Cheapest Funeral

cheap funeralOver the weekend I was at a social gathering and the host introduced my wife and I to 8 others we were meeting for the first time.  When I was asked about my profession, the subject matter turned to funerals.  After finding out I was in the funeral business, almost in unison, they exclaimed “I want the cheapest funeral possible” followed by sentiments of disdain from recent experiences of burying their parents. Interestingly, the people at the table were the “target” Baby Boomers (I’m in this category, however these folks are about 15 years my senior) that are supposed to want “so much more” for their life celebration and these folks were not anywhere near financially challenged.

So I asked them what they thought the “cheapest funeral” would be in terms of cost and service.  One lady shared that she just buried her husband last year and she hated the entire process.  She said that going to the funeral home with her kids and in her words “consternation of dealing with those people” left a bad taste in her mouth.  She said that she told her kids that in no way shape or form does she want them to go through the same process….”I told them to just cremate me and have a party at the lake house…I paid over $12,000 for the whole thing and I’ll haunt my kids if they waste that much on me.”

Another lady said “I don’t want anyone looking at me dead in a casket” followed by “just cremate me…what does that cost about $1,000.”  I told her in this particular area that cremation is anywhere from $1600 to about $3500.  With that, more discussion ensued around cremation.  One interesting point a gentleman made was that he had been considering selling his burial family burial plots. “I don’t like visiting a cemetery and I know my kids don’t and won’t…why waste the money?”  From there went the discussion of where cremated remains should rest…from putting them in the lake to scattering in the garden (I suggested they research viable locations before making a decision).  I shifted the discussion to what type of service…almost all said that they don’t want to be in a church or a funeral home.  From the lake house to the country club, the general consensus was to have some sort of party, but nothing dour for this group.

I was frankly surprised at the positions of those at the table.  These were relatively affluent people that had defined opinions from recent experiences.  Their candid sharing of thoughts was interesting…what are yours about the conversation?  Cheers y’all! #thefuneralcommander


  1. This is the general conversation that’s been going round and round for years. Who would want to pay a lot of money for something in which they see no value. That’s why they call it wasteful! Celebrating a life well lived that has touched so many in life should be a positive experience. Once again there’s that word again “EXPERIENCE”. If we are wanting people to feel the need for funerals again, then we need to focus on the experience. The main thing people are talking about is the actual ceremony and how it made them feel. So how can we help create a ceremony that feels WORTHWHILE. TAKE A GUESS!!……Hint I have been writing about it for weeks. And guess again who has responded the least. Guess again!! The people that will be affected the most. The people who’s own livelihood is being threatened. Who are these people that make a living on the funeral process? You would think that people that made a living on funerals would want the public to actually have funerals. Someone eventually will respond and a new profession will be created.


  2. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Excellent points as always Jeff…conversations are taking place; one way or another!


  3. I am always amazed when funeral directors are ‘surprised’ when they hear conversations like these from an older generation. But I shouldn’t be. I hear this discussion all the time. And it comes from both the baby boomer generation and the greatest generation.
    As an industry, funeral directors talk to each other. Every association and convention recycles the same speakers, panels and panel participants. They reinforce decades old concepts sprinkled with new language and themes.
    Several years ago the president of CANA, i forget who it was at the time, was quoted in a front page article in the Washington Post regarding “green burial”. His comment really struck home. As the president of the largest cremation association his quote was something to the effect of, ‘ there is an industry joke going around, there are more people attending seminars on green burials than are actually choosing green burial’.
    This is from the leader of a significant industry association who was watching the effect of changing from tradition burial to cremation was redefining the industry.
    My response to his observation on reposts of the article was ; that it kind of reminds me of an even older industry joke, that there were more people going to seminars on cremation than were choosing cremation’. I followed this up with the age old thought, people who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it..
    Jeff Staab makes an important point. He used two key words, value and experience.
    Families and individuals of every generation are questioning the “value” of traditional funerals and burials. They also want to be a part of the experience, to somehow be involved, not a witness to the process.
    Here is my prediction for the future of funerals and memorialization:
    If the funeral industry was surprised by the growth and financial impact of cremation, wait until the idea of conservation memorialization gains awareness. The industry will refer to cremation as the ‘good old days’.
    More than some variation of green burial, the idea of a death making a contribution to future generations, and providing the opportunity for the family to be involved will reshape the industry.
    Jeff is spot on. The conversation the Commander referenced is going on all over the country. Funeral directors would be wise to stop talking and listening to each other and start listening to the conversations going on around them.


  4. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Thank you for such astute observations and comments! You are correct in the “churning” of conversation, action (or lack of) and a continuing failure by funeral directors to attempt shaping consumer views…please continue having the conversation! Jeff


  5. Howard Beckham said:

    I am not at all surprised by the conversation. For over a 20 years I have observed that the more affluent a family was they where more likely to do a cremation. Some had church services followed by a reception, others went to the hotel or country club and held the “Memorial Gathering ” or service there with a catered reception or sit down dinner.
    We rarely see the affluent choose burial. The typical burial family are the mid to lower income families, and here in Florida more of them are breaking from tradition and going toward cremation and having their own memorial service or reception away from the funeral home venue (funny funeral people say it is because the cemetery people charge so much or their services and plots, and cemetery people say funeral homes charge too much for their services and merchandise. I believe there is a lot more to it, but that is another whole subject all together).

    More than once I have heard a funeral home owner be critical of funeral providers who put in reception rooms with food offerings to their families. There is more than enough evidence to prove that receptions offerings in a funeral home are what a casket showroom was fifty years ago. It is a real trend, and it has been around long enough that I am willing to bet there is another new trend building up and ready to break out the “fad” level.(I have no idea what that new trend is or when it will develop momentum but it will eventually happen).

    Reinventing who we are and what we do to the public perception is a must. We have to dare to be different and learn how to leap out of our comfort zones to excite the client families about who we are and how we can help them have the meaningful “experience” they do not know that they need, yet deep inside want.


  6. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Well said Howard! I saw a quote from someone the other day “the longer the driveway the cheaper the funeral.” I really appreciate your comments and sharing your thoughts. Cheers my Friend! Jeff


  7. Hi Jeff…thanks for the post. I always enjoy your passion for opening up a huge can of worms. : ) Every comment here is notable. Unfortunately, the funeral industry is stuck in an image that no longer serves them well. I’ve tried to communicate help and suggestions…no BODY listens or cares in my experience. Maybe because I’m a chick. hehe. The “good ole days” should be studied in greater detail. History shows we encouraged a service to the public in death care, probably because we didn’t want to deal with the details of body handling. The death care business took off, (we all) went off on a tangent through clever marketing, lost focus, got greedy and the rest of the story gets us where we are now. Once the public opens up and embraces the idea of death as an event in their lives like everything else they do, the demand for services will shift to what best serves them individually. Keeping up with the Jones’, and just because mom or dad had that type of funeral or used ABC Funeral Home, it will not be a significant factor for them in deciding their disposition. Laws will change blah blah blah. We’re so concerned about an industry that isn’t concerned about themselves because they are blinded by tradition. Death (not funeral homes) is the focus, needs serious exploration and much better marketing. I’m all in and will support any venture that educates, advocates and unconditionally serves families who have members die. Keep me in mind…take it easy.


  8. Jeff Harbeson said:


    Thank you for reading my posts and the kind words…If you like my can of worms style, you will love the post this week, stay tuned! You are SO on point…with the exception of being a chick (now that would sound funny, I see that you really look like one, a good one at that)…the current good ole boy business is in fact alive, however, much like travel agencies in the past, crumbling. The ignorant bravado will erode as their bank accounts recede…in the mean time, keep communicating your positions and thoughts. More are listening and paying attention than you think….Cheers! Jeff

    Send me your email address to, there may be some things we can work on.


  9. Folks,

    We keep talking about value and experience and conservation and boomers and traditional vs cremation and cost and bla,bla,bla. Over and over again. And no one is listening to what the people said at the party Jeff went to. They said they didn’t like talking to funeral directors and they wanted their family to have a party after they died. That’s what they have been saying for years. These are the key issues.

    So why don’t they like talking to funeral directors? Because the funeral directors aren’t listening to them. The funeral directors are trying to sell people the product that they have to offer and not the product that the people want. The people want a party. Help them with the party!!!!!!

    The true value of a funeral is the gathering together of people and the sharing of stories. Two things. Meet and talk. So funeral service needs to focus on the gathering and the sharing, not the body and the box and the grief.

    Here is the link to my latest blog entry

    I will be expanding on this idea over the next few weeks. Here’s an exercise for you. Think of everything that funeral homes do and provide. Then place each of those items under the heading Gathering Together or Sharing Stories.

    Dale Clock


  10. Jeff Harbeson said:


    You are SO on point…I am consistently flabbergasted by the lack of listening skills in and ability to adapt to consumer trending. Just like travel agencies…the sand is dropping through the hourglass for some…thank you for reading and responding. Keep up the good work! Jeff


  11. Dani said:

    Jeff, recently my great-aunt passed and her funeral was so touching and conducted so sacredly that it brought me to tears. People are a HEART business; it would be wonderful is everyone realized that. Whether coming into the world or quietly passing through its veil, everyone deserves to do so with dignity. I hope you help the latter do so. I truly do.



  12. Jeff Harbeson said:


    First thank you for reading the post and replying. I do believe it’s about the heart and families making choices to celebrate the life lived. Cremation and burial are the final disposition…it’s really important to take time to gather and remember…no matter the venue.



  13. Dani said:

    I completely agree.


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