as a BBQ), where the price of admission is a set contribution to the funeral expenses for the deceased.

Take Out A Personal Loan

This second option will likely be much quicker than the former, but it will come at a cost in terms of interest charged.

Whether you take out a funeral loan or a cash advance on your credit card, the interest rates will be sky-high.  Funeral loans carry an interest rate of around 10-15%, while credit card cash advances not only have an interest rate between 25-30% but carry a one-time advance fee as well.

Unless you’re confident you can pay back the principal and the interest charges on schedule, you likely should avoid this option.

Check Out: Headstone prices: Factors that influence cost

Choose kindness.

You never know what battles people may be fighting.

Choose A Less Expensive Option

Returning to our original question: what happens if you can’t afford a funeral?

Nowadays, there are dozens of alternate options to a traditional burial and funeral service. Everything from cremation (and subsequent burial or scattering of the ashes) to a burial at sea to body donation for medical research purposes.

Direct Cremation

Cremation costs can vary significantly and largely depend on how you plan to handle the cremated remains (ashes).

The most common option is to scatter the ashes at a location of your choosing.  However, if you want to bury your loved one’s ashes, this will require purchasing a burial plot at a cemetery.

The newest trend is to use the ashes to create a small memorial or memento for your loved one. This includes everything from using the ashes to create a vinyl record disc to enclosing the ashes within a locket worn on a necklace, among many more.

Free Options

If you have no money to pay for the funeral, even after exploring the above options, there are a couple of options that will leave you with no disposition costs (in other words, they are free).

The first is to donate the body to medical research.

The second is to allow the state to handle the disposition of the body. In this case, the funeral home will most likely cremate the remains and scatter them at a location of their choosing.


We hope this review helped you find a solution to raise the funds you need.

If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to send us an email or leave a comment, and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

Warm Regards,
The GetSure Team