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6 smart ways to reduce funeral costs in the UK

6 ways to reduce funeral costs in the UK

 

We’re scared of death. We’re scared of dying. We’re scared of leaving our loved ones with a mountain of debt because of the outrageous cost of a funeral in the UK. There are so many things that scare us when it comes to talking about death.

It’s understandable that we are afraid to ask questions about how to reduce the cost of a funeral in the UK when so much of the funeral business is shrouded in mystery and treated as a taboo subject.

Death is a difficult subject to discuss. Which is why many people are reluctant to talk about the outrageous cost of a funeral in the UK and the emotional distress that can be caused when there’s not enough money in the pot to pay for a decent send off.

And yet, if we could just bring ourselves to have a few more uncomfortable conversations, we could find better solutions. As a result, people wouldn’t have to worry about leaving their loved ones with a mountain of debt at a time when they are grieving deeply. 

The funeral industry lacks transparency, which is why the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) was tasked with reviewing the cost of a funeral and the practices of funeral directors.

The problem is there's not enough good information available about the cost of a funeral. As a result, people don't know how to compare the cost of a funeral or what actions they can take to reduce funeral expenses.

The CMA recognised that people could be exploited at a time when they were most vulnerable and, as a result, it has stepped in to introduce new regulations. The new rules are designed to force funeral directors to be more transparent about fees and reduce the cost of a funeral in the UK.

The truth is funeral costs have been rising across the UK for decades. As a result, families have been struggling to keep funeral costs low and some families have been left with a lot of debt which has only added to their distress at a very difficult time.

Everyone should be able to afford a simple funeral. No one should leave their family in debt. So let's start sharing our knowledge and talk about the important things. Let’s get started by answering a few of those uncomfortable questions about funerals and discover a few ways to reduce funeral costs. 

How much does a funeral cost in the UK?

This is a touchy subject, as most people don’t like to talk about the cost of a funeral in the UK. Conversations on this topic are often seen as rude or inappropriate. It’s not normal to go up to someone and say, “Hey, how much did it cost to arrange the funeral?”

Fortunately, we can rely on SunLife Insurance to provide us with reliable data.

Every year SunLife conducts a survey into the cost of dying. In 2022, the cost of a funeral in the UK rose by 3.9%. You may be shocked to learn that in 2022, the average cost of a funeral in the UK was an incredible £9200. This includes the cost of a coffin, the funeral service, professional fees and a farewell party or wake. This is enough to make you cry in anger!

 

 The cost of dying:

How much the cost of dying has changed between 2021 and 2022

 

2022 £9,220
2021 £8,864

This +3.8% increase includes funeral, plus professional fees and send-off costs.

£9200 is a lot of money. This is not the type of expense you want to saddle your loved ones with when they are grieving and finding a way to cope with loss. Fortunately, there are ways you could save on funeral expenses. So let’s take a look at some of them.


1.Pre-plan

No one likes to think about their own death or the death of their loved ones. It makes us feel uncomfortable. However, it's important that you find out your loved one's wishes in advance. This will remove some of the stress and make decision making easier at a difficult time. This means you need to understand more about the funeral planning process.

  

Understand funeral planning

Costs vary depending on the type of funeral you arrange, whether you opt for burial or cremation and whether you choose to use a funeral director. Understanding the funeral planning process and what options are available will help you when it comes to arranging a funeral and reduce costs.

When you understand what you need to do and what is optional, funeral planning becomes easier. For example, knowing that you do not have to buy an expensive coffin from a funeral director and that you can order a coffin direct from ThinkWillow can save you hundreds of pounds. Many funeral directors add a large profit to the cost of a coffin or only offer a limited choice of coffins, so you may miss out on getting an affordable or environmentally friendly coffin if you use their services.

 

Compare costs

Researching funeral directors and comparing prices is definitely one way you could cut the cost of a funeral. According to the COOP, funeral directors’ fees - on average costs £2,325. That’s a big fee considering government statistics show 34% of adults have either no savings, or less than £1000, in a savings account. 

Talking about death and funeral expenses has been taboo for a very long time, but at ThinkWillow we believe in transparency, which is why we are providing you with the information you need to make better decisions. 

Thanks to the CMA, funeral directors are now required by law to display a price list giving people the ability to understand what are optional costs, what are the funeral directors' fees and what are the essential costs involved in burying your loved one.

We know that comparing prices is not something people like to do, but it could save you hundreds or even thousands if you do. Cutting funeral director's fees and buying coffins online could significantly reduce the cost of a funeral in the UK. At ThinkWillow we do our best to provide eco-friendly coffins at the best possible price.

It’s worth noting that you do not have to use a funeral director. You can arrange the funeral yourself. It is perfectly legal and can substantially reduce the cost of a funeral in the UK.  

 

Consider pre-paid funeral plans

Pre-paid funeral plans are becoming a very popular option for individuals who wish to prepare for their funeral in advance.

Essentially, these plans allow you to pay for your funeral expenses ahead of time, which means that your family won't have to worry about the financial burden when you die.

With a pre-paid funeral plan, you can save on costs as prices are locked in at the time of payment. Therefore, even if funeral costs increase over time, you and your family won't have to worry about any additional expenses.

These plans usually involve meeting with a funeral director or representative to discuss your wishes in terms of your funeral service, burial or cremation, and other aspects you want to be arranged ahead of time.

Overall, pre-paid funeral plans provide peace of mind, and can be a worthwhile investment for anyone who wants to ensure their end-of-life wishes are met without placing a burden on their loved ones.

 

2. Choose the right funeral service for your needs

There are many types of funeral services, including traditional religious services, humanist services and individual services given by a celebrant. However, there are no rules and regulations that require a funeral service. It really is down to personal choice. 

If your loved one was a strong Christian who went to church regularly, then it makes sense to have a church funeral service. Otherwise, you may want to consider different options.

Instead of paying for a professional to give a funeral service, you can arrange a service that’s more personal to you. A good way to do this is to have a simple remembrance service at home or at another special place. This could be at a park or in a favourite pub.

Having a family member or members talk about the life of your loved one is a great way to turn a funeral into a celebration of life and reduce the cost of a funeral in the UK.

 

3.Cremation or burial? 

Some people find comfort in the idea of a physical resting place for their loved ones. Burial allows family members to visit and maintain the grave. However, the decision of whether to choose cremation or a traditional burial in a churchyard may not be an option for everyone, depending on where you live. 

The cost of burial plots has been increasing rapidly due to lack of availability. In some cities, the increasing population and the effects of investors buying plots to sell on at a profit has resulted in a severe shortage. As a result, some popular city plots are being sold for £8-10k.

"local authorities say they are short of space due to Victorian laws that are also causing rise in funeral costs." - Rachel Hall, reporter at the Guardian UK

Fortunately, natural burial grounds have become a popular alternative and there are more and more beautiful spaces being added to the growing list.

Natural burial grounds offer a middle ground, allowing for a sustainable and eco-friendly burial. It is also possible to have cremation ashes interred in a natural burial ground, providing a natural resting place for loved ones. 

According to the Good Funeral Guide the cost of a natural burial ground starts from £500. The average being between £1000-1500. Natural burial grounds have strict regulations and all coffins must be environmentally friendly. ThinkWillow provides a range of eco-friendly cardboard and wicker coffins that are the preferred coffin choice for natural burial grounds.

Cremation is the best way to keep costs low. To help people save on funeral expenses, crematoriums now offer direct cremations. Direct cremations have always been available but have never been talked about. In the past there was little transparency in the industry so people had no idea about this option. 

Direct cremations start at £795. The crematorium will collect and care for your loved one and notify you when the cremation has taken place. There are no mourners present at the cremation.

This gives families the flexibility to create a unique memorial service at an alternative place and save on funeral costs. 

Ultimately, the decision between cremation and burial comes down to personal preference and affordability.


4.Simplify funeral arrangements

In the past, there was a lot of pressure from society to follow the funeral norms and hold an expensive traditional funeral service. This involved paying for:

  • An expensive coffin and flowers. 
  • A hearse to transport the coffin.
  • A religious ceremony at a church and then paying again for a ceremony at the crematorium, 
  • Food for the wake.
  • Hefty funeral director's fees. 
  • A burial plot or cremation services

None of this is compulsory. 

Fortunately, with just a few tweaks, you can create the perfect end-of-life celebration that doesn’t cost the earth. 

Firstly, limit the funeral service to close family and friends. This makes it more personal and allows you to focus on your loved one and not worry about guests.

Secondly, opt for a DIY approach to certain aspects of the funeral. Why pay for a vicar when a family member or friend can give a personal message? Why pay for an expensive hearse to the crematorium when you can arrange for the crematorium to collect and care for the body? Why pay for an expensive coffin when you can buy a cardboard one from ThinkWillow and personalise it yourself?

 

Photo by Jasmine Tanguay, Natural Deathcare Collaborative
Photo by Jasmine Tanguay, Natural Deathcare Collaborative
 

When you have more transparent information, you can make better choices. This will help you become more confident when arranging a funeral, which could save a lot of emotional distress  and could help you and your family save money. 


5.Choose an affordable coffin

There are surprisingly few laws about funerals in the UK. This means you are free to choose what kind of coffin you want for your burial or cremation. You don’t have to buy an expensive solid wood coffin as part of your funeral package.

In the past different funeral directors have taken advantage of the difficult situation and used it to their advantage by persuading people to buy expensive solid wood coffins.

One clever way to reduce the cost of a funeral in the UK is to opt for a cardboard coffin. Our cardboard coffins start from £239 and can be delivered directly to your home or a funeral home.

Cardboard coffins are very versatile and are suitable for both a traditional burial and cremation.We have a complete guide to cardboard coffins that you can discover here.

ThinkWillow offers a good selection of cardboard coffins at very affordable prices as well as a great selection of environmentally friendly wicker coffins

Just by switching from a wooden coffin to a pure white cardboard coffin, you can save hundreds 100’s of pounds. Pure white coffins are being chosen by families who want to create a very special and unique coffin. Many families are choosing to decorate pure white cardboard coffins with photos, patterns, landscapes and colours that have meaning to them. They work together to express their love and their grief as part of the goodbye process.

 

 

It’s important to know that if you are opting to be buried in a natural burial ground, you will have to check their regulations. See more about that here.

ThinkWillow provides environmentally friendly coffins that are a good fit with natural burial grounds. Our willow coffins are made from sustainable willow grown in the UK. They can be delivered directly direct to your door or your chosen location. Delivery is free and we are happy to talk to you about any concerns you might have.


6.Set a budget for essential funeral costs

In the past, there were fixed options for funerals. There was a lot you had to budget for:

  • funeral directors' fees
  • coffin
  • burial plot
  • burial service
  • funeral flowers
  • wake/send-off

The problem with this traditional approach is it left everything in the hands of funeral directors and because there was no competition, this meant many people were taken advantage of. Unscrupulous funeral directors often sold simple coffins with a huge profit mark up. People found themselves shelling out on a coffin that was 2 or 3 hundred pounds more expensive than necessary. 


Things have changed now and people are free to choose what they want and need to be included in an end of life celebration. They are also able to save on the cost of a coffin by purchasing on the internet.

Purchasing a coffin online directly from ThinkWillow can save on costs. ThinkWillow doesn't have any hidden costs. The price you see is the price you pay. This makes it very easy for you to choose a coffin that respects your values, your budget and that is perfect for your loved one.

Creating a funeral budget in advance will help you keep costs low. Set a budget and stick to it. Make sure you spend only what you planned. 

It’s important to note that you do not have to buy a coffin from a funeral director. This is mis-information and if any funeral director tries to force you to do this, you should report them to your local trading standards office.


Help with funeral costs

Funeral costs can vary widely depending on where you live. The government recognises this and offers financial assistance towards funeral costs. It's worth checking out what help or benefits you may be entitled to. You can use this link here to visit the government website.



In Summary

Funeral costs in the UK can be high but with some clever planning you can reduce the cost of a funeral. Grab a coffee and take 5 minutes to think and plan using these 6 topics as a guide.

  • Pre-plan : Be proactive and plan, Understand your rights and your options, Consider pre-paid funeral plans
  • Choose the right funeral for your needs
  • Cremation or burial 
  • Simplify funeral arrangements 
  • Choose an affordable coffin like a cardboard coffin from ThinkWillow
  • Set a budget for essential funeral costs 

 


Remember, it’s important to be proactive and informed when planning a funeral. Understanding your options and your rights will help you make better choices that could save costs. 


At ThinkWillow we believe everyone deserves a great send-off no matter their financial situation, so don’t be afraid to plan and create a unique celebration of life and to choose a coffin that suits your budget and not the funeral directors! 

 

By focusing on these 6 areas you will be able to organise a truly great celebration of life.

 

We would love to hear your thoughts on the cost of a funeral. If you have an experience, you would like to share with ThinkWillow please get in touch. Email us at ask@thinkwillow.com . We will reply personally to you. 


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