Planning for a funeral is a stressful experience. It can be overwhelming enough with all the emotions, never mind the added stress of mounting funeral costs. With this in mind, it's important to note that saying goodbye to your loved ones doesn't have to break the bank. Careful planning, consideration and prepaid funerals, do make it possible to have an affordable funeral. Minimising your funeral costs where you can, whilst still leaving funds for meaningful related services and personal touches in line with your wishes.
Below, we cover all bases on how to keep funeral costs to a minimum. Covering all things:
Average funeral costs in Australia?
Breakdown of funeral service required, and associated costs involved
Funeral cost by state
Why plan ahead on funeral plans
Deciding between prepaid funeral plans, a funeral bond or funeral insurance
First let's dive in with a look at the average funeral cost in Australia. Giving you an idea of how much your neighbours are spending, as a frame of reference for your budget.
The cost of a funeral depends on whether you choose a burial or cremation, as well as the burial plot, cemetery and funeral service details.
With this in mind, a funeral in Australia can cost anywhere from $1,500 for a direct cremation to around $20,000 for an elaborate burial. Data published in 2019 from the Australian Seniors Cost of Death report found the average price of a basic funeral in Australia is $3,108 while the average cost of a basic burial came to $8,048.
It's worth noting that the price of funerals and associated services can vary significantly, depending on which state or territory you reside in and what type of funeral plans you opt for. However, regardless of which type of funeral services you choose, there are some inevitable costs; including the death certificate, as well as transportation and storage of the deceased's body.
To help you and your family get a rough idea of how money a funeral will cost, we've included a price list breakdown below. This highlights today's prices on funeral services, as well as highlights where a cheaper option could be a good alternative to more expensive funeral plans.
Your choice of burial will directly impact how much you pay. If you hold a traditional burial - with a viewing, a church service, and a committal ceremony at the gravesite you could end up paying in excess of $19,000. These sorts of burials usually require hiring a Funeral Director, buying a coffin and splashing out on flowers. You will likely also have to pay a fee to the funeral home, cemetery and may even want to pay for newspaper notices. If a burial is important to you and your family, a cremation burial can be a cheaper option- which avoids the costs of embalming and a large coffin.
On the other end of the spectrum, direct burials and direct cremations are some of the cheapest options because you aren't paying those additional costs. If you and your family are looking for an affordable, respectful and flexible farewell- this can be a good alternative which saves you money in the process.
Even if it is your preference to opt for a traditional burial you do not need to pay for an extravagant ceremony. In the same way your method of disposing of the body impacts the price of a funeral, the type of funeral you hold impacts how much everything costs. Compared to a wake or a graveside service, holding a memorial service can be a good alternative to say goodbye to your loved ones, whilst still honouring their wishes. You may consider saving money by holding a candlelight vigil, a bonfire or a barbeque- allowing you and your family to make the funeral that bit more personal.
If you're planning any kind of funeral, the help of a funeral director can be incredibly helpful. While funeral directors offer the support of someone experienced to do the hard work, their fees can add significantly to the total cost of the funeral. Data from Ibisworld estimates their fees alone may make up 39% of the total cost of a burial- meaning that if funds are lower it can save your family significantly to take care of this admin together, rather than pay someone to do it for you.
There are many options for funeral directors. For this reason it's important to do due diligence and shop when looking for a funeral director. Asking your Funeral Director for an itemised invoice on all the goods and services included as part of the funeral plan, can also help save you and your family money.
A direct cremation involves a quick turnaround on cremation, but no funeral service. This cuts out a significant portion of fees associated with traditional funerals- including for storing the body in a mortuary, fees associated with holding a service (including hiring a celebrant, booking catering and organising flowers) and the cost of an expensive coffin. While you do need to cremate the body in a coffin you can opt for a cardboard coffin or cremation capsule which costs between $300- $700. You will also need to pay for a cremation permit, a certificate and the cost of the actual service itself. Standing as a more simplistic farewell, a direct cremation is a good alternative if you and your family are looking to save funds.
As mentioned above a traditional burial is the most expensive option when it comes to a funeral. Cemetery fees make up a large proportion of this difference- as with land supply shrinking, the scarcity and cost of burial plots is rapidly increasing- with the cost of a burial plot in Sydney now ranging from $4,000 to $52,000.
The average cost of a funeral changes from state to territory and across metropolitan and regional and rural areas. The numbers below represent the average cost of a ‘basic funeral' which offers only essential services: the removal and transport of body, storage of body , legal documents and professional service fees.
A basic funeral is the simplest type of funeral and typically includes the essential services. The research found that the average cost of a basic burial in Australia is $8,048, while the average cost of a basic cremation in Australia is $3,108.
New South Wales
The Australian Capital Territory
The Northern Territory
There are two different ways you can organise payment for a funeral; pre-need or at need. Pre-need is when you set aside money for funeral cover ahead of time, while at-need refers to paying at the time of death when the services are required. A prepaid funeral can help to take some of the stress out of the situation, and make sure there are finances to cover the cost of burial and funeral arrangements. But even if you're planning ahead there are still multiple options to consider when it comes to paying for your funeral.
Funeral insurance is a financial product under which you agree to make regular payments (usually fortnightly or monthly) until you pass away, in exchange for an agreed cover amount paid out at the time of death, for your own funeral.
While the premiums of funeral insurance can be relatively cheap initially, they increase quickly over time, and if you live for many more years (as you would hope to!) you can end up paying many thousands more in premiums than the amount that is paid out upon death. Any additional funds you pay for funeral insurance does not end up going back to your Estate but goes directly to the insurance provider. Meaning that whilst they help you plan ahead on how to pay funeral costs, this option might still leave your family with expenses to pay for funeral services which exceed the payout.
The other downside of funeral insurance is if you miss a payment it can result in the insurance being cancelled and you lose the money you have already paid. Likewise, if you can't afford the premium payments of funeral insurance as you continue to get older, you do not have access to the premiums paid to date and all the money you have saved up is forfeited. In this way, funeral insurance does not lock in your funeral plans wishes, and you don't get full peace of mind.
A prepaid funeral plan is planned, contracted and paid for in advance with your selected funeral director. In locking in todays' prices, a prepaid funeral plan enables you to pay upfront for your own funeral and reduce this burden on family members left to pay for a future funeral.
A prepaid funeral plan further allows you to pay as a lump sum, or in instalments. The prepay option can provide immense peace of mind that funeral wishes are secured, and can further save families from financial and emotional stress in future. In this way, a prepaid funeral plan provides more certainty than funeral insurance- avoiding the uncertainty of funeral expenses rising dramatically from today's prices.
Whilst a prepaid funeral plan enables you to lock in today's prices, it does not provide any flexibility if you change your mind about the selected funeral services you'd like in future.
If your service ends up being much cheaper than expected, the funds in prepaid funerals end up going to the funeral director and will not be returned to your family. Prepaid funerals are also sometimes referred to as a “funeral plan”. If you move to another state, some prepaid funerals may not cover a funeral in your new state.
A funeral bond is an investment account where money is set aside to cover the cost of your funeral and burial service when you die. The money in the account accrues interest over its lifespan and ensures that when the time comes to organise and pay for your funeral, there is a nest egg for your family to draw on. The funds will only be released when you die, and if the amount in the account is greater than the cost of the funeral, the excess funds will be returned to your family. This can save your family money if funeral service costs decrease from today's prices, and can be a good alternative to funeral insurance by providing more peace of mind for your wishes. Funeral bonds are financial products regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.
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Data used in this article has been compiled from comparison websites finder.com, gatheredhere.com and Australianseniors.com. With changing land rates, taxes and other expenses it is possible prices may increase over time and no longer reflect the rates described above.
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