Do you have a looming family funeral and worry about the cost? You are right to have an eye on the practical issues, as you don’t want any nasty financial surprises when you are dealing with anxiety or grief.

Funeral costs can be broadly broken down into: the cost of cremation or burial; the cost for the coffin or casket; the cost for the services of the funeral director. Plus extras that include cars for family members to travel to the service; celebrant or church fees; newspaper notices; flowers and catering. The memorial – a plaque or headstone, is a separate matter.

Burial and cremation costs are set by the cemeteries/crematoria or trusts (depending on state). Burial costs include both the cost of the site and the ‘opening/closing’ of the grave. In the major cemeteries these two costs will usually be several to many thousands of dollars, but they can be significantly cheaper in small fringe or rural cemeteries. Cremation is far cheaper – the crematorium fee at major crematoriums, for the cremation only, is around the $800 mark in 2018.

The coffin or casket can vary in price from about $300 to $15,000+. An average price is about $2,000. There are many more options these days – you have probably heard that Costco are now selling coffins and caskets and you can purchase them online as well. The fact of the matter is – you usually don’t think about or want to purchase a coffin until someone has passed away, and with everything that families need to consider at that time, going to a one-stop-shop – the funeral director – who will handle every detail for you, is often the option that you can best cope with.

The professional fees that the funeral director charges vary considerably from company to company and often relate to the size of the organisation and the infrastructure that they maintain. In larger companies it may include a mortuary, onsite funeral chapels at most branches and staff training, among other things. Most people choose a funeral home that they have seen or heard of in their local area and you should have no hesitation in ringing and asking for a ball-park cost. Ensure you can tell them immediately if it is a cremation or burial and whether you will use their chapel and their car/s for family transport. Some companies have their fees on their website, so you can work out a fairly close estimate of costs.

The extras can also add up, with flower arrangements, celebrant fee, death and funeral notices and catering adding easily around $500-$1000 to the base costs. Most funeral directors pass these costs on to you at cost price, they don’t add a mark-up. For a very ball-park figure, you can expect to pay around $5,000-8,000 for a cremation and funeral service, using the funeral director’s chapel of a medium-sized funeral director. You may still see some advertisements for funerals from about $1,500 even in 2018, but you should be aware that this price generally covers only preparation, transport and cremation fee, that is, no funeral service. If you would like to have a service as well there will be additional costs. It would be hard to find anything under about $3,500 that includes a service. Look for a smaller company or ask the funeral director for their lowest cost option to find the less costly alternatives, and of course, the sky’s the limit if you prefer something stylish.

Despite all the bad press the funeral industry has had over the last couple of years, Money Natters finds that funeral directors are no better nor worse than any other business owners. They are in business – they have to make money. Their markups may be high on some items and that is partly because there are several other items that they can’t mark up. Even the most expensive operators have, to our personal knowledge, a super-budget-arm that provides a very low cost option to those who simply can’t afford anything expensive. We believe that whilst you or I may not see the value in choosing an expensive funeral  (in the same way that we don’t choose to dine at ‘hatted’ restaurants) many people who have the money do, in fact, want to honour their loved one by giving them a showier send-off or simply in knowing that the staff training and facilities where their loved one is cared for are of the highest standard. Go with your heart as well as your purse.