Five ways to save on the cost of funerals


UK – As the cost of a traditional funeral keeps rising, more people are looking for ways to save, from a backyard burial to

state help and ‘tree headstones’.


It might be the last thing you feel like doing when you are grieving, but if you are planning to use a funeral director make sure you shop around.

As life insurer Royal London tactfully puts it, this is an industry “where costs can be opaque”. In a report released this week it outlined the huge differences between the amounts charged by rival firms even in the same town or area.

Websites such as allow you to research funeral director costs. For example, it found that in Cambridge the highest quote for these costs came in at £2,635, while the lowest came in at £960. In Wrexham the difference was even greater: £3,157 against £990.


You could get a funeral payment from the Social Fund, a government-run welfare scheme, if you are on a low income and need help to pay for a funeral you are arranging. This covers things such as burial or cremation fees, certain costs such as doctor’s fees, and up to £700 for other expenses such as funeral director fees or a coffin. You need to fill in form SF200, the Funeral Payment claim form, to see if you qualify.

Royal London said this week that the average payment from the fund has nudged up by 2% over the past year to reach £1,375 – which means that the gap between the average award and the average price of a funeral has widened in real terms.

More worryingly, the number of successful awards dropped in 2015 to 32,000. This compares with 41,000 awards in 2007. Also, the £700 figure for “other expenses” has been capped since 2003.


Natural and woodland burials are becoming much more popular – and can be much cheaper than a plot in a local authority cemetery. There are now around300-plus woodland and natural burial grounds across the UK, though about half of these are “green corners” of standard municipal cemeteries, says Rosie Inman-Cook, manager of the Natural Death Centre charity ( The rest are standalone natural burial sites. Cost-wise, you are typically looking at around £600 for a plot, plus £300-£400 for gravedigging and administration of the funeral.


There are lots of ways you can keep the funeral costs themselves to a minimum. You don’t have to use a hearse, so ask the funeral director what alternatives they can offer, or arrange to collect the body in your own vehicle from the funeral director’s premises, the Natural Death Centre suggests.

Its other tips include bunches of flowers from the garden rather than costly floral tributes, and asking friends/relatives to be pallbearers, or to design and print out an order of service, provide catering etc. The charity also says that you can save hundreds of pounds if you choose a natural burial site where a tree is planted instead of a headstone, and adds that some cemeteries or natural burial grounds may allow you to dig the grave yourselves.


How about a “backyard burial” – ie, burying mum/dad/gran in their back garden, or on someone else’s land with the permission of the landowner? Inman-Cook says there are a lot of urban myths about home burial and that, strictly speaking, you don’t need permission from anyone. However, there are guidelines on the proximity of burials to water issued by the Environment Agency that must be followed.

Be aware that burying lots of people would amount to a change of use, and you must create a burial register which you attach to the deeds of the property. It is often said that there can be no outstanding mortgage on the property, but Inman-Cook says she spoke to a family recently who wanted to bury in their garden a child who had died, and their mortgage company was fine about it.

She adds that there is also no evidence of properties being devalued. However, she says: “It does suit the larger properties better – though I do get calls from people in inner-city terraces with just backyards.”


Author: Rupert Jones, curated from Five ways to save on the cost of funerals