Funerals Are Expensive — What If You Can't Afford One?

The cost of a funeral is expensive. GoFundMe has thousands of fundraisers to help cover funeral costs. What happens if you can’t afford a funeral?

Danielle Letenyei - Author

Feb. 28 2023, Published 2:54 p.m. ET

A casket at a funeral
Source: Getty Images

The crowdfunding site GoFundMe has thousands of fundraisers looking for financial help covering funeral costs. And it’s no wonder, because funeral costs add up quickly. The harsh reality is that dying is expensive.

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According to World Population Review, funeral expenses are usually between $6,000 and $12,000. Funeral costs can be higher depending on where you live in the U.S. The most expensive state to die in is Hawaii, where funeral expenses can cost nearly $15,000.

A couple at a funeral
Source: Getty Images
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Besides the funeral and casket cost, you’ll also need to pay for non-funeral expenses such as paying the clergy, musicians, luncheons, flowers, and cemetery expenses.

What happens if you can’t afford a funeral?

If your loved one dies and you can’t afford to pay for their funeral, crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe offer a good option to raise funds from friends and family to help cover the costs. A quick scan of the current funeral fundraisers on GoFundMe shows that many fundraisers are close to their goal, and some have even exceeded it.

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You may also consider taking out a loan to cover the funeral costs, but this can lead to debt issues down the road.

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What are some affordable funeral alternatives?

There are some low-cost burial options you may want to consider instead of a pricey funeral if you can’t afford it. Those options include:

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Cremation - Cremation is usually less expensive than a burial. Going through a funeral home for cremation can cost about $2,000 to $3,000. You can save even more if you skip the middleman (the funeral home) and work directly with the crematory. According to Funeralocity, a direct cremation costs between $600 and $3,000.

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A “green” burial - The Green Burial Council defines a “green” burial as one with minimal environmental impact. In a green burial, there isn't an expensive casket and no embalming of the body. The body is instead placed in a shroud or biodegradable casket.

Skip the funeral home - Most funeral expenses come from working with a funeral home to help with the arrangements, such as the visitation and funeral. You can save money by arranging a ceremony or celebration of life at home or a meaningful spot like a park. If you decide to take this route, you should ensure that home funerals aren't restricted in the state where you plan to have the event.

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People visiting a cemetery
Source: Pexels

Donate the body to science - If you have absolutely no money to pay for a funeral, you could donate the deceased’s body to an educational institution for scientific research.

How can you pre-plan for funeral expenses?

No one ever really plans on dying, but pre-planning your funeral and how it will be paid for can prevent your loved ones from getting into a situation where they can’t afford to give you a proper burial. You can start putting money in a funeral trust or paying for burial or life insurance while you are still alive so that if you die unexpectedly, your family members will be able to afford your funeral.

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