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Ideas for planning a simple, inexpensive final farewell

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Dear Savvy Senior: My husband and I are looking for the simplest and least expensive way to dispose of our bodies when we die. We hate the idea of wasting a lot of money on high-priced funerals and would like some advice on simple and cheap send-offs. — Simple Seniors

Dear Simple Seniors: With the average cost of a full-service funeral running about $11,000, many people are seeking simpler ways to make their final farewell more affordable. Here are several low-cost options to consider.

Direct cremation

If you and your husband are interested in cremation, a direct cremation is the simplest and least expensive option. It includes picking up the body, filing the necessary paperwork, the cremation itself and returning the cremated remains to the family. There is no embalming, formal viewing or casket. The remains are placed in a simple cardboard box called an “alternative container.”

Depending on where you live and the funeral home you choose, the average cost for a direct cremation runs between $1,000 and $3,000. If you want additional services, ask the funeral home for an itemized price list so you know exactly what you’re getting. All providers are required by law to have this available to clients.

To locate nearby funeral homes, look in your local yellow pages, or Google “cremation” or “funeral” followed by your city and state. You can also get good information online at, which lets you compare prices from funeral providers in your area based on what you want.

Immediate or direct burial

If you’re interested in being buried, an immediate or direct burial is the most basic and low-cost option. With an immediate burial, your body would be buried in a simple container shortly after death, skipping the embalming, viewing and use of the funeral facilities.

If your family wants a memorial service, they can have it at the graveside at your place of worship or at home without the body.

These services usually cost between $1,800 and $3,500, not counting cemetery charges, which can run you an additional $1,000 to $3,000. All funeral homes offer direct burial.

Anatomical donation

If you’d like to eliminate your cremation/burial costs altogether, as well as help advance medical research, you and your husband should consider donating your bodies to science.

This option won’t cost you a cent; however, some programs might charge a small fee to transport your body to their facility.

After your body is used in medical research projects, anatomy lessons and surgical practice, the program will have your remains cremated, and your ashes will be buried or scattered in a local cemetery or returned to your family, usually within a year.

To locate accredited university medical school body donation programs in your state, see the University of Florida’s U.S. program directory at

Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit

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