Ten Tips to Keep Funeral Costs Down

08/10/2015 10:05 BST | Updated 06/10/2016 10:12 BST


The Royal London National Funeral Cost Index just released their research which shows that funeral costs across the UK have risen 4%, way above inflation, to £3,700.

The news is particularly bad for Londoners. Residents of Wandsworth face the third highest funeral costs in the UK (on average £5,076), whilst down the road in Tooting the news is almost as bad (sixth most expensive place to die: £4693).

But what choice do we have? The prices are fixed so you have to suck it up, right?

Not true. Funerals, even in London, do not have to be expensive. There are a million and one ways to keep funeral costs down. Here are just ten tips to help you have an affordable funeral.

Do It Yourself (or some of it)

You don't have to hand over all the responsibilities to the funeral director unless you really want to. In the UK (unlike many states in the US), there is no legal obligation for us to use a funeral director at all. This means we can pick and choose what we want the funeral director to do, and what we want to do ourselves. From flowers to transport to caring for the body, you have the right to take control of as much as you like.

Shop around

The variance in price between one funeral director and another can be shocking. The Royal London research shows a variation of over £2,000 between two funeral directors for the same services in the same town. Why? Because we as consumers have never really pushed funeral directors to be competitive or transparent in their pricing. The fact that most funeral directors don't include costs on their websites is a great disservice to the public. But in the meantime, shopping around is how you'll get a clear sense of cost. It can be exhausting so this is a great job to delegate to one of your best friends. All those people who say, 'if there's absolutely anything I can do, just let me know.' This is a job for them.

Beware of expensive packages

Most funeral directors sell packages, so you need to be clear the package is serving you. Does it include things you don't want or need, like six bearers when you're planning to carry the coffin yourselves? Or a limousine when you're planning to drive yourself? Be clear about what you're asking the funeral director to do for you and don't pay for things you don't want or need.

Have a morning cremation

Many crematoria offer a pre 10am booking for up to half the price of the rest of the day: the same chapel space and the same amount of time. At our local crematorium, Putney Vale, the cost of cremation during the day is £587 but for a 9.40am booking it's £291. Very few people know this.

Order your own coffin

A good funeral director will offer affordable coffins but many are known for making a huge profit on the coffin. In 2015 the average spend on a coffin was £989 which is astronomical considering the majority of these will have been simple veneer coffins. Some good coffin manufacturers sell directly to the public. So if the coffins in the funeral director's catalogue look expensive, think about ordering your own online. You could save hundreds of pounds.

Think twice about the hearse

Hearses are expensive vehicles to buy and run. If you don't need a traditional black hearse, think about using a simpler, more economical vehicle. Some funeral directors offer simple alternatives. Some families even choose to use their own family estate car. Any vehicle which can safely transport the person who has died is fine.

Think again about limousines

A smart, professional taxi can be a tenth of the cost of a limousine. And a friend driving you is free!

Organise your own flowers

Funeral flowers can be expensive. Why not bring some from the garden, or ask those attending the funeral to bring a single stem each? Single flowers can be incorporated into the ceremony by inviting everyone to step forward to lay them on (or if it's wicker, entwine them into) the coffin.

Ask family and friends to carry the coffin

For most people, this is an incredibly meaningful way to participate in the funeral. And it's important to note you don't have to carry the coffin on shoulders - it can be done safely and more informally at waist height. Knowing this often encourages people who would have been nervous about carrying on shoulders to get involved.

Don't confuse love and money

Remember the size of the bill has nothing to do with how much you love the person who has died. The most affordable funerals can be hugely meaningful, because family and friends are so involved.

There's plenty more information on how to have an affordable funeral on our website: