6 unnecessary funeral expenses you can skip

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Holly JohnsonContributing WriterHolly Johnson is a former contributing writer at Policygenius, where she covered insurance and personal finance. Her writing has also appeared in Business Insider, CNN, U.S. News & World Report, Bankrate, and The Balance.

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Death is unavoidable — and hosting a funeral is a necessary step after a loved one passes away. But, funeral costs can add up: the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) reports the median cost of a funeral in 2017 was $8,755.

While these ceremonies are pricey, you can take steps to reduce the costs of a funeral with lots of advance planning. It helps to know what you have to pay for — and what you can skip — early so you or your family won’t have to make decisions when emotions are high. Here are some funeral expenses you could cut out of your planning.

1. Burial

While burial has been the most common form of arrangement, the NFDA predicts the rate of cremations could rise as much as 30% through 2035. This is because cremation doesn’t take up land space and it can be considerably cheaper.

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The NFDA reports the average cremation with a visitation and funeral costs $6,260 in 2017, which includes a $1,000 additional cost of a cremation casket, formal services and embalming.

To skip many of these costs, you could opt for basic cremation without the viewing or services, avoiding that additional $1,000 cost. You can also skip the cremation casket in favor of a more affordable container.

Note: You can also rent a casket for viewing then proceed to a formal cremation, which will help you keep costs down.

2. Pricey caskets & vaults

If you do want a burial, don’t go for the most expensive casket or vault available. The NFDA reports that the average metal burial casket is $2,400 and the average vault costs $1,395. While prices for these products will vary based on the funeral home you work with and where you live, you can pay considerably less by opting for basic options they offer.

3. Embalming

In most cases, embalming, or preservation of the body, is not required by law. If you opt out of a formal visitation, for example, you don’t need to pay for embalming — especially when the cost can be hundreds. Speaking of...

4. Formal visitation

You don’t have to host hours of visitation in a funeral home, skipping over the NFDA reported average $425 in costs for visitation (and the $725 embalming fee).

Many choose to have visitation in their church, or you can welcome guests to your home. Also note that you can gather in the funeral home without the body present, which can save you from some expenses.

5. Expensive floral arrangements

A casket surrounded by pricey imported flowers may look beautiful, but is a cost you can skip altogether. Or, at the very least, chose a more affordable floral arrangement for the ceremony. Make sure to ask your funeral home about affordable flower options, but also know you can shop for and purchase flowers on your own.

6. Pricey burial clothing

The most cost-effective option here is to use an outfit your loved one already has. If you're going to get a new one, you don't need to get an expensive one.

Preparing for the future

The effects of death are far-reaching, especially the financial toll it can take on your family and loved ones. One way to prepare is to get life insurance — though it doesn’t stop death, it can limit the devastation it has.

If you aren’t sure where to start, try our life insurance calculator to figure out how much coverage you need.

image: Nastia Kobzarenko

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