Guest Article: Funeral Considerations

Tina Haapala |

The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) is a national non-profit organization which was started to advocate for consumers and assist them in knowing their death-care and end-of-life funeral and memorial options.  Rodger Ericson, one of my clients in Austin, is on their national Board of Trustees. He invites you to check out their information at 

Five years ago, my mother died in my home, under hospice care, at the age of 93. She opposed spending huge sums of money on a burial and did not want a public viewing of her dead body, so we chose to have a “family-led funeral,” (sometimes called a home-funeral).  In Texas, this means that I, as an individual, act as the funeral director; and I don’t have to hire a licensed funeral director. We made a “hope chest” (coffin/casket) for Mom, and we prepared and dressed her body for burial at home. The next day, we took her body to Minnesota for burial, using our own pickup truck. We did not hire any services from a funeral director, however we did purchase a required casket liner which the cemetery required and the vault company refused to sell directly to me.

After mom’s funeral, three comments were common:  “You can do that (meaning, not use a licensed funeral director)? “; “She doesn’t have to be embalmed?” and “That was really nice, so personal.  I like that idea.”  Only my funeral director cousin seemed to greatly disapprove, saying, “She deserved better.”  My funeral costs were about $200 rather than $10,000. It was a lot of work, but in the end it was very satisfying and therapeutic. This wasn’t about saving money; it was about giving my final gifts to my mom. Spending more does not mean loving more.   

In 2010, I was able to help my son-in-law’s family in Colorado save $2000 by directing them to a “downtown” mortician for the cremation, rather than using the one “closest to his mother’s home.”  The cremains were no different.  They drove an extra 20 miles, but the savings equated to $100/mile. Now if you like to bury money or provide income for your nearby mortician at your expense, that is up to you.

In April of 2012, I assisted a lady whose brother was killed in a car accident near Lubbock, far from his home.  I was able to help her with rational decisions, and find out the best prices for a cremation after this unexpected tragedy. She was originally quoted a cremation cost of $2500, but I found the same service for $799. Cremation is cremation, cost should not be a factor.

If you've never planned a funeral before, the choices can be daunting. You may be intimidated by the commercial funeral industry and unsure of the "right" thing to do. Like many, you might not even know where to begin, or what questions to ask. The multi-billion dollar American funeral industry may make the process confusing and full of expensive obstacles, but honoring our dead doesn't have to be complicated or costly. It's your choice whether to have a very simple disposition or a more elaborate funeral. Your taste, beliefs, and budget should dictate the type of funeral you arrange. You have no obligation to satisfy anyone else's idea of what's right or proper.  Planning and talking together as a family is the key to preparation and wise planning.  Don’t put it off - do it in advance of an unexpected death.   

Being prepared for the inevitability of death and being educated before the time of need can save you a lot of money, but more importantly, it can enable you to go through these grieving times with less anxiety, less frustration, more satisfaction and greater calm. The FCA website ( gives you lots of helpful information for advanced directives and planning ahead of the time of need.  And it is all free.

The FCA advocates for consumer-friendly state and federal legislation and fights funeral industry efforts to limit consumer options. The FCA does not sell funeral goods or services; it exists to educate the public.  It operates without receiving industry kick-backs and continues to serve you as a consumer because of its many volunteers and member and friend financial donations (ways you can support the cause can be found here). 

In a few months, I will share more information with you about the FCA and funeral planning. Until then, feel free to check out one of our web FAQs : "Where to Start When you Don't Know How to Start: Funeral Shopping – The Basics."

--Rodger Ericson