Why are Funeral Prices on the Rise?
As if we weren’t already out-of-pocket enough, the Telegraph Financial Services reported in August that funerals are costing those of us in the United Kingdom £3,897 on average with a rise of 103 percent since 2004; with the average amount climbing over £5000 in London. According to the latest Royal London National Funeral Cost Index, we have seen a 3 percent increase in the last year alone. This crisis is leading to what the government is calling ‘funeral poverty.’ What is causing this historic climb in funeral pricing?
With the cost of dying rising faster than the cost of living, it is not sufficient to pin the rise in funeral costs on the cost of living alone. It was reported that in 2016, 62 percent of people started pre-emptive funeral saving as opposed to fifty-nine percent the year before, suggesting that the need for advanced funeral preparation is being felt by the public.
Funerals are always in Demand
It is hard to give one all-encompassing, definitive answer as to why it is that funeral prices are rising faster than the rate of inflation, but there are some obvious contributing factors. Firstly, funerals are not a depleting commodity. People will die, so funerals will be bought. The prices of funerals reflect the mere fact that the demand for funerals is not at risk. Because the funeral service is a consistently profitable business to be in, there is no incentive for fees to do anything other than rise in this current economic climate. One of the best ways to combat the rising funeral costs is to opt-in to a prepaid funeral plan.
Funeral providers scarcely offer all-inclusive packages; the cost of funerals on the consumer is severely hiked up by the prices of additional items that one may consider essential to a funeral, such as flowers, catering, transport and the like. Additional costs to look out for include:
- Trimmings and finishes on the casket/coffin
- Expensive urns
- Condolence books
- Death certificates
- Clergy fee
- Burial vaults or grave liners
- Grave-site maintenance
Many funerals homes will add their own mark-up to these ‘third-party items’, or indeed refuse to accept third-party items in their funeral services, forcing you to spend more on the items they provide. This is a fail-safe method for funeral homes to solidify their profits, and put you firmly out of pocket.
Another massive expense in hosting a funeral is the catering. Unlike a wedding, where you can control your guest-list as tightly as you want, it is generally harder to leave people out of a funeral; we see that it is fair that everyone who needs to pay their respects can do so. That being said, it usually means that the person picking up the catering bill is the one who feels the strain of the towering guest-list the most. Funerals can be long and tiring days, both physically and emotionally, and it is important to attend to the attendees’ needs. That said, the extravagant meals you see hosted at many funerals today are certainly not essential. Save costs by hosting a buffet-style meal, and source the food-items yourself instead of going for expensive caterers. Do the same with the drink, too. Alcohol is usually a staple funeral-item, but by no means does a funeral have to be a champagne occasion.
Many people end up being pressured (either by themselves or others) into spending far more than they can afford on funerals because they feel that the only way in which they can ‘do right’ by the deceased is to give them a perfect send-off. This does not have to mean a great, lavish occasion, though. The most successful funerals are the more personal and attentive ones; there is by no means any correlation between how much you spend and how much you respect a loved one. Hosting a giant occasion for a funeral might in fact take the focus away from the person who is to be celebrated or even be considered distasteful, so keeping spending to a minimum can be a good way of preserving the focus of the day.
What is the Solution?
Cutting costs on the fine details of a funeral will go a very long way. Don’t let yourself be forced into buying all of the expensive add-on items or processes that most funeral homes and parlours will offer you. You don’t have to host a three-course feast for your guests, nor shower them in bubbly. Remain mindful of what is a necessary aspect of the funeral you are planning and what isn’t, avoiding the latter when you can.
The most effective way to save money when on funerals to buy a prepaid funeral plan. Prepaid funeral plans combat the rising price of funerals as they effectively ‘freeze’ the cost of funerals at the value when purchased. So, if I bought a funeral plan in 2018, the price I’d be paying for a funeral years later would be levelled at the 2018 cost. A further benefit of a prepaid funeral plan is that additional costs are combatted by ‘all-inclusive’ policies, whereby certain items (depending on the plan you choose) are accounted for in the plan, rather than billed to you additionally as is the commonly done.
With a prepaid plan, hidden costs are removed, and you can more efficiently budget for a funeral. Finally, prepaid funeral plans allow for you to pay for the service incrementally, often in 12 month installments, often with no added cost. There are usually options to extend out this payment time (up to 60 months, for instance), but this will come with interest. As with any other service, it is highly important to compare plans that are on the market in order to optimize your savings on funeral costs.