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What Can I Do if I Can’t Afford a Funeral?

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The death of a loved one is a difficult time, made harder by the worry of how to pay for the funeral. In 2021, the average cost of a funeral was $7,850. If you are responsible for a loved one’s funeral costs, it is understandable that you may feel overwhelmed. 

Funeral pre-planning is a way to relieve the burden of making difficult decisions and securing funds. If you pre-plan your funeral, you will have the opportunity to create the funeral service you want and to save money by paying in advance.

We know that funeral expenses can be tough to deal with, so we've gathered some tips to help you out. You can find information on how to get help with funeral expenses, including taking out a loan specifically for funeral costs.

5 ways to pay for a funeral

1. Check their life insurance policy

One of the best ways to pay for funeral expenses is by using money that your loved one has set aside for their family after they pass away. If you are named as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy, you will receive a lump sum of money that can be used to pay for the funeral or any other financial needs of the surviving family members.

You may be named as a beneficiary to a life insurance policy, which provides a lump sum of money to be used for funeral expenses or other financial needs of the surviving family members. However, the payment may not come in time to cover the funeral. 

If this is the case, bring the policy information to the funeral home. The funeral home may be willing to handle the paperwork and communications to claim some of the benefit on your behalf.

2. Research low-cost burial options

Don't think that sticking to a budget for a funeral means you care any less about the person who has passed. There are plenty of good options for lower-cost funerals and burials. Shop around for funeral homes and don't be afraid to negotiate prices. 

There are plenty of ways to make a funeral more affordable, even if you don't have all the money upfront. You can talk to your funeral director about a payment plan, or look into resources that provide funeral financing. You could also defer payment until after the will is sorted out.

If you're looking for a low-cost, non-traditional burial option that will still honor your loved one, here are some possibilities:

A “green” burial- A more environmentally-friendly—and less expensive—option is a green burial. There’s no need for an expensive casket or vault; instead, the body can be wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket. 

A green burial omits embalming, which cuts costs and is better for the environment. If you're interested in this option, the Green Burial Council can help you find providers in your area.

Choose a personalized location- Instead of a funeral-home event, you can hold a memorial service. You can choose your own location—at home, in a park, in your religious center, or any other meaningful place. A memorial service is a time to remember and honor your loved one.

Provide your own casket- You are not required to only purchase a casket from the funeral home that is providing the service. You can look into alternatives, such as purchasing from a third party or even making your own casket. This can be a helpful way to save money when paying for funeral expenses.

Skip embalming- Not embalming the body can save you money, and if visitation isn't important to your family, you can opt for burial to take place immediately. You can also choose which type of memorial you would prefer in this case—the cemetery, the funeral home, or somewhere personal.

Cremation- Cremation is often more budget-friendly than burials and may be a helpful way to pay for a funeral. Prices for cremations done through a funeral home typically fall between $2,000 and $3,000. If you go through a crematory instead, the cost may be lower, falling between $1,500 and $3,000.

3. Ask for help with funeral expenses from friends or family

Wondering how to ask for help with funeral costs? Simply be direct and do not feel guilty. Funerals are a time for family and friends to unite. Some may be more financially capable of contributing—and that is acceptable. Let everyone know how appreciative you will be for any amount they can provide.

One way to raise money for funeral expenses is to set up a GoFundMe account. This might seem strange, but GoFundMe actually launches more than 125,000 memorial campaigns per year. 

You could also send a group text or email to say that you're having difficulty paying for the funeral and that any contribution, no matter how small, would be helpful and appreciated.

4.Take out a funeral loan

You may not know this, but you can actually use a personal loan to help pay for funeral expenses - this is what is known as a funeral loan. If you want to have a traditional funeral complete with a casket, funeral home services, and a gravesite, then you will likely have to pay for these things either in advance or on the day of the funeral.

5. Ask for help from charitable or government organizations

Was your loved one a Veteran? If so, is it possible for them after the Veteran's card has been issued to apply for burial benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for burial and funeral expenses of eligible surviving spouses.

Help is available when you need it

When we grieve, we remember that resources are available to relieve the burden of managing funeral costs. At times like these, we hope you are able to turn your attention away from worry about your finances and instead celebrate a life lived.

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