• “Shop around. Many survivors also don’t shop around for deals because they consider bargain-hunting an affront to the dead. Getting fleeced, however, is hardly a noble tribute. Even a couple of quick calls to compare prices once a relative dies is worthwhile."
• “Choose ‘direct cremation.’ Direct cremation simply means that the deceased is promptly cremated, without a funeral service or public viewing. ... Embalming -- the temporary preservation of the body by injecting chemicals -- is unnecessary under most circumstances, if the body is promptly taken care of. Avoiding this expense can save several hundred dollars.”
• Avoid the guilt trap when buying an urn or other ash-holder. “Some funeral homes try to guilt families into buying more expensive urns by stamping ‘temporary container’ on the outside of the cardboard or plastic box that the remains are returned in,” says one consumer advocate. Consider buying a nice piece of pottery instead.
Read the article for more. One bit of advice sounds wrong to me, however:
An increasingly popular way to take care of funeral arrangements is to pay a funeral home in advance for a package of services. Many consumer advocates don’t recommend prepaid plans, saying consumers are not well protected. Only New York state has sufficiently stringent rules about prepaid plans, says the Funeral Consumers Society's Slocum.Unless the prepayment contracts are not enforced, I’m not sure what kind of “protection” is required. Waiting until someone’s dead to buy the casket, plot, etc., is like waiting until it rains to buy an umbrella – you’re asking to get squeezed. Someone who shops early sends a strong signal of being a price-sensitive customer, and price-sensitive customers almost always gets better deals in other industries. For instance, people who demonstrate a willingness to switch long-distance carriers invariably get lower rates. Those who stick with the long-distance carrier they’re assigned upon getting new phone service end up paying the highest rates possible. Moreover, people are often both busy and distraught upon a loved one’s death, and the funeral industry will happily take advantage of that. Better to go shopping for death supplies when you have the time and emotional energy to do it right.