“It is sometimes very sad, and we do our best to keep it from happening,” a man who sells cemetery plots and funeral services once said to a client who was trying to save money on her husband’s funeral. “But emotional spending is very common here. Families sometimes spend far more than they really should. Being frugal is definitely a good thing. We definitely encourage it.
Coming from a man who financially benefits from emotional overspending on funerals – and who does not mention ever having turned down an order from someone who is in the midst of emotionally overspending – that remark may not have a lot of credibility.
But it is, nevertheless, a healthy sentiment.
Emotional spending on a funeral can be a huge problem for families who may already be financially stressed at the time of a death in their midst. Some families have been known to take on extra debt in order to give their family member just the sort of special memorial he or she would have wanted. This sort of erroneous thinking flies in the face of reality: funerals are for the living, not the deceased. Overspending on a funeral, to the detriment to a family’s financial health can turn a death into an avoidable tragedy – adding more stress and turmoil to a family’s life when comfort and calmness are what are needed most.
The following are some tips for making sure your family can avoid the trap of emotionally overspending on a funeral you may be called to arrange (and pay for).
The best way to avoid emotional overspending is to plan ahead for a funeral service. The importance of early planning – in writing – cannot be overstated by experts who do repeat their advice at just about every opportunity. Having a plan, whether it is written by the deceased or by any other family member, before beginning talks with a funeral director or other sales person is incredibly important in the quest to avoid emotional overspending. Following a plan, as opposed to the suggestions of a sales person, will take all of the guess work, and a lot of the expense, out of making sure a memorial service is exactly as it needs to be. Also, planning ahead often involves a little bit of research, which could have a fruitful advantage. Many are unaware that they are able to obtain virtually any memorial need – such as cremation urns, burial caskets, funeral accessories, and even grave markers – from outside memorial vendors. Moreover, one may find that the outside memorial vendor may offer a wider variety of options, for a substantially lower cost than when purchased directly from the funeral home. Planning ahead allows for flexibility in not only the budget, but also the arrangements themselves, as a family will not have to make last minute decisions that may be both unfullfilling and quite expensive.
It is important to realize, however, that plans are susceptible to change by last minute suggestions by a sales person or by a family member who was not involved in the original planning. In such cases, care should be taken to respect the original plan as much as possible and to assure than any changes do not stray significantly from the plan – which was designed, of course, to provide a great deal of financial savings to all involved.
Take a Non-Emotional Friend With You
The next way to avoid emotional overspending on a funeral is to follow the wise advice of consumer advocates everywhere: take someone with you who is not emotionally involved in the death with you to the funeral home. In fact, it may even be wise to sign paperwork letting that person do all of your negotiating with the funeral home on your behalf. Such a move will leave you and your family secure against the encroachments of sales pitches aimed at your emotions, sales pitches that can come, ironically, from the very same people who vow, in the beginning, not to try to sell you anything you don’t need to carry out a memorial service that is in perfect keeping with your family’s tastes, desires and, most importantly, budget.
Recognize Sales Pitches
Maybe the best way to avoid overspending on funerals is to recognize, from the very beginning, that, as comforting and as friendly as they may seem, funeral directors are not necessarily your friend. They are not, necessarily, working in your best interest but, rather, in the interest of building the most profit for themselves and their employer. Statements like, “This is our most popular casket because families find it very comforting,” may very well be another way of saying, “I hope you’ll buy this casket because it is our most profitable model.”
Do not be afraid to react to every statement from a funeral director, no matter how innocuous, as a grab for you money. Do not buy a product or service just because a funeral director suggests it for you. That is a great way to get your loved one’s funeral to add up to well over the current national average of $10,000.
In this day of co-dependency being so rampant in our world – especially during times of stress and grief – the advice in this section may be difficult to remember as the sales pitch charm of a funeral director comes barreling at a family. But remembering it, nevertheless, can help keep your funeral bill to a (somewhat) reasonable level. It is important for families to remember that there is no shame in asking for exactly what one wants in a funeral – even if the request will end up being a disappointment to the funeral director.
Establish a Budget from The Start
One of the best ways to avoid emotionally overspending on a funeral is to establish a budget – based on your own resources and those of anyone who may be willing to donate to the cause. If you adopt this technique, it is wise to make sure you share it with your funeral director right from the first conversation, being very clear that you will not go over that amount in whatever you select for the funeral. In fact, it may be wisest to share a lower number with funeral director. If you do that and are successful in keeping to that number, it is quiet likely that your potential financial disaster of a funeral can turn into a financial boon. (There is no shame in having money left over from an insurance policy, for example, to help with day-to-day expenses. There is no rule – legal or otherwise – that says a family must spend all of the money it has allocated toward funeral expenses. Having some money from the funeral budget to spend on the necessities of life can, actually, be a great tribute to your loved one – no matter whether the funeral director seems disappointed or not.