Dying should be free, right? Yet, when you start to dig into the cost of even a simple funeral, you’ll find that they are surprisingly expensive. In fact, according to the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand, an average funeral in New Zealand can cost between $4,000 and $15,000.
There’s probably no other occasion in our lives that we would rather not think about as much as our own funerals. But the increasing cost of funerals leaves many asking the question, “Why are our loved ones left to carry the financial burden associated with us passing to the here-after?”
Like anything you buy, there is a sliding scale of cost depending on your needs and expectations. Funerals can be a simple inexpensive low-key affair, or they can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Losing a loved one
So what happens when I go? Great question.
While there are no rules saying your family must have a funeral ceremony, there are rules and processes to following someone’s passing.
Funeral homes make most of their money on “one stop shop” services, helping guide grieving families from registering the death to burying the body.
There are legal documents that must be filled in and filed — death certificates, for example — and this is where a funeral home and director can be very handy. They will know exactly what forms need to be filed, by whom and where in your region they need to be lodged.
Leaving everything to a funeral director is often the easiest option for most people. However, be cautious – these full-service types of funeral arrangements will likely cost much more.
Planning a funeral: What you get
Let’s look at some of the typical items that come with a traditional funeral:
- Funeral director fees
- Burial or cremation
- Coffin or urn
- Cemetery plot
- Death certificate
- Other expenses, such as a celebrant or clergy, flowers, newspaper notices and the wake
Out of everything on the funeral shopping list, it’s likely that the cemetery plot and burial fees or the cremation will probably make the biggest impact on your bottom line.
Generally, costs associated with these services are set by local councils and can’t be negotiated by you or your family. The price of a burial plot can also vary widely within a single cemetery. If you have your heart set on a spot under a shady tree or next to a specific loved one, then the costs may increase dramatically.
Though cremation typically costs less than burial, it can still be thousands of dollars.
Helping cut funeral costs
If you are looking to ease the burden of your funeral costs before you depart, start by searching online for funeral homes in your location and check out their websites to see what they offer.
Be vigilant with your searches: funeral homes and directors don’t always make it easy to compare costs associated with funerals. Many don’t offer their pricing lists online or make you submit an enquiry for a customised package. This makes it increasingly tough to compare costs, so you may need to do some research to find a provider that fits your requirements and budget.
You can also ask the funeral home about alternate options. For example, some providers allow you to rent a casket for the service, but then switch to a more basic plywood casket for the cremation. No point in burning money, literally.
If you have engaged a funeral home, it’s always best to ask for a quote first, specifically one that is broken down item by item – so you know exactly where your money is going. If you are on a budget, explain this to the funeral home, they may be willing to work with you to ensure costs are kept within that range.
Also, remember that you don’t have to go with the nearest funeral home or the first listing on Google. This is especially worth considering if it’s your family organising your funeral and not you directly. Grief can play a big role in selecting a funeral home, so make sure your family is aware of your wishes and ensure they aren’t stuck with an excessive financial burden.
Paying for your own funeral
If the thought of leaving your family to navigate the complex financials of a funeral is a cause for concern, then it may be worth considering funeral insurance.
Funeral insurance in NZ can help you and your family cover funeral expenses, help with the cost of any special requests you have for the service and cover final debts. It could also be used for day-to-day needs, like buying groceries, paying utility bills or additional services.
Also, funeral insurance doesn’t mean you have to use a specific funeral home or service. It’s still up to you, or your family, which provider is used. Other pre-pay funeral options sometimes lock you into using a specific funeral director and can only be used for funeral expenses. Funeral insurance can give your family more flexibility.
It’s never easy thinking about, let alone planning your final goodbye. Some of us hope we never have to think about it, but dying is a part of life we all must face at some point. Being ready financially may not only reduce your stress and concern before you go, but also give you peace of mind that your family will be focused on grieving, not checking their wallets.