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Financial advisor says funerals don't have to cost so much

That loud sobbing you often hear at funerals may not be for the dearly departed - it could be the family of the deceased grieving over the cost. With advance funeral planning and smart shopping before the need arises, however, that grief can be reduced.

Writing in the Daily Breeze of Los Angeles, financial adviser Stephanie Enright notes that there are several ways to bring the cost of a funeral down from the $7,755 an average funeral costs today. Some of the ways involve doing what any smart shopper does when making a major purchase, while others may involve adjusting expectations about what the funeral will involve.

The biggest cost-saving move you can make is to consider cremation instead of a traditional funeral. Cremations cost about half as much as traditional funerals, which probably explains why they now account for one-third of all funeral arrangements, up from 15 percent in 1985.

Going with cremation, however, may require diplomatic skills and hand-holding on the part of the person charged with making the arrangements, especially if there are family members who are emotionally invested in a full-blown viewing and burial. But there are also ways to cut costs for a traditional funeral.

One of the biggest involves what any smart shopper does before making a major purchase: Shop around. Get quotes from several funeral parlors, for charges for even a basic funeral can vary by as much as 30 percent.

Or consider skipping the viewing, which requires costly embalming, and instead go for a direct burial or cremation.

Picking a simpler casket from a supplier of one's choosing can also knock down the overall cost of a traditional burial. Discount caskets ordered online can trim as much as 30 percent off the cost of a casket. Some states even permit burials without caskets, enabling the planner to skip that cost item completely. It is also possible to purchase many burial accessories, including gravestones and monuments, online for less.

Planning your own funeral in advance can also help. That requires you to think for a bit about how you wish your departure from this world to be handled now, though.

Written by Sandy Smith

Date: Feb. 21, 2011 11:59 PM