One of the final scenes of my favorite movie The Big Lebowski features John Goodman’s and Jeff Bridges’ characters arguing with a funeral director over the cost of their friend Donny’s funeral. At one point, John Goodman (who plays a constantly angry character) shouts, “Look, just because we’re bereaved doesn’t make us SAPS!”
After having recently gone through a family funeral of my own, I find myself more sympathetic toward the character’s outrage. When it comes to funeral expenses, it can seem as though the prices for necessary services and products are out of proportion to any reasonable expectations. While funeral homes are required to give you an itemized list of prices for final expenses, it can still be very difficult to navigate the stress and financial worry of a funeral.
Here are some aspects of a funeral that cost more than you think:
1. Use of the plot
Purchasing a grave plot is not your only cemetery expense. While many people will make sure to plan ahead by purchasing a plot for themselves, they might not realize that their family will have to pay more in order to use that plot.
Opening the grave is another service which the family will have to pay for in order to hold the funeral, and the cost can be an additional $300-$500 — and potentially more if you’re holding the funeral on a weekend.
Newspapers used to print obituaries gratis as a service to their readers and the local community. Unfortunately, newspapers can no longer afford to do this. In order to have anything more than a brief death notice (which is still free), family members will need to spend $400-$500 for a longer obituary containing pertinent information.
Some cemeteries require you to use a vault within the grave. These vaults help prevent the grave from sinking as future deterioration sets in. The addition of a vault to the burial can add anywhere from $500 to $5,000 to the cost of the funeral. While no state law requires that cemeteries use a vault, you’re probably not going to be in any shape to protest against it.
Caskets can be extremely expensive. You can find a plain pine box for as little as $500, but caskets can range up to $10,000 or more for mahogany or other beautiful materials.
Even if you’re willing to go for the plain and simple casket, you might field a sales pitch for a sealed casket, which will protect the interior of the casket from water and insects. However, these seals are generally just rubber gaskets — and it doesn’t make a great deal of sense to protect a dead body.
Flowers through the funeral home are going to cost you. The base price of a funeral doesn’t include the cost of flowers, and adding them will cost you much more than normal flower arrangements would. Expect to spend between $250 and $1,000.
The Bottom Line
Burying a loved one is an upsetting and overwhelming experience, and it can be very difficult to make intelligent financial decisions in the midst of such turmoil. It’s a good idea to research funeral expenses before the time comes, and to always bring a friend or family member with you when meeting with the funeral parlor. That friend will be able to help you determine the best course of action.
Have you faced unexpected costs during a funeral? Anything you’d add to this list?