When I was in high school, one of my classmates drove us out to Kaneohe to show us the plot of land his parents bought him as a graduation gift.
It was in a graveyard.
And my classmate — who went off to be a well-paid chemical engineer — was super excited.
We didn’t get it, but my friend did — and I’m sure by now his parents’ investment has more than quadrupled.
See, death is expensive.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, funerals rank among the most expensive purchases many people will ever make. A traditional funeral — which includes a casket and vault — costs around $6,000. And that doesn’t include all the extras such as flowers, obituary notices, cards, transportation and catering. Many funerals run well over $10,000.
The National Funeral Directors Association reported in 2010 the average cost of a funeral including a casket — which is the biggest single expensive and 71 percent of funerals include one — was $6,560. That’s a huge increase from the average cost of $708 in 1960. In fact, until 1975, funerals didn’t cost more than $1,000.
It’s shocking how much death costs, considering — and I’m sorry if I’m being morbid here — it doesn’t matter much to the person it’s for.
One of my aunties bought two plots at a local cemetery for $2,000 each — in cash — 30 years ago. It came with the concrete box that holds the urns (which would be an additional cost). Right now, each one is worth more than $10,000. And the vase that holds the flowers costs another $700.
I’ve been thinking about this since my grandfather died last week and my family is in the midst of funeral planning. You don’t think about these things when you’re young — heck, not even when you’re 36! — but when death happens, you better be prepared. At least for the cost.
I haven’t decided what I’m going to do. At some point, I’m going to die, just like everyone else. And I’d hate for my parents or husband — or, gasp! my dogs — to have to spend thousands of dollars just to bury me. (Scattering ashes might be cheaper, but I’ve heard from folks who have done that to relatives, they wish they had some place to actually visit later.) It doesn’t seem right.
So I’m curious: anyone got funeral plans already? Anyone have experience with or thoughts on the high costs of funerals? I’m dying to know.
You forgot to factor in ethnicity. Different ethnicities depending on how devout a person is to their culture have different criteria that have to be met. An example of this is that for Chinese, they have to buried in a location where they can see water. This has to do with Feng Shui. This can drive the price of a plot sky high since most plots were bought out already a good 50 years ago.
Death. Enlightened post, Cat. My husband and I are Jewish, and want to be buried on Maui overlooking the ocean – just like how we live now…on Maui with an ocean view. We purchased our plots in the only Jewish cemetery on Maui. We are all set, money set aside. We actually talk about it with our kids, 15 and almost 12 years old. Having lost almost my side of the family, I’ve observed and experienced losing loved ones both quickly and after a long term illness. My suggestions: prepare now, don’t wait. Talk to your friends, family and kids about the process and your wishes. And thank g-d for each and every day above ground.
My mom just passed away last November, and I can attest that funerals are not cheap. But she had a plan that she started a few years ago, which was a great help for me and Dad. She didn’t finish paying for it, but it was enough to get the urn, the service, the burial and a vase at the gravesite.
My advice: get a plan started as early as you can. Burial plots are way better than real estate. The earlier you get one, the property value soars! And if you should decide to be scattered, but you own a plot, you can always sell it on craigslist and turn a profit.
Cat, my condolences to you and your family. Also, glad you are healing up nicely.
I can’t afford to die, cost too much.
As an atheist, I don’t care what happens to my body after I die. I joke with my wife and tell her not to spend even a dime on anything like an urn but to use an old milk carton if she feels a need to keep my ashes. Even that seems excessive. Still, I realize that there will be at least some expenses so I’m hoping I die before my term life insurance expires. That should cover even the most expensive milk carton.
My dad was in the military and opted to be buried in the Veteran’s Cemetery. That saved us a lot of money when he passed away. They also made a space for my mom. We only had to purchase the urn. As far as my husband and myself, we haven’t decided. I want to be cremated and he, as far as I know, doesn’t. That presents a dilemma. I honestly would rather just have my ashes spread to save the cost.
A lot of financial institution, especially credit unions, provide small life insurance policies to their account holders at no cost to the account holders. These policies, which might be in the neighborhood of $500 to $2000, can cover most the basic expenses associated with death.
A trend I notice in watching the obits regularly (my family doesn’t keep in touch very well, partly because it’s so large),is that it seems a lot more common these days to have either private services, or no services, which can also cut down the expenses. (IMO, it’s a shame when there’s no funeral, because in many cases that’s one of the few times many family members see each other. Anyone else remember an earlier time when formal photos were taken of all the funeral attendees, and tthere was typically a wake in addition to the funeral? Deaths were also a time when communities would pull together to support the family of the deceased, e.g., the giving of Koden to defray expenses. )
Cremation, followed by scattering of ashes, or keeping them at home, can also cut down on expenses.
CAT: Most funeral homes have a funeral plan which in essence locks the price of funeral costs to the prices when you sign up. Their main sales pitch is to tell you prices are going up…that is a fact, so if you purchase now, you lock in today’s price. It may or may not include a plot or crypt. I have had 2 relatives pass away within a year or so of each other. It is quite something to go through if you are not prepared. Sometimes it is better to go on the cheap…but the wishes of the departed need to be known before they pass. Otherwise the relatives will feel guilty by not knowing what to include and exclude. Burials are the most expensive. Coffins are ridiculously expensive.
on his death bed, my father rallied to raise up on one arm. he beckoned me come closer.. in a faint voice, he struggled to speak to me, his oldest child. “my son…..see that my ashes are scattered on the Shenandoah River…..and don’t let ’em tell you a cremation costs any two thousand buck, that’s bullshit. don’t pay over three hundred……then he closed his eyes and slipped away…gone to wherever US Office of Budget Management accountants go…*wipes a tear*
A family member recently died. He was only 55 and it happened suddenly. He left no money and no wishes, but we did as we thought he might want. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at his favorite surf spot. We invited his friends and shared malasadas and pupus in his memory after the scattering. It was beautiful, appropriate and cost maybe $1,000 in total. We all chipped in a little, so no one was burdened.
I don’t believe that you need a cemetery or plot of land to visit; I’d rather be “felt” in the world around, especially in my favorite, most peaceful spot. To each his own. It’s certainly not necessary to break the bank over it, though.
Cat, having gone through a few funerals in the last few years (one just last month) and being responsible for the planning and carrying out the services and so forth, I’m lucky in each case, my relative had adequate funds to take care of their needs.
My Dad had a plot and funeral plan as does my Mom. We ended up paying for two flower vases ($70 each back then) and the food at the gathering after the service. My Mom has since given me her plot since she can be buried with Dad when the time comes. In her case, we’ll go through some expenses for the funeral but when my Dad passed away, the Koden (monetary gifts) was more than sufficient to cover the expenses. He had a lot of friends so Mom was fortunate.
My aunts, even though they did not have funeral plans, did have a plot and a gravestone made. In each case, the expense for the cremation, urn, prepping, opening the gravestone and closing of the gravestone was between $1500-2500. All the services were private so food expenses weren’t as expensive since it was only for the relatives. Attendance varied between four people to about 40 people.
Even though I have a plot (I will probably sell it), I have instructed my sister and my cousins to cremate me and toss me in the ocean on the North Shore so no one will have the burden of the funeral expense.
Good Morning Cat,
I am sorry to read about your Grandfather. My father-in law probably knew him, since he was also born in 1914 near Capt. Cook. If I ever see any pics of him in his younger day, would you want me to e-mail a scan?
My wife & I have talked about post-life plans. This is what we decided: The surviving spouse keeps the ashes around until she (probably) passes, then our family will combine our ashes & scatter them at our favorite beach. I tell my missus that we can see the world & she can teach me how to swim! Not bad, eh?
LOL… I could tell you a few stories about the funeral services industry 🙂
BTW: If you have nine lives does that mean the cost of your funeral will be close to $60K?