It is no surprise that the drastic inflation happening worldwide has affected the funeral industry. The National Funeral Directors Association shows that funeral costs are rising at about 5-8% every two years. Funerary costs can be a huge stress on top of the grief one might be facing after losing a loved one. Until the downfall of capitalism occurs (stay positive!), we have to get creative and resourceful about how we can afford to mourn and memorialize our loved ones.

This is part one of our series on funerary costs including body disposition, funeral providers, memorialization, and more. Part two will show you how to host an inexpensive memorial service.

How to Hold an Inexpensive Funeral, Part 1

how to hold an inexpensive funeral

Working with a Death Doula 

While it may seem like an unnecessary additional cost, death doulas may end up helping you save hundreds of dollars in end of life costs, especially when options, regulations, and providers vary drastically from place to place. Death doulas, and other professionals in the field, likely know the best (and most cost effective) methods for body disposition, funeral homes in your region, and can advocate for your best interests. Working with a death doula will also give you knowledge around funeral assistance programs specific to your area that might otherwise be hard to find.

Search for death doula directories in your area, or seek one out at a local death cafe event.

Final Disposition 

One of the largest costs is often the method of disposition – meaning, what happens to the body. Costs will vary based on where you are in the world, but direct or simple cremation is often the most cost effective option– this means the deceased is transferred directly to the crematorium from the place they died, without any additional services like a viewing in between.

In some cases, donating your body to scientific research (in the US or Canada) may be a way to dispose of a body without too many additional costs. Of course, with this option, you may not be given remains or have a plot to visit, but some institutions may cover the costs of a funeral.

 Funerals are expensive and there is no shame in asking for support where you need it. 

Natural burial methods can be a more cost effective option in some cases. While traditional burial practices (often meaning being buried in a casket in a public cemetery) continue to increase in cost, natural burials do without costly processes like embalming or expensive hardwood caskets. You can find more information for the US and Canada via Green Burial Council (and checkout an almost up to date list of where green burial is available in Canada here.)

Other options depending on where you live are natural organic reduction (aka human composting), and aquamation (aka water cremation), which can both be less expensive than traditional burial. While natural organic reduction and aquamation aren’t legal in every state, there are likely even less expensive (and legal) options depending on where you live and what cemeteries or green burial spaces are nearby.

Funeral Provider

Choosing a funeral provider can make or break your end of life pocketbook. Again, this is where a death doula or a trusted friend in the funeral industry comes in handy. Some funeral homes are more high-end and eager to make a profit, while others offer a wide variety of affordable services. If you choose to enlist a funeral home, be sure to:

Read reviews and get insight from your community: Don’t be afraid to ask around, it’s likely many of your friends and family members have gone through this process. Grief especially can cloud any ability to make decisions, and it can be vital to have outside help.

Ask for a payment plan or sliding scale options: Needing financial help should not be a point of shame and is not a reflection of you. There are funeral homes out there that really care about delivering their services to those with less financial privilege than others. Again, funerals are expensive and there is no shame in asking for support where you need it.

Funeral Services 

inexpensive burial options

When you settle on a funeral home provider, you will be given an overwhelming number of options – do you want a memorial service, if yes should it be open or closed casket, will the body be embalmed, how will the body be moved, what additional services will be needed outside of the funeral home (some funeral homes include cremation costs for example, others will require you to outsource)?

If cremation is your preferred course of action, you will likely be given a simple cardboard container to store remains free of charge. While the funeral home may offer you costly urns, you can always build a box or repurpose one from the thrift store when you get home. Cremated remains come in a bag inside the container, and can be easily transferred (we recommend keeping the remains in the bag even after you move them).

Home funerals are also a great option if you have the space and want less involvement of a funeral home, though there may be more legal restrictions in your area. You can learn more about home burials here.

Government/Funeral Assistance Programs 

inexpensive funeral veterans funeral assistance

United States

Veterans have many funeral cost benefits, including assistance for cremation and burial, whether in a private or veteran-specific cemetery. This varies depending on your location, but most western countries have this option.

Depending on the cause of death, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the US may provide financial coverage for end of life. A current ongoing program includes funeral cost coverage for those who have died from COVID-19.

If you lost a loved one to a criminal act, you could qualify for a Victim’s Assistance program. These programs often offer financial, legal, and mental health support and could be a way to get some of the funerary costs covered so you have more financial room for a service.


For Canadian Veterans, funeral and burial assistance is provided through the non-profit, Last Post Fund, to help pay for funeral and burial services. Depending on the financial resources of the estate (which considers the income of the spouse and adult children), total or partial coverage of the cost of a funeral and burial is possible. Those who belong to the National Defence and Armed Forces are eligible for other funds as well.

Canadians who contributed to the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) can qualify for a “death benefit.” Individuals residing in Quebec must have also contributed to the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP). Canadians, regardless of income levels, can receive a one-time payment of $2,500, pending approval.

You can apply for this benefit online, or by phone. Find out more information on the Government of Canada website.

Every Canadian province has its own funeral and burial assistance plan. More information is available here. Indigenous Peoples living in Canada can make use of the On-reserve Income Assistance Program.


Every European country has its own funeral assistance programs, including assistance for Veterans. Here are some helpful links:


With grief and financial hardship, figuring out how to pay for end of life costs can feel impossible. With support from others, pre-planning, and as much research as you can handle, there are some ways to make the process simpler and more cost effective.

Stay tuned for Part 2!


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