Budget-friendly funeral options

By Amy McGillivray

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Ricky, Tony, Richard and Dorothy Hope from Hope Family funerals are among the companies looking for ways to cut back on funeral costs. Photo/George Novak
Ricky, Tony, Richard and Dorothy Hope from Hope Family funerals are among the companies looking for ways to cut back on funeral costs. Photo/George Novak

Tauranga funeral directors are offering a range of price-cutting options to help the vast majority of Kiwis who are not prepared for their death.

Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand chief executive Katrina Shanks said only 5 per cent of New Zealanders had pre-payment plans or insurance policies that would help cover their funeral costs.

Tauranga funeral companies offered services ranging from $1890 for a direct cremation with no service to more than $10,000 for the works, although most families spent between $6000 and $8000. A burial plot and the preparation work cost $2700. Hope Family Funeral Service funeral director Tony Hope said cost was often an issue for families so the company had introduced a number of cheaper options including hiring a casket and more natural ways of preparing the body.

Of the 180 cremations the company performed last year, only two families bought the casket. The rest chose to use a liner, he said.

"Over the years a lot of people have said, 'put me in a cardboard box and cremate me' but we thought that wasn't very dignified so we came up with that option. We didn't take it lightly," Mr Hope said.

They charged $500 to rent a casket and to buy one was more than $1000.

Hope Family Funeral Services had also opted to forgo the use of formaldehyde for embalming unless the family wanted to take the body home before the funeral. Instead the body was washed and kept at 4C, except when being viewed by family. This was cheaper, kept the bodies looking more natural and was better for the environment, Mr Hope said.

While there was a range of funeral options available to families, most chose the traditional style, he said.

"More families are choosing the private family service at their houses or an intimate location.

"Families are saying how nice it is. It's more intimate and less stress," he said.

"The saving in price is a side consequence."

Todd Gower funeral director Paula Williamson agreed most people still opted for the traditional funeral and cremation which cost between $6000 and $8000 on average although about 40 per cent of families now chose to rent a casket.

About 20 per cent of people chose to have just the cremation and hold their own memorial in a private place.

"I think because in the past elderly people have been stung by the finance companies going under and feel that there is not the money available for their family," she said.

Jones and Company Funeral Services company director Chris Andrews said people had become more careful about what they spent during the recession and the habit had stuck.

The best way to cut down on funeral costs was to have friends or family put together slideshows and videos rather than outsourcing it and use their own minister where possible.

Elliots Funeral Services manager and funeral director Neil Gedge said the best way to keep costs down was to choose a basic casket and limit the number of death notices and flowers.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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