50% Decrease in Funeral Spending According to NFDA

August 28, 2009
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image Story goes that during the Great Depression, families would pay for funerals with chickens and ham. A few kind people would even bury loved ones for free. But during this recession, chickens are not an accepted form of payment, and even the kindest person won’t do anything for free. With these tough economic conditions, people are cutting back in any way possible, including funeral costs. “There seems to be a general perception that funeral service is a recession-proof profession, but nothing could be further from the truth,” said Emilee High, communications coordinator for the National Funeral Directors Association.

A survey done recently by the association found that almost 50 percent of funeral directors nationwide saw a decrease in sales from 2007 to 2008.

That decrease isn’t because fewer people are having funerals. It’s because, “Families are being more selective, trimming back on different things and services,” said Bakersfield funeral director Cecil Martin.

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Martin, owner of Cherished Memories Memorial Chapel, said that before the recession, people would spend about $7,000 to $8,000 on a funeral. Now, they’re spending $4,000 to $5,000.

“I think people are back to spending within their means,” said Kenny Mount, a partner at Mission Family Mortuary.

And because they’re having to work more within a budget, those making funeral arrangements are starting to ask more questions about what they’re paying for.

“I think people are starting to open their eyes a little bit,” Mount said. “Funerals used to be so shrouded in mystery, but now people are saying, ‘Wait a second, why do you have to do that?'”

Because people are paying more attention to the funeral planning process, they’re also shopping around more for the best deals. Mount said his casket store, About Caskets, has had more customers from outlying areas, such as Frazier Park and Tehachapi.

They’re also reconsidering where they may want to bury that casket. Martin and Mount both said more people are choosing public cemeteries over private ones.

Lisa Wood, manager of the Arvin Public Cemetery, said she has seen more individuals choose Arvin, providing they are eligible to be buried there.

And with the Bakersfield National Cemetery’s recent opening, veterans and their spouses are selling the private cemetery plots they already bought in favor of a free burial at the national cemetery, said Michael Davis, owner of Bakersfield Cremation-Funeral.

But with a burial at a cemetery still being pretty pricey, a different option has become increasingly popular.

The Cremation Association of North America reported the practice of cremation has been rising steadily, and by 2010 about 40 percent of deaths in the United States will result in cremation.

“A cemetery is where your costs are coming in. That’s why cremation is on the rise,” said Mount, whose mortuary charges $727 for cremation.

At Arvin’s Cemetery, Wood said she has noticed more people are choosing to cremate and put the ashes in an existing grave site of a family member. That costs $680, compared with $2,001 for burial at a new lot, Wood said.

But for family and friends, the biggest challenge of working on a budget may be not being able to give a deceased loved one the absolute best.

“Things are changing, and families are having to make the harder decisions,” Davis said. “What they wanted to do they can’t afford.”

Source: Bakersfield News

Photo Caption: Jenn Ireland / The Californian Kenny Mount, a partner at Mission Family Mortuary, stands in a room full of urns at the mortuary Thursday afternoon. Cremation has become a popular choice lately due to the recession and the high cost of cemetery plots for burials.

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