Has economy changed your funeral plans?

Rethinking family funerals in the wake of a weak economy?

AJC reporter Dan Chapman finds that the economy is prompting families to search for cheaper ways to bury loved ones — namely cremations.

At the same time, tombstone carvers in Elberton, coffin salesmen in Atlanta and cemetery managers in Rome are suffering the consequences, Chapman writes.

“Before, if you had a $25,000 insurance policy on Uncle Bob, you would spend every dime to make sure he had a good funeral and the biggest monument possible,” Doy Johnson, executive vice president of the Elberton Granite Association, told Chapman. “In today’s economy, when Uncle Bob passes away, chances are you’ll spend $750 on cremation and put the other $24,250 in the bank.”

Johnson estimates that headstone and monument sales are off about 15 percent since the recession started in late 2007, Chapman writes. Meanwhile, a generational shift toward cremation that was already underway is getting a boost.

Have you considered switching? Why or why not?

How much are you planning to spend? Have you reduced the amount, given the economy?

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

88 comments Add your comment

A Hearty Cheese Sauce

November 8th, 2010
7:48 am

Im unwilling to spend anything. Im gonna get good and drunk and high then feed myself to the sharks. That way no one has to pay!


November 8th, 2010
7:59 am

I am definitely changing my funeral plans. I now plan to live longer to put this expense off as far as possible.

Sara Marsden

November 8th, 2010
9:27 am

Find the cheapest cremation where you live by visiting http://www.dfsmemorials.com. A full listing of all the lowest cost funeral and cremation providers across the United States and Canada.


November 8th, 2010
9:41 am

A body donation program is the way to go. Let the researchers and doctors of tomorrow have me to work on and learn at the same time. Then, when they’re done with their research on my remains, the program stitches you back together and takes care of the cremation process. Then, the designated family/friends get a box back with the ashes sealed up in a plastic bag. They can then either spread the ashes or perhaps buy an urn and sit it on a mantel. Again, wedding and funerals are the two most emotional purchases that you’ll ever make. At least planning for the final arrangements in advance, even prepaying them, is a wise move. Now, all I need to do is to sell off some cemetery plots that my folks bought for us that will never be used.


November 8th, 2010
10:27 am

I decided in 1988 when I realized that it was getting more complicated to find the time to visit my dear Father’s gravesite that I preferred cremation. Then in early 200 my sweet Mother passed. As I made an exerted effort to taake the 60 + miles drive to my parents resting place, I decided that I truly wanted cremation vs burial. I don’t mean to soumd ungreatful but it became more of a burden than anything else to make the trip. When I pass, I don’t want my family a/o friends to feel I am a burden to them.

Maurice Dula

November 8th, 2010
10:56 am

I can understand where you’re coming from, Barbara. I managed a cemetery for 21+ years and it was sad to me that hardly anyone visited the older sections. I too believe that a large part of that was the lack of ability on the part of families to make the trip. Also, it is said that after 2 generations there is also a lull in visiting because that generation (3rd) didn’t have much if any contact with the deceased.

Ashes to Ashes

November 8th, 2010
11:03 am

Never needed to change, would never consider anything but cremation. One is done with the body once the spiritual energy has left. No reason to bind the spirit to the body. After 3 days its important to complete the transition and return the body to its elemental form. That’s why cremation is practised by the world’s oldest and wisest religions.


November 8th, 2010
11:07 am

Cemetaries are really more for the living / survivors than they are for the dead. Our country is more transient now than they were even 20 years ago. My spouse and I have decided on being cremated. My mother is not happy with that as it is not in the family “tradition” and our family has plots set aside (but not for our spouses). After alot of intense conversations, my parents have finally decided to sell off the remaining plots and let their children and spouses make their own arrangements when the time arises.

US Funerals Online

November 8th, 2010
11:28 am

It is said that the Baby Boomer generation will leave their mark on the death-care industry. They are probably the last generation that actually do have the money to pay for a traditional funeral, but are at the same time opting for something different. At US Funerals Online we have certainly seen major changes governed by how the economy is changing Americans planning for, and purchasing, funerals. Many more search for funeral services and products online, and cremation is definitely on the increase. Body donation is increasing in popularity, as is ash scattering. Our web site provides a directory of all 23,000 funeral homes in the US and an information guide on how to plan for a funeral. Check out: http://www.us-funerals.com

Money Hungry

November 8th, 2010
11:34 am

Money can be expensive.


November 8th, 2010
12:21 pm

Absolutely cremation! Never wanted to “rot” in a grave.eeeeshhh! I just want a professional to handle it (namely my daughter who is in the business)…

Dedicated to Science

November 8th, 2010
12:22 pm

I am going the cheap way and one which will benefit others. I am donating my body to science and they will do the cremation and return the ashes to my family. http://www.medcure.org

Just Telling The Truth!

November 8th, 2010
12:37 pm

I just went to a friend memorial, she donated her body to science and told her family and friends to have a party in her honor. Not a big expense and it was easier on the family.

Lojoy Robinson

November 8th, 2010
12:40 pm

Im truely glad to read all the comments. I am being hounded by a prepay funeral insurance agent to purchase a very expensive burial insurance package. I am on a fixed income and cannot really afford the monthly payments. You are going to pass away so why are they charging more when you have a disablilty. Thanks, I think I’m going to opt for cremation too!


November 8th, 2010
12:40 pm

If its that expensive, then I am not going!!!


November 8th, 2010
12:41 pm

Have always planned on being cremated. My parents have, for as long as I can remember, said that when they go they want to be cremated. I am an organ donor and am also considering donating my corpse to a medical school. I have never understood the point behind spending a ton of money on a box to plant someone in the ground. And what is this about guilt for not visiting Old Aunt Millie in the cemetary….she is dead folks, you aren’t “visiting” with anyone. Tend to the living and honor the memory of the dead. Hope y’all have a nice week.

Jim Ralph

November 8th, 2010
12:50 pm

If this isn’t a shovel ready job that qualifies for the stimulus program then I don’t know what is.

Ashes to Ashes

November 8th, 2010
12:54 pm

Whatever your plans are, count on the government to bleed you dry before you go.


November 8th, 2010
12:57 pm

Dedicated, my grandmother did the same. What a wonderful gift to medical science, and to your family!


November 8th, 2010
12:59 pm

It is the greedy funeral homes that have caused their own demise. They push a larger casket when you don’t need one. They take advantage of what your going through. You have to pay extra for digging the grave. Back in the day they community would come together and dig that grave for you. But all those folks have passed on. Then you have the ones tied in with the florist. You have to have flowers. And last the stone. You people who sale them should be ashamed. It took my parents two years to be able to afford my sister a stone and they will be paying on her funeral for years to come. She was young and did not have life insurance. Suddenly became ill and died. So if you are suffering, you can’t blame it on the economy, you greed drove your business in the “ground”. I am one that is glad to see it.


November 8th, 2010
1:04 pm

Hefty trash bags are pretty cheap. I wouldn’t mind one of those. The city will problably still make my family pay the last bill so, put me in the container and roll me to the curb.


November 8th, 2010
1:20 pm

No one here has mentioned environmentally green funeral homes. They bury your body in a biodegradable box and you do not have to pay for an expensive headstone, casket, or burial service. I know there is a green cemetery in Kennesaw but that is the only one I know of in the Atlanta area. A funeral is more for the living than the deceased. I have been going to funerals of family members since I was 9 years old and the entire experience is emotionally draining from the wake, viewing the body, to the church service seeing everyone cry, and scream, in emotional pain, those sad memories from childhood have stayed with me and I have not been to a funeral in over 6 years.

Al Feretta

November 8th, 2010
1:22 pm

What kind of selfish jackhole thinks he deserves a plot of real estate for all eternity* for his empty shell of a corpse to rot in when he’s dead?!?! Cremation should be mandatory nowadays.

*All Eternity terms subject to change based on Eminent Domain and current land developers needs.


November 8th, 2010
1:25 pm

I think it also hurts that the funeral homes don’t let the families know that there are cheaper options. For instance, it’s not uncommon to rent one coffin for the service but then inter using a cheaper one.

I think it’s telling though that while the mortuary service is becoming corporate, there’s also a growing trend for people outside of the traditional employees who work at their family funeral home. Strangely people are seeing this as a second career because they feel that they can help the grieving families/friends.

Reccomend reading some essays by Thomas Lynch, a funeral director/poet. Some are satirical, others show his occupational bias but still good reads.


November 8th, 2010
1:26 pm

For instance, Lynch suggested a combination golf course/memorial garden where ashes could be interred. One way to get Dad to go out and visit his parents.

Beverly Taylor

November 8th, 2010
1:32 pm

I am so happy to see there’s others out there who think like I do. Cremation is the only way to go. It causes a lot less grief and money. To be honest, you shouldn’t have to pay for the cremation at all. However I understand nobody in the family wants to do the honors in the backyard, but it should be cheaper than it is. You can prepay for burials and cremations, but with today’s economy whose to say the owners won’t go out of business before you pass away and the money you paid is lost! The entire ritual of funerals depress me and most times the attendees were either not real friends or the relatives put on this elaborate ceremony to ease their own conscience. I just want to be reduced to ashes, put in a mason jar (which I have plenty of) because the urns are too expensive and either land on someones mantel or buried in the backyard. BE HAPPY! Everything else about me will be etched in their memory and there’ll be no need to find the right dress for me or take time off from work or buy flowers for someone you didn’t buy flowers for when they could smell them! Afterwards have gathering at the house (because my house has always been the gathering place) and everybody tell the truth about me. The visitations to gravesites will soon be obsolete if everyone did this.

Ashes to Ashes

November 8th, 2010
1:40 pm

Be forewarned. In many jurisdictions the spreading of ashes is illegal as they are considered a biohazard. They of course are not, and it is just another government subsidy to the funeral industry, but if that is your plan, just make sure your loved ones don’t tell anyone and just take you where you want and sprinkle you.

Remember when people used to say “go ahead, its a free country?” Notice how nobody every says that anymore?


November 8th, 2010
1:45 pm

Funerals will grow but consumers need to understand they will require services and some “merchandise” which will be nearly as involved as your Grandparents funerals of 30 years ago…..People don’t mind spending $20k as an average for a wedding but choke at $9k-$10k for a funeral, the second most important “emotional” event any of us will be involved in…. Go Figure??????


November 8th, 2010
1:45 pm

I have asked my mother to cremate me and have a PARTY!!!! I am leaving her enough money. Somebody needs to have some fun!!


November 8th, 2010
1:45 pm



November 8th, 2010
1:47 pm

I agree with Jami. I don’t go to funerals unless I have to. The funeral homes are a rip-off. They look at how much insurance money you have and then they want to HELP you plan. Notice there are no prices on caskets or anything else. It depends on how much you want to spend. Why would you put thousands of dollars in the ground? I agree, cremation is the way to go. The soul leaves the body once you pass away. That’s all that we need to worry about. Where is your soul going? The body is just a shell. I cannot tell you that last time I visited a gravesite. It’s not that I don’t think about my loved ones.


November 8th, 2010
1:49 pm

Enter your comments here

Dust to Dust

November 8th, 2010
1:52 pm

If I get creamieated I wont have no body no more to be a zombie.


November 8th, 2010
1:53 pm

Visiting graves is a personal private thing that each individual have to decide. My dear moms pasted Oct 08. I visited her on Christmas eve as I only live walking distance from the cemetary. Its a beautiful cemetary but Not my favorite place to be.

The pain was un bearable but I am glad I did visit the site. I discovered they had not even put the Year of death and only had a slash..Had I NOT visited. there would have been no date of death. Unfortunately I have no family members to visit my grave to even Know if my death year will be in place. Me and moms purchased a dual headstone. The problem is when I went to visit her. I also have to Look at my Own name next to hers. Its really a morbid sad feeling. I have not been back to visit and doubt sincerely if I will go back. Its just too painful to see my moms name and death on that bronze plate..as well as My own. Its a sence right out of a Christmas carol where Scrooge sees the Christmas of yet to come..and sees His name on tomb stone. I like the idea of having bought the plot and already got the tomb stone.

I dont like the idea of seeing my Name on the Tomb Stone..staring back at me. Gives me the creeps..so thats a major reason I dont visit my moms grave. But after reviewing this article..It drives home the point that I want to be put away as inexpensive as possible I mean. Hell I wont know the difference when I am gone..nor will I care.

I am making preparations right now for my funeral so my family wont be stuck with a big bill..those thats even left. The newer generation dont even know me and probably will be just as happy with a cremation. Which I dont want.


November 8th, 2010
1:54 pm

I always thought that I’d elope until my father, a minister told me that there are two times when your family gets together. You don’t have a corpse at a wedding.

Funerals aren’t for the deceased. We all know this. They’re for the living.


November 8th, 2010
2:01 pm

My grandmother has been paying for her own funeral since I met her. She bought burial insurance MANY years ago, and now, has outlived 2 spouses, all of her siblings, her sons. Her grandchildren, collectively, cannot afford an elaborate funeral. I remember thinking it was a morbid thought to plan one’s own passing, but as I have aged, I have seen the logic in it – no emotional decisions for the family left behind. I just wish she had opted for cremation. I am already planning now, at just 42, and have already prepurchased my urn, it is a LOVELY brushed aluminum artwork on my mantle right now, and I am saving to pay for cremation, which will probably be prepaid for about $2,000.00. There are quite a few options for prepayment through various nationwide cremation societies that have contracts in place with existing cremtoriums, so not much fear that I will be thrown in a ditch because a company went under.
If it does all fail, feed me to the buzzards.


November 8th, 2010
2:03 pm

My father has a great attitude about this. He told me: “what will remain is an empty shell..treat it as such!”

I will cremate my parents and scatter their ashes over their birthplace. I am leaving instructions to do the same with me.

Funerals are a gigantic SCAM.

Dr Bob

November 8th, 2010
2:16 pm

I could never understand the desire to have a big funeral and a big headstone. After one generation no one visits the graves anyways, as the neglect at so many cemeteries clearly demonstrates. My plans have alwasy been the same: Give my body to science or burn it, and use the insurance money to start a college fund for the grandkids.

funeral director

November 8th, 2010
2:20 pm

I have never entered into a “blog discussion” before. I usually leave that to others. Because this case assaults my profession, I felt that I must respond. Caring for the dead is a cultural universal. That means care of the dead exist in all cultures in the world. Caring for the dead is on of mankind’s oldest recorded professions. I am sorry that some have been mistreated by a few unethical people in the death care industry. I stand that the majority of us are very ethical dispite earlier comments. Funeral directors are in the business of making money ethically just as each of you are at your respective professions. When death occurs in our families it brings with it a world wind of emotions. To many the emotions are simply unbearable. But take away all of that and each family is left with a decision. Some member of the deceased family will inherit the right of desposal along with the finiacial obligation that goes with that. They can chose their own method, traditionally burial or cremation. Law dictates very little in this area. In one case it just says that a body be decently covered. Many laws cover funeral homes and crematorys but not family members caring for family members. You are free to do what you want. You can shop services and take advantage of a capitlal market and benefit from competition. When in reality we know that emotions do exist and most of us want to do more. If I had a dollar every time some one told me what was going to happen at their death I could have already retired. What people fail to think is that they want even be at the event in which they are trying to plan. However a spouse, mother, father, child, grand child, sister or bother will be. It is the living that we must be conserned with at death, not the dead. To poperly say farewell should be granted to every bereaved family member no matter if the deceased chose a direct disposal. The proper rite of saying good by is healing medicine for a grieving heart. Remeber it is the family that has to live through this, not the deceased. Pre arrangements are good. They allow for a plan that is enevitable. A plan that can accommodate all family members desires. They allow for finacial planning that is not under extreme emotional distress. Why should it be a funeral home’s fault that you in life did nothing in life to plan for the disposal of your body. I quess some think that the government should do that to. Funeral homes function 24/7. They are regualated by the ADA, FTC and OSHA to name a few. Professional licesnse must exist to operate them and their facility cost and equipement cost can be extreme. These are just some of the reasons their charges must be where they are. I know numerous funeral direcotors in this state and the vast majority are very ethical and the vast majority are not wealthy. Remember it is a family preference when some one dies. You decide, maybe you want to do it your self and like the earlier comment, call the community over to dig the grave.

Dust to Dust

November 8th, 2010
2:24 pm

Funeral director has just gone and served us all.
Oh snap. Where is my popcorn at?


November 8th, 2010
2:46 pm

I haven’t really re-thought my funeral plans until now. Alot of what you all say here makes perfect sense, but I don’t know if I want to be cremated. Our family is very close knit and we visit the sites of my sister, grandmother & grandfather all the time, especially if there is an upheaval going on; visiting the cemetary gives me a serene feeling, I never get freaked out or anything. So, I doubt I will have my family spend $20,000 or more on my funeral, but $10-15,000 is modest.


November 8th, 2010
2:59 pm

Having read SOME of funeral directors diatribe, I’ve determined that there is no requirement for proper grammar, spelling or punctuation, in the funeral licensing process. If this person uses the same grammar and spelling on funeral notices and other documents required by family and law he /she should consider hiring a ghost writer (no pun intended).

Don't blame others

November 8th, 2010
2:59 pm

If people would let their wishes be known, then alot of questions would be answered. You have some funeral homes that are just like used car dealers…But, if you do your homework and plan then when it comes to that time those you leave behind can feel comfortable about what they do…Those who say they don’t care to me are selfish, everyone cares. If it’s your child you will spend as much as you can, because it’s your child…So, why would your children not do the same for their parents…So, as a family you need to talk about it because if you wait until the death happens people have no one to blame for the amount of money they spend but themselves….
I can tell you this because I’ve had to help plan to funerals, and it’s not fun to have to wonder what someone would like.
My best advise is to purchase a 10 year Term life insurance policy, it doesn’t cost that much per month and your family is covered…..

Melissa C

November 8th, 2010
3:00 pm

If you don’t want a funeral because they’re so expensive or just money makers for those in the business, fine. However, the idea that you wouldn’t go to a funeral of a friend or family member because you think funerals are expensive or just money makers is very selfish. The funerals are for the loved ones, not for you to use as a platform for you to voice your feelings about funerals. How self-centered.


November 8th, 2010
3:03 pm

This article does not give all other the other fees that should be considered. The urn, any flowers, death notices, memorial services and so on. I wished that the writer would have put in some extra effort to give the real costs and all that is entailed.


November 8th, 2010
3:13 pm

I helped bury two loved ones last year, my sister and nephew died on the same day. I didn’t bear the funeral expense, my brother-in-law did and we didn’t have anything fancy but the two together ran $30,000 for the plots and services (never mind they had a joint service). Plots are cheaper ($2k) unless you have an emergency situation and then they double it “for their trouble”. Then you figure in the cost of the vaults, which you must have and those run $1200 a piece. We chose some of the cheapest caskets at $1500 each. We didn’t have to pay either minister for speaking (they were family), had one long visitation and service with graveside and it still came to $30k. They gave us a $2 discount for the 2nd funeral. Nobody wants to talk numbers but $30k is half my annual salary… and they had no life insurance on either. Two lessons here: don’t feel bad for the funeral industry, they make it and then some and get life insurance if you can to help defray the costs.


November 8th, 2010
3:16 pm

My father wrote a letter many years before his death stating that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered in some of his favorite places. When he passed away several years ago,we honored his wishes. We still planned the visitation at the funeral home as well as the memorial service at the church for the family members. The grieving process for the survivors is important. How your body is disposed of should be up to you. You should let family members know in writing of those wishes. I’m thankful now that my dad chose this option. Now, I get to visit the beautiful places that meant so much to my father and cherish beautiful memories of him instead of standing in a cemetery staring at a tombstone.

Jim Bell

November 8th, 2010
3:20 pm

The choice is a very personal one. The only State regulated Green Cemetery is Milton Fields in the new city of Milton [North Fulton county] not Kennesaw.

A green funeral saves thousand and thousand of dollars without all of the unnecessary frills and waste of burying a $1000 concrete vault and environmentally harmful embalming fluids.

It is my opinion that not preplanning leads to making poor decisions in a highly emotional time.
What ever your choice, please learn all the options and make your wishes known. It’s the best thing you can do for those who will be handling your service.


November 8th, 2010
3:26 pm

you can now buy a casket online at Walmart.


November 8th, 2010
3:30 pm

For the low, low, low cost of a double-ply Hefty you can have a curbside burial; just hope that the departed passes the day before your scheduled pick up.