13+ Things A Funeral Director Won’t Tell You

Read the money-saving secrets funeral directors from across the country aren't taking to the grave with these insider tips for planning a funeral.

By Michelle Crouch from Reader's Digest Magazine | June/July 2011
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    1.Go ahead and plan your funeral,

    but think twice before paying in advance. You risk losing everything if the funeral home goes out of business. Instead, keep your money in a pay-on-death account at your bank.

    2. If you or your spouse is an honorably discharged veteran,

    burial is free at a Veterans Affairs National Cemetery. This includes the grave, vault, opening and closing, marker, and setting fee. Many State Veterans Cemeteries offer free burial for veterans and, often, spouses (www.cem.va.gov).

    3. You can buy caskets that are just as nice as the ones in my showroom for thousands of dollars less online from Walmart, Costco, or straight from a manufacturer.

    4. On a budget or concerned about the environment?

    Consider a rental casket. The body stays inside the casket in a thick cardboard container, which is then removed for burial or cremation.

    5. Running a funeral home without a refrigerated holding room is like running a restaurant without a walk-in cooler.

    But many funeral homes don’t offer one because they want you to pay for the more costly option: embalming. Most bodies can be presented very nicely without it if you have the viewing within a few days of death.

    6. Some hard-sell phrases to be wary of:

    “Given your position in the community …,” “I’m sure you want what’s best for your mother,” and “Your mother had excellent taste. When she made arrangements for Aunt Nellie, this is what she chose.”

    7. “Protective” caskets with a rubber gasket?

    They don’t stop decomposition. In fact, the moisture and gases they trap inside have caused caskets to explode.

    8. If there’s no low-cost casket in the display room, ask to see one anyway.

    Some funeral homes hide them in the basement or the boiler room.

    9. Ask the crematory to return the ashes in a plain metal or plastic container — not one stamped temporary container.

    That’s just a sleazy tactic to get you to purchase a more expensive urn.

    10. Shop around.

    Prices at funeral homes vary wildly, with direct cremation costing $500 at one funeral home and $3,000 down the street. (Federal law requires that prices be provided over the phone.)

    11. We remove pacemakers because the batteries damage our crematories.

    12. If I try to sell you a package that I say will save you money, ask for the individual price list anyway.

    Our packages often include services you don’t want or need.

    13. Yes, technically I am an undertaker or a mortician. But doesn’t funeral director have a nicer ring to it?

    14. Sure, you can store ashes in an urn or scatter them somewhere special,

    but nowadays you can also have them crushed into a real diamond, integrated into an underwater coral reef, or blasted into space.

    Learn about green burials »


    15. It’s usually less expensive if the body is not present for the funeral.

    16. If the deceased’s favorite outfit is a size too small or a size too big, bring it to us anyway.

    Part of our job is making the clothes lie perfectly.

    17. If I ask you for a photograph of the deceased to help me prepare the body,

    I don’t mean her honeymoon picture from decades ago.

    18. That may be real gold in your loved one’s dental fillings or crowns,

    but don’t ask me to remove them for you.

    19. Never trust a funeral director who says, “This is the last thing you can do for your loved one.”

    20. You don’t need to spend money to have a meaningful service.

    Consider a potluck at the widow’s home or an informal ceremony at a favorite park, and ask survivors to tell stories or read poetry.

    21. Always bring another person when you meet with me,

    ideally someone who’s not as emotionally attached to the deceased.

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    Your Comments

    • berfa

      I think funerals are a giant waste of money I already have in writing to donate my body take what can be used for anyone who needs it then send the rest to medical school

      • Bored

        The first three letters in funeral are “fun”. That’s what i want people to do when I die. Go somewhere, have a bite to eat, drink an adult beverage, tell jokes, laugh, and yes, have fun.

    • drsebby

      Every penny spent on a dead body is a complete and utter waste. Your loved one is dead…the body they lived in is not “them” any more than the car they drove is. Direct your hard-earned money to the living members of your family…or throw a party or something useful. This whole “industry” is a disgusting waste of resources and manipulation of your “feelings”. Dig a hole, drop me in naked and let me return to the soil….take the $$ and buy yourselves a new car, or send a kid to college…or to Paris to drink and kiss women…i dont care, just something productive or fun!

      • hez316

        Understand your point, but in most states you can’t just dig a hole and drop the body in. Than again, I’m no expert

    • Mikki Mousse

      Most people don’t know that you can arrange to be buried at sea.

    • Maiingankwe

      #6 really ticked my brother and I off. The audacity of them thinking they knew my Mom and what she would have preferred. We asked for another director immediately after, and scored with one of the nicest people on earth.

    • webmaster

      #14, you can get 15% off if you dig your own hole.

    • Thomas Mckintree

      Check your State laws but in Illinois if your going to get cremated you don’t have to have the blood drained from you which saves on expenses. Most places will do a no show low cost cremation for less then $4,000. Call to get a quote from area funeral homes. In Danville, Illinois and surrounding areas Sunset has a MONOPOLY buying up funeral homes and will charge $10,000 and up just for a cremation.!! Robison in Catlin or Wolfe’s in Hoopeston is allot cheaper. Never ever give a funeral home the insurance policy nor tell them the amount its worth or they will find more expenses to get all of it. Best call and say “How much is it for a cremation since they had no insurance and the family and friends are taking up a collection.” Play on their emotions, before they do yours.

      • My Own Private Idaho

        The cost to shake and bake my father was $999.

    • Maryland_Royal

      Are caskets really necessary?

    • Nicole Antonia Carson

      Perfect with #20. I’m an actor in a medium-sized city and local theaters have offered their spaces for free to hold memorial services for several of our theatre friends who have died over the past few years. People sing, tell stories, drink, and remember. In general, theatre folks are poor and we help each other out because we know we’re priced out of traditional funeral arrangements.

    • ZLWestward

      In VA use a “irrevocable trust account” money guaranteed and transferable to another FH in case one goes out of business, ask your local Funeral Director for details.

    • Tony P.

      They don’t make more land so I say ocean burial is better, tough I think only cremated type are allowed?
      Take a boat trip out once a year and drop something (heavy) down as a ceremony and call it the day.
      All funeral homes should have fridge, as after 100 non-embalming it have paid for itself and they can pass on the savings to customers as who need more than 2 hours for viewing? Put some dry-ice in the rented coffin, to keep it colder than room temperature