Low-Cost Funeral Tips for Orlando and Central Florida
Plan to save
Planning can be a boon to saving money.
Luckily, we offer the perfect, free tool to help. It's called My Funeral. It is your online funeral planning tool. It's free.
Funeral directors welcome your wisdom in planning, and they have options for helping you choose within your budget at a time when decisions are not emotion-driven and can be given lengthy, deliberate thought. Informing yourself is your best plan.
Knowledge is power
The Florida Funeral and Cemetery Consumer Advocacy group has developed a Consumers' Bill of Rights that will help provide background to anyone needing to do business with the funeral industry. This knowledge can help to guide a consumer through a difficult period and to avoid emotional exploitation.
Funeral home directors are legally obliged to give inquirers a printed list of services and prices. A piece of paper to hold in your hand, to take away, to consider. It's called the General Price List (GPL), and it is one of the most important tools you can use to understand and to control funeral and burial costs, especially given the changing nature of the industry that has funeral homes incorporating more and more services. Funeral homes, especially those owned by megacorporations, have taken a big-box approach and offer everything from chapels to flowers. The GPL lists package deals, their components and prices. It lists costs of services selected separately. (Many funeral home Web sites display this information, which, like taking away a GPL, gives the advantage of studying the situation on your own, without a salesman hovering.) By gathering GPLs from various funeral homes, you gain insight not only into services offered but into pricing policies and variances. The Federal Trade Commission's "Funeral Rule" requires funeral directors to give customers a General Price List at the beginning of any discussion of arrangements. Acquainting yourself with the law will help you find prices and services that meet your needs and budget. As purchaser, you are in control. As in any transaction, you can negotiate. Bear in mind that funeral directors at funeral homes belonging to large chains probably have less flexibility in deal-making. Locally owned establishments have more discretion to lower prices.
Once you've determined how much to pay, be careful about when to pay. It isn't necessary to prepay for funeral, burial or cremation arrangements. Be wary of plans that require you to do so.
Efforts to cut costs of disposition have led to the concepts of "direct burial" and "direct cremation." A direct burial leaves out embalming, viewing and funeral service. Embalming is rarely legally required. Funeral directors urge embalming for presentation purposes if you choose viewing or an open-casket funeral. Embalming and viewing add costs. A no-frills approach to disposition allows you to plan and hold memorial services that in many ways can better appreciate and remember your loved one. Direct cremation is similarly absent riturals; but many crematoriums will allow family members to view cremation.
No matter the price of real estate, doing without it in your disposition saves money. For good reason. Unless you come across an unusual situation, cemetery residence is spoken of in terms of thousands of dollars. With burial go costs for opening and closing the grave, crypt or niche, costs for a grave liner or vault -- typically required by cemetery owners to keep the lawns level -- costs for headstones and markers ... costs keep on coming when ceremony adds to ritual: flowers, music, motor escorts, remembrances. Cremation, by which a body is reduced to ashes by burning, remains the least expensive means of disposition. Direct cremation, that is, absent ceremony, lowers even those costs. Crematories allow loved ones to view the process and will work with survivors to meet wishes. As with most businesses, you can ask about services and negotiate costs.
People power saves money. The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Orlando, formerly the Memorial and Funeral Society, is a clearing house of information on the funeral industry and how consumers can obtain meaningful, dignified and affordable funeral arrangements without breaking the bank. Besides conducting price and quality surveys of area funeral homes, the Alliance uses the strength of membership numbers to negotiate prices with area providers. Savings can be significant. For instance, Alliance member cost for direct cremation recently was $1,110; the same service from the General Price List, $2,690. Direct burial: $2,195 vs $3,690 and up. Shipping a body out of state: $995 vs $3,095. Bequeathing a body to science: $1,495 vs $2,595. The $25 lifetime membership fee is expected to go up soon, possibly to $35. It's a bargain at either price.
Donating your body to medical science has long been a noble as well as cost-saving means of disposition. The Anatomical Board of the state of Florida requires willed bodies to be collected by funeral homes and embalmed before they are transported to state medical schools in Gainesville and Miami. Transportation can be costly. The board has established a Donor Assistance Fund that helps with transportation costs of up to $500. When medical studies are completed, willed bodies are cremated. Unless a donor's family makes a specific request with the funeral home at the time of transportation and embalming, cremated remains will be scattered over the Gulf of Mexico. Similarly, if a donor's family wishes to have their loved one's body returned for funeral and burial, a request must be made at the time the donor is taken by the funeral home. Any expenses for funeral or burial must be paid by the family.
The state of Florida requires caskets for burying the dead. But per the Funeral Rule, funeral directors cannot charge a fee if you wish to use a casket not purchased at their mortuaries. You can save money with a bring-your-own-container approach. Funeral directors mark up casket costs so shop around. You can spot a casket at a mortuary and trim hundreds from your cost by buying it elsewhere. Or you can ask funeral directors if they have other models they don't display. Of course, a mortuary owner is perfectly free to stock a lower-cost casket in dull finish that you don't like and not mention that a bright-finish model you might like is available through a casket dealer. Costco Wholesale sells caskets. So do others. Orlando's Casket Gallery and Cremation Service offers value for money. Urns, especially, are available online. Costs vary.
Plot your savings
Shop for a cemetery; prices vary. The thing about cemetery plots is the space in the ground is not the only expense. You have to pay for the labor to open and close the grave, line the grave, and take care of the grave.
In Florida, cemeteries are exempt or nonexempt. Exempt cemeteries are run by such as municipalities or service organizations -- at one time a university had its own cemetery for alumni. Nonexempt cemeteries are for-profit cemeteries.
Shop around for cemetery rates. City-owned Greenwood Cemetery near downtown offers plots for $1,500, well off the $4,000 sought by commercial cemeteries. But plots in municipal cemeteries in surrounding communities can sometimes be found for as little as $750. Shop for resales. One woman found resale plots for $200 each at a city cemetery.
Sometimes plans change, and plot holders' needs change. Sometimes they sell them through newspaper ads. Sometimes they turn to cemetery brokers. By looking in the right place, you can pick up a bargain. The Plot Exchange is an online broker that searches for plots by ZIP code. Grave Solutions is another broker. Another place to look is craigslist.org.
Although a serious percentage of cremated remains winds up in urns on mantle pieces nationwide, Florida law permits scattering cremated remains in public places. One such place that welcomes scattering cremated remains is Greenwood Cemetery, whose 82 acres lie adjacent to a wetlands preserve. Cemetery minder Don Price only asks that you call to schedule an appointment. He likes to schedule scatterings for morning hours. Scattering on private property calls for obtaining permission. As ever, scatter don't dump.
Many flower growers sell bulk flowers, and Orlando is flush with lush flora. Buy them loose and arrange as suits or make individual favors for funeral or memorial attendees. Buy plain bound notebooks and decorate them into remembrance books. Create a Web site dedicated to your loved one. Write a commemorative poem or story. Compose a piece of music. Solicit favorite phrases about your loved one from friends and combine them into a remembrance collage.