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The price of a funeral of course depends on the intricacy and sophistication of the arrangements you make – the more you pay, then generally the more elaborate the funeral to be held. Generally speaking the cheapest funeral plans will not provide a comprehensive service unless you are looking at a direct cremation option when you are just paying for a simple cremation.

For many people, cost may be one of the major concerns about the funeral you ultimately need. Those worries are made all the more pressing because of the unrelenting rise in the average cost of cremations, burials and funeral services. In the face of these increases, more and more people are taking on an increasing amount of debt to try to give the send off a loved one expressed as their last wishes.

A National Funeral Cost Index compiled by insurers Royal London estimates that more than 93,000 people take on such funeral costs debt, with the average amount owed of £1,601. For the whole of the UK, this represents total borrowing of more than £149 million. Little wonder that the prospect of paying for a funeral fills many people with dread.

Making matters even worse is that many forecast still further increases in the cost of dying.

Research carried out by the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC-UK) suggests that the increase in costs are set to rise from a current average price of £4,000, even for a simple funeral, to £7,000 – “if not more” – by the year 2020.   This may be a reason for a rise in popularity of direct cremation – also more scarily called “direct disposal” – in the search for the cheapest possible form of funeral.   

Direct cremations

In fact, direct cremation is just that – the deceased is taken straight off to be cremated  without any type of funeral service at all. According to a story in the Independent newspaper on the 18th of March 2016, David Bowie, Anita Brookner (the Booker prize winning author) and even John Lennon chose this decidedly minimalist send off.

The Money Advice Service explains that direct cremation typically involves cremation of the body directly after its collection from the mortuary during normal working hours. Rather than any viewing for relatives and friends, or any kind of ceremony at the time, the commemorative send off may be held at any time in the future.

The paring down of any kind of fanfare or ceremony and having a simple funeral might have attracted the likes of celebrities, however, direct cremation has yet to take on in a big way amongst the rest of the population – although it does seem to be gaining ground. Pure Cremation for example, have prepaid offer prices starting at £1,595.

With direct disposal costing as little as £1,000 (and an average of around £1,600) – compared to the current average of nearly £4,000 – the apparent popularity might be understandable. For that reason, the no-frill direct cremation, and the quick, simple funeral route taken has been described as the McDonalds of the funeral industry.

Is a direct cremation right for me?

Here are some of the reasons which other people have given for choosing a simple funeral by direct disposal: 

  • as the example of celebrities choosing this kind of despatch suggests, the deceased certainly had plenty of money to choose an alternative option
  • others might not see the point in a funeral service – the person who died was never religious and what purpose does any other kind of ceremony serve
  • the deceased might have lost all contact with members of the family
  • there is simply not enough money to afford anything more
  • a quite different kind of commemoration or ritual is planned, separate from disposal of the body itself

For all those hard-nosed possibilities, however, the type of funeral you have, or the one that needs to be arranged by your surviving relatives or friends, remains a highly personal issue.   

For those emotive and sensitive reasons, many people looking for a cheap or simple funeral might still regard direct cremation as a poor – almost disrespectful – way to say a final farewell to a loved one. This returns us to the question of alternatives for the low cost funeral.   

How else can I pay for a simple funeral?  

Potentially, you may have two options:   

Prepaid funeral plans

There is a ready way of choosing today whatever funeral you might want when the time comes whether a simple funeral or not. By paying for it at today’s prices, you steal a march on the future effect of inflation and the unremitting increase in the cost of funerals in coming years.   

The solution comes in the shape of a prepaid funeral plan, which allows you to pay for the funeral arrangements you choose at today’s prices. The simpler the funeral, of course, the cheaper the funeral plan is going to be.   

By spreading out the payments over monthly instalments lasting five – or even 15 – years, you may be able to afford an elaborate funeral costing as much as £4,000 or £5,000.   

If you still have an eye on an especially low cost, simple funeral, you might choose to prepay only part of the eventual costs, leaving your family to find the balance when the time comes – although you might want to keep in mind that a prepaid funeral plan guarantees the future cost of funeral expenses only (and not the additional expenditure on flowers, headstones, receptions or wakes, for instance).   

If you choose a national provider of prepaid funeral plans who is also a member of the Funeral Planning Authority, you have the additional security of knowing that any money you have prepaid for your funeral is place in a trust for safekeeping or used to purchase a whole of life insurance policy that pays out the agreed amount when you die.   

Over 50 Life Insurance

Although a prepaid funeral plan ensures that the money you pay is applied exclusively to meeting your eventual funeral costs, there is a further way of making early provision for an event that is going to come around some time or another.   

This is the over 50s life insurance policy. It is whole of life insurance in so far as it pays out whenever you die, but acceptance is automatic and there is no medical examination required.   Monthly premiums are payable for the remainder of your life – but many insurers waive such payments once you reach the age of 90 – and there is a guaranteed lump sum payment to the beneficiaries named in the policy when you die.   

Since you might be paying these insurance premiums for a good number of years, there is the possibility that the amount you pay in premiums is greater than the eventual settlement sum – and that, after the effects of inflation, the latter might be insufficient for the funeral you wanted.   


So, if you are wondering what is the cheapest funeral in the UK, starting off from an admittedly low base, direct cremation is gradually growing in popularity – but is yet by no means a widespread choice.   Many people may have good reasons for opting for a low cost funeral, whereas others may feel that a more elaborate send off is the decent and respectful way of celebrating the deceased’s life.  

If you are looking for alternatives to direct cremation, that are still cost effective and may offer solutions that provide a cheap funeral at today’s prices, you might want to consider a prepaid funeral plan.

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