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November 28, 2018 Beyond The Dash

How to Pay for a Funeral (If You Have No Money)

Tips for saving and raising funeral funds

How to Pay for a Funeral (If You Have No Money)
An unexpected death can be costly for a family with little or no money to spare. (Shutterstock)

The loss of a loved one is always tragic for the people who survive them. But a death can be made even more unbearable for survivors when no one has any money to pay for the funeral. Regardless of anything else happening for those responsible for making arrangements, the dead person's remains must be properly handled with care and respect. Mourners need a place to gather and grieve together. Even if the family is not prepared financially for an unexpected death, the funeral must go on. How do people who can't afford to pay for funeral arrangements afford to say their final goodbyes?

How much does a funeral cost?

Did you know that the average cost of a funeral in the United States is between $7,000 and $10,000? However, you don't need to spend that much in order to give a loved one a proper final send-off.

There are some funeral expenses that can be mitigated for funerals with a smaller budget. Extras like flowers, fancy caskets and permanent memorials should not prevent your family from saying a final goodbye. However, other costs aren't as avoidable. 

Options for reducing the cost of a funeral

Though the sudden expense of a funeral may not fit well into your budget, you may have enough to pay for a low-cost funeral. Options include:

  • Direct cremation

At a bare minimum, the deceased person's body must be laid to rest respectfully. Cremation and burial are the most common ways to handle the body of someone who has passed, but there are other options for those looking for more eco-friendly or alternative ways. Within the burial and cremation options, there are options to spend more or less money depending on your budget. 

A direct cremation can cost as little as $500. With this budget-friendly option, the body is reduced to ash at temperatures of 1400–1800°F. These ashes are called cremains. The cremains are then returned to the family in a container, usually a simple, plastic, sealable one. Those who wish to preserve the cremains can purchase a more permanent urn or casket for display or safekeeping. 

If you can't afford the cost of a direct cremation, some funeral homes may be able help you with a payment plan, though usually payment for a funeral is required upfront.

  • Home memorial

A memorial service does not have to take place at a funeral home, church or rented venue. Depending on the number of guests attending, you might be able to host a memorial service at home or at another friend or relative's home. A small wake or reception is the perfect way to remember a loved one with those who knew them and now mourn the loss. 

A few simple refreshments, photos of the deceased person, and the space to share memories, are all you need to throw together a meaningful memorial service at home. By doing this, you can save money on the rental of a venue or the services of a funeral director. A designated person can lead the events of the day or you can host a casual reception with no formal itinerary. Reduce costs further by making the event a potluck. By hosting the memorial service yourself, you can save a lot of money while also paying tribute to your loved one in a memorable way.

Options for raising funeral funds

Sometimes even the cost of a direct cremation and simple memorial is too much. In cases where the budget is $0, some families try to raise the funds for the funeral. There are several options available:

  • Request memorial donations

In some cultures, supporting a family who has recently lost a loved one is a part of the mourning process. Guests will bring donations to the funeral in order to help the grieving family afford the costs of the funeral. This practice isn't as common in the United States, but memorial donations still happen at the request of families who need some support. 

Typically, families needing support will request memorial donations in their loved one's obituary story. If you are seeking memorial donations in order to offset or pay for the costs of a funeral, you can add a line at the end of the obituary story:

"In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to help with the costs of the funeral."

However, most newspaper obituaries can cost anywhere between $50 and $300, or more. For a budget-friendly alternative to an expensive newspaper obituary, consider publishing an obituary on Beyond the Dash. It's completely free to create an online memorial for a loved one. 

Create an Obituary


Crowdfunding has become a popular way of procuring funeral funds when an unexpected loss has left a family financially vulnerable. Websites like GoFundMe make it possible for anyone to create (or donate to) a worthy cause. Many of the fundraising initiatives on GoFundMe are to help with medical and funeral costs. 

If you need help with funeral costs, try crowdfunding. When you create a fundraising campaign anyone can donate, so it's possible to receive funds from kind-hearted folks from around the world. 

Contact the coroner's office

If you truly have no funds to handle the cremation of a loved one, you can sign a release form at the coroner's office for a free cremation. The form is a declaration that you are unable to afford to bury or cremate the family member. Once signed, it releases the body to the corner to handle the remains. If your family wishes to receive the ashes, a fee may be charged for their return. 

Get ahead

You don't have to take on huge amounts of debt in order to pay for a funeral. There are many ways to reduce costs or raise funds for a funeral, when you lack the funds to properly memorialize a loved one who has passed. Consider pre-planning a funeral to better prepare you and your family for a future death. 

Friends and family are willing to help when an unexpected death occurs. Asking for donations may seem awkward, but it's important to give people who want to help the opportunity to do so. 

Your loved one had a remarkable life. Tell their story, and we’ll publish it online for free.

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