It costs as much as $30,000 to be born in the United States and it can cost just as much to die. Many families spend many thousands of dollars they can’t afford on funeral services and burial arrangements. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. A no-frills cremation and memorial service can cost next to nothing, leaving you with more to spend on a big farewell party or a charitable bequest.
The most economical solution of all is to simply spend nothing — not one red cent — on processing fees for your earthly remains. You can just give your body to science and be done with it, sort of like giving your old car to your local public radio station.
Fortunately, you don’t have to visit a lot of ghoulish medical schools or pathology labs to set it up. An organization called ScienceCare.com works with medical schools around the country and will handle the arrangements for you. You can sign up on their site, then sit back and let nature take its course.
One step up from this is what is called direct cremation. What this means, very simply, is that when you give up the ghost and a death certificate is issued, your body is taken directly to the crematorium and the ashes-to-ashes prophecy is fulfilled. No embalming, no cosmetics, no burial. Very little expense. In many areas, a direct cremation costs around $700. Check Google for crematories in your area.
A site called Everplans has a lot of good information about direct cremation and also offers a digital storage service for your important documents — wills, insurance policies, etc.
Another, more natural option is green burial. It eliminates not only the ornate casket, embalming and so forth but also eliminates cremation. You are simply buried in a shroud or casket made from recycled materials, after which your molecules return to the earth in the most natural way possible. From an environmental standpoint, this is the most elegant solution; it eliminates the large amounts of energy needed for cremation and avoids the irksome chemicals used in embalming.
There aren’t yet a lot of cemeteries offering green burial but the number is growing steadily as more people learn about it. Something called the Green Burial Council has a list of service providers on its website.
There’s really no reason not to look into these options. A traditional funeral service is a colossal expense that deprives families of funds that could be better used to pay off your bills, mortgages and so forth when you’re gone, with maybe enough left over to pay for a memorial service, dinner or just to buy a round or two in your name.
Whatever you decide, do it now, put it in writing and make sure your family knows about it.
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