Taking a simpler, less expensive approach to funerals

19 February 2020

4 min read

Faith Archer
Faith Archer

Personal Finance Journalist


The average cost of a funeral reached £3,785* last year, but it is possible to celebrate a life while spending less. 

Consider direct cremations and direct burials

Direct cremations and direct burials tend to be cheaper, but you can also cut costs while still using a funeral director and holding a ceremony.

With a direct cremation, the deceased is taken directly to the crematorium and held in a simple casket. The cremation takes place without anyone attending, but the ashes are normally returned to the family, leaving them free to remember their loved one at a time and place they choose. A direct cremation does not have to include a coffin, embalming, hearse, celebrant, service or even a funeral director.

A direct burial works on the same principles, where the deceased is taken directly to a cemetery without a ceremony. As there is no viewing or funeral ceremony, embalming is not needed, and typically, an economical coffin is used.

However, many families value the support and advice from an experienced professional, especially when recently bereaved. Last year, only 3% opted for a direct cremation in its simplest form*, while 6% chose a direct cremation with a separate celebration*.

If you prefer to use a funeral director, you can still bring costs down, depending on who you choose.


Ways to cut funeral costs


Try funeral cost comparison websites

A quick search on Google should bring some up for you. It’s worth checking, because the difference between highest and lowest funeral director’s costs, even in the same part of the country, can vary by as much as £2,315*, according to Royal London’s research.

Work with a funeral director

You can consider different options depending on your budget. For example, you don’t have to use a hearse, or book limousines to transport mourners. Your loved one might prefer cheaper, more eco-friendly options for their coffin, such as a bamboo, willow or cardboard casket, rather than a traditional wooden version with metal fittings.

Think about changing the time of the cremation

The time of the cremation can also affect the cost. If everyone normally opts for 3pm, check if the crematorium offers lower prices at less popular times.

Celebrate the life of the deceased in another way

If you feel a service at a crematorium or church does not reflect the person who died, you might prefer to celebrate their life in another way, perhaps with a picnic or party in their favourite location, later in the year.

Above all, it's important to talk to your nearest and dearest about their funeral preferences while they're still alive.

Talk to your loved ones about the type of funeral that you would like

When asked, many people say they do not want a fuss about their funeral, and they certainly don’t want to be a financial burden – yet then feel obliged to push the boat out for others.

If you would actually prefer a simpler, more personal approach, tell your loved ones. That way, you can help them make the right decisions and give them permission to spend less.


*Royal London National Funeral Cost Index Report 2019


Faith Archer is a freelance personal finance journalist and money blogger at Much More With Less. Previously Deputy Personal Finance Editor at The Daily Telegraph. She has also written for publications including The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, Mirror Online and the Money Advice Service.