Ever known of someone who went into debt because of funeral costs? Or just overpaid (while being under satisfied), because they thought there was no way around it? It’s not uncommon to hear people complain about the high costs of funerals, yet there are ways to manage it.

Shopping for funeral services is fraught with anxiety. With death being the taboo subject that it is (unfortunately—though we are trying to change that!) people don’t even know all that they’re shopping for, never mind Is this essential? Do I even really want all this? Are there any other options? To the average person, the funeral industry is complicated, mysterious, and overwhelming.

If you’re pre-planning and shopping ahead of time you have the quasi-luxury of being able to reflect and weigh your decisions, but if you’re doing it at time of need, perhaps under great stress and grief, you’re probably not even thinking straight, never mind being discerning about your options.

In a moment I will tell you the one phrase you need to know when getting costs from a funeral home, but knowing these two points up front will prime you.

#1 Decide to ask as many questions are you can. It’s easy to get intimidated, embarrassed or guilted into accepting what is offered rather than probing further. Ask any and all questions that come to you, and insist on understanding the answers. Even if you feel anxious, remember that you will feel calmer if you truly understand what’s being discussed.

#2 Don’t assume the funeral director is your savior. Ideally, your needs are his/her main concern, but remember:
A) It’s a business. They only make money on items or services they sell, so they are not completely impartial.
B) They can’t read your mind. If you have any concerns about costs, be upfront, clear, and direct. It is easy to be taken advantage of when you haven’t been open about your budget needs.

NOW…the one phrase to use when shopping for funeral services:

“Are there any other charges I should know about?”

I know…it’s not sexy and it’s hardly profound, but it’s the hidden and undiscussed costs that become the surprise down the pike, bringing your total bill to a number you didn’t at all anticipate.

The reality of funeral service planning is that there are so many hidden costs, contracted services, “not now, but later” fees that getting an accurate final cost is rare. Consider this: When purchasing a cremation through a funeral home, the cost of the cremation is often not included in the price you are given! That’s just one example. Perusing the General Price List (GPL) you’ll find so many expenses: removal of remains, embalming, caskets, urns, hearses, flower cars, hairdressing, cosmetology, restoration, medical examiner, death certificates, and that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Funeral Directors often provide the itemized list of costs only at the end, when presenting the contract for signing. All of a sudden there’s all these charges you didn’t know about and the bill is hundreds more than you thought. Or even more. And it’s possible you would have made different choices at the start if you knew the full cost.

The way to avoid a surprise final bill is to ask “Are there any other charges I should know about?” at every step along the way. Even the most obvious item might have a behind-the-scenes cost. You may sound like a broken record, but better that then overpaying in ways you didn’t intend, at a vulnerable, terrible time in  your life.

Having a heartfelt and heartwarming goodbye includes being able to pay for it within your means. Shopping around, asking good questions, and making informed decisions can help make that happen.

“Are there any other charges I should know about?”