We don’t plan on taking these money-saving secrets to the grave with us.
At some point, we’ll all face the uncomfortable task of burying a family member or friend. With so many unknowns, it can be difficult to determine how best to lay your loved one to rest. Should you get a "protective casket?" How can you plan a heartfelt service on a limited budget? What is permitted inside of the casket? The list goes on and on. Below, 10 little-known facts and cost-saving tips that could save you thousands when you’re inevitably asked to plan a funeral.
1. You can buy a cheaper casket at big-box stores.
Costco and Sam’s Club are known for their bargain bulk buys, but what you probably don't know is that both warehouses sell caskets, too.
2. You can also rent a casket.
Sure, rental boxes are eco-friendly. But, there’s also the fact that they’re a less costly option when you can’t afford to purchase a casket. You can still have a traditional viewing at the service, but the funeral home won’t charge you as much because they can reuse the casket again. With its removable interior, the body never touches the inside of the rental casket, and the wooden box can easily be removed after the service for burial and cremation.
3. You can skip the embalming process.
The fees associated with embalming, preparation, and transportation can really add up. As long as you plan the viewing or cremation shortly after your loved one’s death, you can request that the body not be embalmed to cut back on costs.
4. They use this drugstore item and beauty essential to set the deceased’s features and hands.
"If the usual methods of setting the features aren’t sufficient to keep the eyes closed or the mouth shut, superglue is a secret weapon," wrote mortician Caitlin Doughty in the book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.
In an interview with Mental Floss, funeral director Amy Cunningham of Fitting Tribute Funeral Services said her weapon of choice is a hair tie to keep the hands folded.
"If you need to keep a deceased person’s hands folded neatly at their abdomen, but their arms keep falling down into the sides of the casket, you can gently bind their thumbs with a ponytail tie."
5. The expensive “protective” casket is not worth it.
For all of its supposed benefits, caskets with vacuum-sealed rubber gaskets don’t reduce decomposition. Mark Harris, author of the book Grave Matters, suggests that these conditions actually accelerate decay because of the growth of anaerobic bacteria. The bacteria putrefies the body, "turning soft body parts to mush and bloating the corpse with foul-smelling gas."
In fact, it’s the trapped gas and moisture that sometimes cause the caskets to explode and the doors to be blown off of crypts. Harris also spoke with a former cemetery owner in his book. The owner revealed that the protective caskets are "routinely unsealed after the family leaves...to relieve the inevitable buildup of gases within the casket." So you'll be doing yourself (and your wallet) a favor by not falling for the sales pitch on protective caskets.
6. There is such a thing as a low-cost casket.
You probably won’t find the cheaper options in the display room of the funeral home, but sometimes directors keep the bargain models in the basement or boiler room. They’ll probably try to dissuade you from purchasing, but you should ask to see one anyway.
7. The body isn't required during viewings, unless you request it.
Without the body present, you won’t have to pay for the mortician’s services.
8. Funeral directors won’t fulfill your loved one’s request to be buried underneath a tree.
"A body must be buried at least four feet from a tree to protect its root system," Sarah Wambold, an Austin-based funeral director, told Mental Floss. "It’s a bit of an adjustment for people who are committed to the image of being buried under a tree, but that’s not always the most green option for the tree."
9. Grandma or grandpa’s knee joint could be used later in this interesting way.
That replacement hip or knee implant may help to improve a family member’s life and reduce stress on their joints. However, once a body is cremated, those spare medical parts and prosthetics are melted down and salvaged for road signs and car parts.
Speaking of medical parts, when cremated, pacemakers are removed to prevent damage to the cremation chamber.
10. Buying new clothes isn’t necessary.
The funeral home will make your loved one’s preferred dress or suit fit perfectly on the body, even if it’s a little snug or loose.