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, the cost of a funeral service can easily reach \$10,000-\$15,000.
The majority of Americans, however, 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:
Raise the money from outside sources (via GoFundMe or a personal loan)
Choose a less expensive option (the most common of which is cremation)
Funeral Costs Have Skyrocketed
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 gone up significantly. Add to that the already high price of wood, or even metal, caskets, and you can see how burial costs in total 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.
Funerals Have Become Unaffordable For Most Americans
Path #1: Pay Funeral Costs Using Outside Funds
So what happens if you can’t afford a funeral at the prices shown above?
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 (below).
- Host a fundraiser (either publicly via a site like GoFundMe or privately among friends and family)
- 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. Whether you take out a funeral loan or you take out a cash advance on your credit card, the interest rate on these funds will be astronomical. (Funeral loans carry an interest rate around 10-15%, while credit card cash advances not only have an interest rate between 25-30% but carry a one-time fee when you take them out as well.
Unless you’re confident you can pay back the principal and the interest charges on schedule, you likely should avoid this option.
Path #2: Choose A Less Expensive Option (vs. a Funeral)
Returning to our original question: what happens if you can’t afford a funeral?
Nowadays, there are dozen 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.
Cremation costs can vary significantly and largely depend on how you plan to handle the cremated remains (ashes).
The most expensive option is to bury your loved one’s ashes, as that requires purchasing a burial plot at a cemetery. However, the more common option is to simply scatter the ashes at a location of your choosing.
The newest trend is to use the ashes in the creation of 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 that is worn on a necklace, among many more.
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.