Final Arrangements

52 Weeks: Wills, etc. – Funeral and Wake


A traditional funeral with casket and viewing can be very expensive, but it doesn’t always have to be. A great book on this subject is Jessica Mitford’s “The American Way of Death Revisited.” It explores the realities and scams of the funeral industry. You don’t always have to buy everything the funeral home tries to sell you.

Costco sells caskets at low prices. If you are having a viewing followed by a cremation, some funeral homes will rent you a casket just for the viewing. The law does not always require embalming. If the funeral director says it does, get a second opinion. Family members don’t have to ride in a car provided by the funeral home. They can use their own cars if they prefer to do so and save money.

Wake or reception

Many people find the social get-together very supportive and healing. If money is tight, friends and relatives could perhaps be asked to bring a dish. Finger food is ideal, cutting down on cleanup and cutlery needs.


52 Weeks: Wills, etc. – Cremation

Funeral costs can vary greatly according to your personal, family, cultural, and religious needs. This time more than any other is when each person has to do what is going to meet the needs of the family in the long term. My only role here is to tell what costs the least in money. That is direct cremation and scattering.

Cliff’s cremation actually cost nothing at all. He donated his body to scientific research (not to a medical school). After a month, I received the cremains back in a very nice heart shaped box. We could have buried the ashes in that, had we wished. We scattered his ashes on the beach, as he wanted.

I used to believe the VA would pay for a veteran’s final expenses. I recently learned that they only contribute $300 to the funeral or cremation part. What they provide free is burial space and a headstone. In my county, if any person dies without assets and the family also can’t pay, the county will provide a cremation.

When I handled my mother’s final arrangements in 1999, I followed her wish that her body be cremated. At the funeral home, I saw a big display of very expensive urns for ashes. I wasn’t buying an urn. My mother’s ashes were buried in the plot waiting for her in the cemetery in her family’s hometown. (My great-grandfather bought a whole subdivision in there.) So the box they came back from the crematorium in was fine. But I remember thinking I could go to a craft fair or shop and get a lovely handmade vase or jar, much more in tune with my mother’s personality, for a fraction of that cost.

Wonderful review

I am so moved by this review. “Tightwad Gazette of the 21st Century” is exactly what I wanted people to think about it:

“Great book!, February 18, 2014

By Lita McRiley “Sorlina”See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely (Kindle Edition)

This book is jam-packed with tips, ideas, and strategies for saving money. It’s the Tightwad Gazette of the 21st century… internet addresses for DIY help, encouragement for readers, personal anecdotes, this book has it all. To top it off, it’s delivered in a light, easy to read style that isn’t preachy or judgmental. A very helpful, and enjoyable, read!”

The Tightwad Gazette has been the “bible” of thrifty living. My hope was to make it the ‘old testament’ and mine the ‘new testament’, and it seems I have succeeded.