Nothing is as certain as death and taxes, or so the saying goes. But while death might be a constant, funeral costs are anything but. So, just how much does it cost to say goodbye?
Breaking down funeral costs
Research by life insurance and pensions experts Royal London found that the average funeral costs £3,785. But burials cost more than cremations with the averages coming out at £4,321 and £3,250 respectively.
Those figures can be broken down further as follows:
Average funeral cost for a burial
- Funeral director £2,129
- Burial fee £2,033
- Minister fee £159
Average funeral cost for a cremation
- Funeral director £2,129
- Cremation fee £814
- Minister or celebrant fee £159
- Doctor fee £164 (only required for cremation and doesn’t apply in Scotland)
Additional funeral costs
Of course, the actual burial or cremation is just one part of a funeral, and many of us will choose to hold a wake. With that in mind, you’ll need to stump up another £2,500 or so for expenses like a venue, flowers and catering.
According to Royal London’s data, a typical bill for these ‘disbursements’ or third-party funeral costs looks like this:
- Memorial headstone or plaque £973
- Catering £454
- Venue £383
- Limo hire £313
- Flowers £156
- Funeral notice £88
- Obituary £77
- Order of service sheets £67
Managing funeral costs
If you’re planning a funeral and all of these costs have got your calculator doing overtime, don’t fret. There are ways to give your loved one a good send off without breaking the bank:
- Funeral directors – charity Fair Funerals has a list of funeral directors committed to transparent and fair pricing. You can also find independent funeral directors at SAIF (The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors). It’s worth noting that you don’t have to use a funeral director at all.
- Private versus council crematoriums – some local authorities run their own crematoriums and they’re typically less expensive than commercially owned ones.
- Direct cremation – these typically exclude the service and can be less than half the average funeral cost.
- Alternatives to tradition – formal burials aren’t for everyone. As obvious as it sounds, don’t get caught up in what’s ‘expected’. For instance, woodland burials make for a natural alternative and can be a third of the cost.
- Venues – if you have a wake, compare what’s available but don’t forget that you can celebrate with your memories anywhere. If you want something informal, a marquee in a garden can be just as good as commemorating in a fancy hotel.
- Food – if you go for external catering, it’s worth getting a few quotes before making a decision. Another option is to ask friends and family to bring a favourite dish to the wake for an added personal touch.
- Flowers – comparing quotes will ensure you get the best value, but ask your florist about making the most of abundant and inexpensive seasonal blooms.
Preparing for future funeral costs
Unsurprisingly, most of us are woefully unprepared when it comes to funeral costs. After all, few of us want to think about planning our own send-off. Highlighting this are figures from financial services provider Sunlife. Of those they questioned, only 25% had squirrelled money away for their funeral, while 21% hadn’t saved anything at all.
Sadly, the cost of reluctance to face our own mortality lands on our loved ones. Indeed, Royal London’s research revealed that 12% of people find it difficult to meet funeral costs, taking on an average of £1,990 in debt to cover expenses.
But if you haven’t set anything aside, the good news is that it’s never too late to start. For example, life insurance and over-50s plans pay out a lump sum when you pass away. However, bear in mind that term insurance only pays out if you die while the policy is active. And if you live to a ripe old age, you could end up paying more into an over-50s plan than your beneficiaries get out.
Alternatively, you could put something away every month into a high-interest savings account or ISA. It’s also a good idea to think about estate planning, which can ring-fence assets to cover funeral costs and will ensure your last wishes are fulfilled.
Finding help with funeral costs
If you’re struggling to pay for a funeral, and if you’re eligible, you could claim the government’s Funeral Expenses Payment. If you simply can’t afford a funeral, your local council is legally obliged to cover cremation costs, but this will be at a date and time of their choosing.
Undoubtedly, saying goodbye can be overwhelming. But remember, when it comes to funerals, expensive does not necessarily mean better.
So, death and taxes? One thing that’s (pretty much) certain is that your departed loved one is unlikely to want you to get into debt over their funeral costs.
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