Funerals are not cheap. Usually, you will have to spend over $7,000, and that does not even count what you or your family will have to pay for flowers, a monument, and a cemetery plot.

Not many people like thinking about death, never mind having to prepare for it. However, doing a little planning can really help members of your family avoid having to make impulsive decisions when they are grieving. There are many people who purchase life insurance to reduce the costs of final expenses. Writing a will, making clear what your final wishes are, and pre-planning some of the aspects of your funeral helps to manage these expenses. Fortunately, many kinds of life insurance may be used to provide your family with funds to pay for funeral expenses.

Funeral expenses

The National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) reports that in 2014, an adult funeral that includes a viewing and burial had a median cost of $7,181, while an adult funeral with a view and cremation had a median cost of $6,078.

The Federal Trade Commission does not require consumers to purchase funeral packages. This means you can select from among the products and services that are offered by funeral homes. When you know what is involved in a typical funeral, it can help you determine what you want and don’t want. You can reduce your costs by choosing options that are less expensive or eliminating some services.

The following are the highest costs that are associated with funerals. The NFDA provided the median prices:

Basic services fee of $2,000. It covers such services as obtaining death certificates and permits, storing the body, planning the funeral service, and making arrangements with third parties- for example, with a cemetery. The funeral home will require this fee no matter what line items you select.

Metal casket $2,395. Over three-quarters of customers select a metal casket to use for the burial. However, they do have a tendency to cost more. However, prices of caskets vary widely, and one good way to cust funeral costs is to choose an economical one.

Funeral homes are required by federal law to accept cremation urns and caskets that are purchased elsewhere. Caskets and urns can be purchased online, both at major retailers like Costco, Wal-Mart, and Amazon, or at specialized funeral goods companies like Best Price Caskets and Sky Caskets, with prices ranging from $900 up to $4,000. Make sure to take the delivery cost into account, usually directly to the funeral home. If you really want to plan ahead, you may be able to ship your casket for free to your house, but then you will need to have a plan for storing it.

If you buy a casket at a funeral home, understand that they may not display their least expensive option. The Federal Trade Commissions advises that you ask the funeral home for their price list.

Vault $1,327. Quite often cemeteries require grave liners or concrete burial vaults, which the casket is lowered into. As the casket continues to deteriorate, they help to prevent the ground from caving in. Remember that funeral homes may also not display their lowest-priced burial vault options, so ask them for their price list covering them as well.

Body preparation and embalming. Usually, embalming is not legally or medically necessary. However, it is required by many funeral homes if you have decided t have a public viewing.

Other related services can be declined like cosmetic application and hairstyling.

Use of the facilities $1,015. That assumes that the viewing is being staged at the funeral home or the actual funeral ceremony itself. Although an increasing number of individuals are now declining public viewings.

Service car and hearse $461. That includes transportation from the funeral and to the cemetery and back.

Cremation vs. Burial

Compared to a funeral with a burial, cremation costs around $1,000 less. This is mainly due to the fact that cremation caskets tend to be less expensive than standard ones. Although the median price is around $1,000, according to federal law, less expensive options must be made available, including containers made out of cardboard, pressed wood, fiberboard, or unfinished wood. The cost of these alternatives can be as low as $55.

An urn has a median price of $280. If you decide not to use an urn, you have the option of having cremated remains sealed inside a plastic bag and put into a box instead of a decorative container, Crematories and funeral homes are also required to accept the container that the family provides.

However, the cost is just one reason why an increasing number of people are opting for cremation. Other reasons reported by the NFDA include a desire to have a less ritualized funeral, changes in religious views, and environmental considerations.

Since 1999 the cremation rate in the U.S. has almost doubled from less than 25% of bodies being cremated.

Shop around

Does is sound unseemly to shop around and compare funeral prices? It definitely shouldn’t. Comparing different prices among various funeral homes is an effective way to reduce your costs.

The Federal Trade Commission reports that consumers have rights for the following:

Receive an itemized and written pricelist. You can either ask for one via mail or pick up a list in person. There are some funeral homes that post their price lists online. Also, you can call them and ask for the prices over the phone. You do not have to give your name, phone number, or address.

Review a casket price list ahead of time. Casket prices are often listed separately. It is recommended by the FTC that you get prices before seeing the caskets since they often do not display the lowest priced ones.

Ask for a written statement before paying. That will explain precisely what you are purchasing and how each service and product costs. Your statement also should include explanations of any extra fees that will be applied by the crematory or cemetery.

Whether you are doing pre-planning for your funeral or making arrangements for a family member, it is important for consumers to set their budget ahead of time, since many funeral homes expect full payment upfront.

Clarify what your wishes are

No matter which funeral details you choose, it is critical to make clear what your wishes are in writing. Given a written list of the plans to your family members, along with an explanation of whatever prepayments you have made, or any life insurance policies or bank accounts that can be used for funding the service. That information should also be included in your will.

If you do not have a will written, do so immediately. For around $35 you can obtain a legally valid form online and a complete will can be purchased for as low as $69 on websites like LegalZoom or Nolo. However, those types of low-cost options might not be sufficient unless you have a very simple estate. Some attorneys charge a flat rate for preparing a will, normally starting at around $300.