Sad fact of life in a capitalist society: even funeral homes are in the business of making money. Like everything in a free market economic state, the business of dying has more to do with business than with providing the most affordable and emotionally satisfying experience of dealing with the grief that comes with losing a loved one. In the old days you’d buy a pine box and bury it. The funeral business of today comes packed with more options than you’d find walking into the country’s biggest den of evil: the car showroom. There is a way to avoid allowing the bloodsuckers in the mortician business of draining your finances, however.
The best thing you can do is prepare early. Let’s face it, most of us will wait until a death occurs before making decisions about how to bury or otherwise dispose of the mortal coil left behind after the passage of a loved one. Funeral homes thrive on the heightened emotional state that accompanies death, especially when that death is sudden and unexpected. It is entirely likely that you will experience no greater stress in any given year than during those first few days following a death in the family. Stress, as is well documented, can affect the cognitive process in extraordinary ways. You are likely to make decisions during this time that under other circumstances would never occur to you. For that reason, the earlier you plan for funeral services, the better. And the less stressful the time you make those plans, the better.
Every state in the union has specific laws regarding funeral services and they often differ substantially. For instance, not every state requires embalming. Embalming is pretty much a necessity for an open casket service if the viewing does not take place immediately, but can often be avoided otherwise. In addition, you may request a limited embalming process. Of course, the big ticket items are the coffins themselves. It is important to remember above all else that you are buying that coffin for you, not for the lifeless corpse that is going to spend eternity inside. If you believe in Heaven then there is a big possibility, well maybe not big, that your loved one is living in far better conditions in the afterlife than you can afford for them beneath the dirt. In other words, spending a fortune on a coffin is done for only two reasons, neither of which makes much sense. Either you are trying to show off and gain status for something that nobody is going to see, or you are giving into emotional blackmail by a funeral home director who has succeeded in making you feel guilty for not buying the best coffin they think you can barely afford. Here is what it comes down to: do you really want to line the pockets of the funeral home by an extra couple of thousand dollars, or would you rather that money go to your family or yourself? One thing is for certain; that body decomposing in the ground is not going to be benefit since even the most expensive coffins don’t really offer much in the way of protection, aside from keeping water out.
The same thing goes for cremation urns, except that in this case you have the luxury of wasting money for the purposes of status. If by chance you are mature enough not to care what other people think of your possessions, however, be aware that you can easily find beautiful urns in which to keep the ashes of your cremated loved one for under $100, whereas urns that are really no more beautiful are routinely offered by funeral homes for thousands of dollars.