Can You Afford to Die?
The Rising Costs of Funerals
The cost of living is forever increasing but it appears the cost of dying has risen at a phenomenal rate in excess of inflation over the past decade with an increasing number of people being affected by funeral poverty.
A Loving Tribute have put together an interesting infographic (at the end of this article) to break down the costs of funerals throughout the counties in England.
How Does Essex Compare to the Rest of the UK?
Although the number who those who have taken on debt to pay for a funeral have dropped from 95,000 in 2017 to 75,000 in 2018, the average figure of that debt has increased by 34%.
Unfortunately, it appears these high costs are some-what of a postcode lottery. The average cost of a funeral in the UK is £3,757.
Unsurprisingly, the most expensive county is London at £4,838, the cheapest is Wiltshire at £3,381 which is a staggering £1,457 difference. Essex ranks at the 8th most expensive county in England at a cost of £3,777.
Cremation fees have risen at an average of 21% in the UK over the past 4 years. Inverness saw the highest increase of 56% (source). South Essex was ranked number 7 for highest increase at 41%. However, cremation remains cheaper than burial.
Hainault has the highest cost in Essex for burial at £5,732, a huge gap from the most affordable in Saffron Walden at £3,355.
The costliest cremation in Essex is in Braintree at £3,451, the lowest price is Chelmsford at £3,201.
You can be forgiven for thinking this spending could be because funerals, much like weddings, have become more elaborate over the years. However, more people are opting for an understated affair and cutting costs wherever possible.
With cremation being the more common choice, whether that be a preference or through cost-saving, spending on memorials such as headstones are down 5% since 2017.
Venue hire is down 10% as a common option is to hold a wake in the home of those of has passed on, or the home of a loved one. Spending on catering is also down 5%, home-made food has become more favourable.
How Can You Battle These Rising Costs?
People are spending less on the order of service as many see this as too much time and effort during the grieving period. If you are wishing to provide an order of service, we suggest using an order of service template online tool to make the process easier.
With so many choosing a more modest funeral it poses the question, how are the cost of funerals still increasing at such a substantial rate?
The answer simply is the extreme rising of charges for burial and cremation. Private funerals homes are not only to blame. Council-run cremations have seen a rapid increase as stretched councils try to obtain more funds in any way they can.
Interestingly, it has been noted by Royal London that is it actually the less affluent households that spend more on discretionary items.
Households with an income of £5,000-£9,999 per annum spent over the average in almost all aspects and were significantly above average with memorials such as headstones. Even households of £150,000 + per annum, on average, spent less.
It is believed this spend is due to social pressure and the belief that large sums must be spent to give the deceased an appropriate send-off. Grieving families often make hasty decisions during the mourning process and are easy targets for money-grabbing industries.
It is this that has largely contributed to the soaring personal debt obtained through funerals.
Many are now opting into funeral plans to relieve the financial burden on their family after they have passed away.
There are ways you can cut costs on a funeral, 15% are now choosing to not have the body embalmed. Embalming is not necessary if the body is not going to be viewed and can save roughly £100.
Using your own home to host the wake and not using hearses or limousines can also provide considerable savings.
32% of people reported they were not aware of their funeral director’s lowest cost option as it was never discussed. Only 25% said the director brought it up themselves and 22% were aware as they asked themselves.
If you are planning a funeral, we strongly recommend you should shop around and ask directors what their most affordable package is. It is useful to start with a tick list to help ensure you do make the right choices for your circumstances and to comply with your loved-ones wishes.
What Financial Aid is Available?
It is unfortunate that a funeral is an expense none of us can avoid. If you are on a low income, you may be able to apply for financial aid from the Social Fund Funeral Expenses Payment (SFFEP) but this will normally only cover necessary items such as the burial or cremation fees.
The SFFEP may also provide up to £700 for other costs but this is discretionary, and the system has been labelled as flawed. On average there is a deficit of £1,500 between incurred costs and the value of the pay-out.
This has left many vulnerable people exposed to ‘funeral poverty’ at an already sorrowful period of life.
Quaker Social Action has just come to an end of The Fair Funerals Campaign and will continue to run the Fair Funerals Pledge. They support organisations and local MPs who are campaigning for aid and improvement for this coping with funeral debt.
Online calculators estimate the average cost of a funeral (burial) in Essex by 2046 could be as high as £22,036. It poses the question, can any of us afford to die? Crowdfunding has seen an increase in people asking for donations to funeral costs instead of flowers or other gifts and more people are opting to take out funeral plans.
In November 2018, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published an interim report on the funeral sector. On the basis of those findings, and in particular concerns about increased levels of funeral poverty, an in-depth market investigation was launched in March 2019. The statutory deadline for the investigation is 27th September 2020.
The watchdog has already discovered firm’s unwillingness to publish clear costs, both online and face-to-face or provide clear understanding on varying packages available…….
With all this in mind, funerals can often be an unexpected cost and the public can not wait until full investigations to be published before planning a send-off.
If you are planning a funeral, we suggest shopping around, there are even funeral price comparison websites such as Beyond. Importantly, always ask your director what their most affordable package is and ask them to disclose what elements can be removed (such as embalming) to save costs.
Know your budget and try to stick to it. It is all too easy to feel like you are not giving your loved one a decent memorial if you are looking at cheaper options, but just remember it is highly unlikely that those who have passed would wish for you to get into debt for their funeral!
No amount of spending on memorials can exceed your own happy memories of them.