Burying a loved one when money is an issue

Funeral arrangements can be very costly, and out of reach for some people.

Funeral arrangements can be very costly, and out of reach for some people. Image: docguy/Flickr/Cc BY

More and more people are living below the poverty line. Yet, poor or rich, we all are subject to the realities of life. The sudden death of a loved one can put lower-income people under water with unexpected funeral and burial or cremation expenses. But there are a few options available to keep costs at a minimum when burying a loved one.

Emotion vs. cost in burying a loved one

We don’t like to think of cutting corners at times like these. At the same time, life doesn’t screech to a halt for the living, and they must weigh protocol and grief with the very real trials of getting by and keeping our families fed, sheltered and clothed. A lost loved one who truly loved his or her family would not begrudge them that.

Low budget funerals

The average funeral today costs about $1,650, according to Geoff Williams, writing for U.S. News and World Report. That is a chunk of change even for families with some means. The first thing you can do to significantly lower those costs is to choose cremation over burial. The average cremation, sans funeral service, is about $725.

If you do decide to have a service, forgo the funeral home and cut out the middle man. A simple service at home can be tasteful and far more intimate than an arranged affair. Get your own flowers, let talented loved ones provide the music. You may even decide to make it a potluck and save catering or food costs.

The indigent

Most people think of indigents as the transient and homeless. But, as far as government entitlements go, it just means those who cannot afford the basic needs of life, ie., food, shelter and/or clothing. People or families struggling to meet any of those basic needs may qualify for indigent services from their county. Those services may include disposition of a loved one’s body.

To see if you qualify, contact the county coroner’s office or a reputable funeral home. They will be able to supply you with the proper paperwork and get you started. Once the paperwork is filed, you will be contacted by a county agent who will conduct an interview to determine eligibility. That eligibility will be determined in a day or two, and you will be contacted with the results.

If you do qualify, you will likely have to settle with a cremation in a cardboard box. Services are on you, if you want them. Again, a home service is a respectable and budget-conscious way to go.

Donating the body to science

This option relieves you of the financial burden, while doing something good for the living and those yet to be born. Generally, the family can also receive the cremated ashes after the body has served its research or teaching purposes. This can take as little as a month or as long as three years, in some cases.

Don’t claim the body

In the case where a loved one died away from home and the body needs to be claimed, you always have the option of simply not doing so. That may seem cold, but the life force that made that person who they were has left its shell, and you still have to pay the bills. In these cases, the local government will take care of disposing of the body. In this case, you will likely never know what happened to the remains, although some localities do hold yearly mass services for unclaimed bodies.


Yahoo Voices
US News & World Report

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