It’s no surprise that in the era of the “JAMs” (a phrase coined by Teresa May in her opening speech as Prime Minister for those “just about managing”), increased debt levels and frightening statistics about rising funeral costs, we’ve seen the terms ‘cheapest funeral’ and ‘cheapest cremation’ become some of the most popular search terms used by the newly bereaved. It’s typical for funerals to be expensive, and while cheap isn’t a term you’d choose for such an emotional event, there are ways to organise a low cost funeral in the UK, without compromising on care, respect and expressing what made your loved one special.
How much does a cheap funeral cost?
The average cost of a funeral in the UK
According to SunLife, the cost of dying for 2020 is around £4,184. This is a 1.7% increase compared to the previous year. A considerable number of people think that the cost of a funeral is the responsibility of the deceased. However, not everyone puts aside sufficient funds to cover their funeral. This can mean those left behind face anxiety, stress and debt when faced with the prospect of paying for the send-off. For many families, such a financial responsibility can be very challenging. They may be forced to borrow money from friends and family, take out a loan, pay for it using a credit card, or sell possessions to cover the cost. The other option is to look for cheap funeral packages.
Understanding funeral costs
Funeral costs can vary considerably, depending on the type of service you choose and whether there are any extras. Funeral costs can be broken down into basic and additional funeral costs. Basic funeral costs include:
- Funeral director’s fees
- Doctor’s fees
- Clergy or officiate fees
- Cremation or burial fees
On top of this, there can be additional costs such as:
- Limo hire
- Venue hire
- Order sheets/service cards
- Death notice
While it’s easy to blame the funeral director for the ever-increasing cost of a send-off, we must remember that their professional fees are only part of the picture. The cost of the cremation itself is beyond the funeral director’s control and can vary greatly depending on where you live and die. The cremation costs for Belfast are just £300, rising to more than £1000 at some of the venues owned by Dignity plc. And not every crematorium operator recognises the need for a “no funeral” option at a lower price, which makes it difficult for many local funeral directors to match the cheapest online offers.
The cheapest option for a funeral: direct cremation
Direct cremation is not a “cheap funeral”, it is a distinctive alternative to having a funeral, but it is true that this alternative can be 60% cheaper. A direct cremation also offers greater financial control and flexibility over how you say goodbye, as opposed to the familiar formula offered by most local funeral homes. A provider must offer more than a super-low price. That’s why the Pure Cremation team has drafted the UK’s first Direct Cremation Code of Practice and made it easy to find all the information you need.
Discover low cost funeral plans in the UK
If you’re worried about the future cost of your funeral, cheap funeral plans will protect you against the rising costs. In addition, it allows you to document your final wishes, plan ahead, and pay for your funeral in advance. Some people worry that funeral plans aren’t safe, but those offered by members of the Funeral Planning Authority have been scrutinised thoroughly. If you want a cheap funeral plan there are many on the market, and it pays to shop around, but they all have certain benefits in common. The most obvious is that you pay today’s prices for a service you might not need for 20 years or possibly longer. You can also detail your wishes for the service itself, for example, any special readings, flowers, or music you’d like, without involving the family to make such decisions for you.
With a low-cost funeral plan, you have full control of your funeral and the type of event you want it to be. Include as much detail as you like, and feel safe knowing that you can change some of your wishes, free of charge, as long as they are within the plan that is. The majority of cheap funeral plans in the UK provide the option for you to pay for your funeral plan monthly. When you pay for your funeral plan over 12 months, there are usually no additional charges. However, if you pay over a longer-term, an instalment charge might apply.
See options for cheap funeral insurance
Sold in large numbers between the 1920s and 1960s, though dating back to the 19th century, penny policies were a type of insurance policy that people took out to specifically cover the cost of their funeral. Penny policies are no longer around, but there are still low-cost options for funeral insurance.
Pros of a low cost funeral insurance
Low cost funeral insurance is more accurately described as a whole of life policy and these are more commonly known as Over 50s plans. Your monthly payments depend on the size of the fixed lump sum you've chosen, and on your age. This means everyone should be able to find a plan that fits their budget. Your beneficiary can use the lump sum for any purpose from your funeral expenses to settling bills and debts.
Cons of a cheap funeral insurance
There are some significant disadvantages to these plans - the fixed lump sum rarely keeps up with inflation, if you live a long time you can end up paying more than is paid out and as these aren't specific funeral plans, your family will still need to make all those decisions about the funeral arrangements.
Plan a simple funeral service
There are many different types of funeral services. But, an increasing number of people are looking for a more affordable, no-frills approach that they get with simple funeral services. What is a simple funeral? It has the same structure as a traditional funeral, but simple funeral costs are lower. There will, however, have to be a few compromises.
Example of a simple funeral program
Most crematorium operators offer some lower cost bookings. The least expensive cremation times are typically first thing in the morning and may only be available on certain weekdays. Funeral directors may limit what they offer in their lowest-cost packages - for example they won't include dressing and preparing the deceased, viewing the deceased in their chapel of rest or limousines for mourners. The coffin will typically be a very simple, wood-effect design without any decoration. The cost of things like flowers depends on a family's budget and preferences - garden flowers and single roses are good options and there are even companies offering to hire silk arrangements that can be personalised with printed ribbon. Holding the wake at home or in your garden is another way to control costs, and better still you can invite everyone to feel part of the event by bringing food and drink to share. It’s perfectly obvious that a very simple cremation held separately from the farewell party shouldn’t cost the earth, but it’s interesting to note that when families feel listened to and charged fairly, the exact ‘number’ in the price becomes far less important.
What if a family can’t afford a funeral at all
If there are no family members or friends and no funds in the estate then there are safety net options which will achieve a simple, respectful send-off that you can attend. There will be restrictions around the time of day and the level of service provided but these farewells should not be referred to as paupers' funerals because the arrangements will be handled by the same staff, facilities and vehicles as the contracted funeral director would offer any family. Where to turn:
- Hospital deaths - every NHS Trust has a small budget to pay for the funeral of patients who pass away in hospital without anyone willing or able to take responsibility for the arrangements.
- Community deaths - every local authority has a similar budget to look after arrangements for people who pass away in a nursing home or at home and no-one is able to pay for the funeral.
In both cases it can take a number of weeks to process any application for this kind of assistance and some local authorities will not allow the family to have the ashes afterwards.
Seek extra help with funeral costs
If you need help with funeral costs, you may be able to get financial assistance from the government, charities, and other options. Funeral costs can easily stack up. It is possible to reduce them by opting for cheap funeral services, but you might still need help to pay for a funeral. If you’re looking for financial assistance, there are a few options that may be available.
Does the government help with funeral costs?
The Department of Work and Pensions has two schemes that offer financial help to the bereaved. The Funeral Expenses Payment and the Bereavement Support Payment may not cover everything, but they can soften the financial blow. The Funeral Expenses Payment is a one-off means-tested payment intended to support people on certain benefits. The Bereavement Support Payment is a one-off payment that is available to a spouse or civil partner of the person who has died. You might also be eligible for a budgeting loan if you are on qualifying benefits such as Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment, and Support Allowance, or Pension Credit.
Charities that may help with funeral expenses
There are lots of different charities that can offer some financial assistance and emotional support. The Armed Forces support veterans and their families, some employers operate benevolent funds for existing staff, their families and even former employees. Here are some other examples:
- Cruse Bereavement Care
- The Bereavement Trust
- Charis Grants
- Marie Curie
- Leukaemia Care
- Friends of the Elderly
- Care Workers Charity
- Child Funeral Charity
Start your low cost funeral arrangements
There are many ways you can make your funeral more affordable. One excellent way is to arrange a low cost funeral plan. Lock the cost in at today’s prices and make arrangements that suit you. You can choose the payment option that suits your budget - one lump sum, a fixed number of instalments or on-going monthly payments, based on your age, that won't change over time. If you’re ready to start making arrangements for a low-cost funeral, we’d love to hear from you today.