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  • Writer's pictureAura Flights

Affordable Funerals: Budget-friendly memorial options

Updated: May 25, 2023

As the United Kingdom experiences a cost of living crisis, saving money is becoming increasingly important. When we lose a loved one, the emotional impact of the bereavement can be exacerbated by the stress of covering funeral and memorial costs. According to SunLife, the cost of dying in the UK is over £9,000, including professional fees, the funeral service, and optional extras such as a wake. While planning an affordable funeral is more important than ever, it's equally important to feel that your loved one has a special and meaningful send-off.

In order to make an informed decision on how you can make funeral or memorial arrangements more affordable, it's helpful to know what options are out there. In this article, we will discuss eight ways you can reduce financial stress when it comes to arranging a funeral or memorial service.


1. Cremation

Funeral director holding an urn in a funeral parlour

Cremation generally costs less than burial, which is often the most expensive part of a funeral. In 2022, SunLife reported the cost of the average funeral with cremation as £3,673, around £1000 less than the £4,794 they cited as the average cost for a funeral with burial. But while cremation is cheaper than a burial, it is by no means less special, a fact reflected by its popularity: according to Great Britain's Cremation Society, 77% of UK deaths are followed by cremation.


Perhaps the main reason for the popularity of cremation is the flexibility it offers. There are specific rules for where you are allowed to bury someone, and as such most people are buried in a cemetery. Some people may choose burial because they wish to be buried at a religious site — however, cremated remains can still be interred in a religious cemetery, so being cremated doesn't mean you can't be buried on consecrated ground.


As well as being interred in a cemetery, cremated remains can be interred or scattered virtually anywhere. You may need to ask for written permission depending on where you want to scatter ashes, so it's always best to check, but you can scatter ashes at home, in a local garden, at sea, in a sports stadium, or even in space, just to name a few. The ability to lay your loved one to rest in a place that was special to them is likely the primary reason why cremation is so popular — as well as being cheaper than a burial, cremation can add a personal and meaningful touch to a memorial. If you need any more support or advice, feel free to read our support article on how to plan a cremation.


2. Direct cremation

A budget-friendly memorial option that costs even less than a funeral service and cremation is a direct cremation, which, according to SunLife, averages at only £1,511. A direct cremation is where the body is cremated without a service, which is why it's so much cheaper than a non-direct cremation. Direct cremations began gaining popularity during the COVID pandemic, and their popularity has continued through to 2023.


While some people feel a service is essential in celebrating the life of their loved ones, a direct cremation doesn't mean that you have no memorial at all, just that it is not done with the cremation. For example, a direct cremation could mean that once you have your loved one's ashes, you arrange an informal memorial at a loved one's house, or a wake-style memorial at a hotel or other suitable venue. It could also mean that in place of a traditional memorial, family and friends of the deceased have an ashes scattering ceremony at a special place. This could be done cost-free, such as if the ashes are scattered at someone's house or an outdoor space, and is still an incredibly meaningful way to remember and celebrate someone you have lost.


Our memorial flights are more affordable than the average funeral, and are perfect for those who loved travelling, space, or just for those who want to be with their loved ones wherever they go. If you’re interested, find out more about what happens to ashes scattered in space.


3. Natural burial

rural burial site with flowers atop the natual grave in a medow interspersed with trees and a bench

If you or your loved ones do want to be buried, a natural burial can be far less expensive than being buried in a traditional cemetery. While the cost of a woodland burial plot depends on where in the UK you live, you can save on third-party fees by carrying out arrangements yourself. A natural burial site will generally require a bamboo or cardboard coffin, as these biodegrade more quickly. These are also often cheaper than traditional coffins and caskets — some cardboard coffins cost less than £300.


It's a little-known fact that there is also no legal obligation to be buried in a casket or coffin, and so you can opt for just a shroud. This is environmentally friendly and could save a lot of money, as shrouds are merely pieces of fabric such as cotton or linen, so can be less expensive than even a cardboard coffin.


The nature of a woodland burial means that woodland graves don't generally have traditional headstones, but instead have a memorial tree or plaque. This is another cost-saving measure, as headstones cost an average of over £1,000, plus maintenance costs further down the line. If burial is important to the deceased, a natural burial is a great way to respect your loved one's wishes while both being kind to the environment and saving some money.


If the environmentally friendly nature of a natural burial appeals to you but you are considering cremation, here is a guide to some eco-friendly ash scattering methods. Similarly, our memorial flights are planned with the environment in mind — you can read our environmental policy to learn more.


4. DIY where you can

Four Pallbearers carring a coffin through a church

When planning a funeral, costs tend to add up purely because of how much there is to consider. Flowers, orders of service, the officiant, pallbearers, and even catering are all additional costs which can add stress to organising a funeral. To spend less, you can either decide not to include some of these things, or you can make or source them yourself to save the cost of paying a third party.


Friends and family can bring food to the wake or memorial, and an order of service can be made and printed at home. People that knew the deceased can act as pallbearers and a friend or family member can act as the officiant. Doing these things yourself can make for a meaningful personal touch as well as reducing funeral and memorial costs.


While memorials are often held at a venue such as a town hall, hotel, or place of worship, many people opt to have a less formal memorial, hosted at the home of a close friend or family member. This can save money on venue costs as well as making it easier to do your own catering, as it can be easier to make food at home or have another person bring it to the home of the host.


An informal memorial can be done alongside a funeral, replacing a more formal wake, or could be alongside a direct cremation to further reduce cost.


5. Ask for donations

Hand placing bank note into a donation box

It is commonplace for guests to bring flowers to a funeral or memorial service, but something increasing in popularity is for the organisers of the ceremony to ask for donations in lieu of flowers or other gifts. These donations could be for a charity, or a hospice or care home where the deceased spent time before they passed away. However, donations could also be collected to go towards funeral costs. Those who were close to and cared about the deceased will often be more than happy to help to pay for a special celebration of their life, and even small donations can add up.


A request for donations instead of flowers or gifts can be added to funeral invitations, so that attendees are aware ahead of time. This is a great way to save some money on funeral costs, and can also be a meaningful way for other guests to feel they have contributed to their loved ones' funeral or memorial.


6. Location and timing

Man comforting woman by placing his hand on her shoulder at a funeral

The location of a funeral service makes a huge difference to the cost. While you may wish to host your loved one's service close to where they lived or in an area convenient for their friends and family, picking a more cost-effective funeral location could be something to consider.


A grave, for example, could cost over £4,700 in London but less than £600 in Belfast. Of course, an extreme change in location is likely to be impractical, and may even cost you more. But it could be that moving the service a town over or using a different crematorium in your area will save you some money, so it's certainly worth checking if this is something you can do.


If you're unable to change the location of a funeral, the day and time of your service can also have a huge impact on price. Weekday funerals are generally cheaper than weekend or bank holiday funerals, and a morning funeral tends to be cheaper than an afternoon one.


7. Funeral plans and life insurance

If you are thinking about your own end-of-life planning and you have some money set aside, you could consider signing up for a pre-paid funeral plan. As well as allowing you to make your own arrangements, a funeral plan ensures that your loved ones don't have to pay for your service. Most plans will also lock in prices so that your loved ones aren't impacted by price increases caused by inflation — a service we offer at Aura Flights.


A life insurance payout can help significantly with funeral costs. It can be a relief for your loved ones to be left with a lump sum which they can put towards your funeral or memorial service. Usually paid in small instalments, life insurance can cost less than £10 a month. Unlike a funeral plan, life insurance will not necessarily cover all the costs of a funeral, but it can certainly still make a difference to your loved ones — and given the price difference, it is a much more accessible option.


8. Help from the government or council

If you are struggling to afford a funeral, there are a few options which provide more comprehensive help. In the UK, the Children's Funeral Fund can help to cover burial or cremation fees, including a coffin, casket or shroud up to £300. Similarly, if you are in receipt of certain benefits, you may be able to get a Funeral Expenses Payment. The payment doesn't necessarily cover the entire funeral, but it can help pay for burial fees, cremation fees, travel to the funeral, and you can also receive further payment for other expenses such as flowers. If you are eligible, these payments could reduce unnecessary stress at what is already a difficult time.


The money you spend doesn't reflect your feelings

The most important thing to remember is that the amount of money you spend on your loved one's funeral is not reflective of how much you cared for them. Planning a funeral is a distressing task even without having to worry about paying for it; having a simple service or even just an ash scattering ceremony can be just as special as an expensive and elaborate funeral, if not even more so.


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