Low-cost urns: The urn is another item you need to be aware of that can drive up costs. Funeral home urns usually cost around $50 to $300, but you aren’t required to get one.
Most funeral homes initially place ashes in a plastic bag that is inserted into a thick plastic box. The box is all you need if you intend to have your ashes scattered. But if you want something to display, you can probably find a nice urn or comparable container online.
Walmart.com, for example, sells urns for as little as $25. Or, you may want to use an old cookie jar or container you have around the house instead of a traditional urn.
Financial help: If you can’t afford your cremation costs, there are a number of places you can turn to that may help. For starters, many towns or counties provide assistance through their social services department if you or your family can’t afford to pay.
Your family should be able to get some aid from Social Security, which pays a survivor a one-time death benefit of $255.
And if you’re a veteran, the VA provides a burial benefit that includes a free burial at a national cemetery and a free grave marker. But it doesn’t cover funeral provider or cremation costs.
Free cremation: Another option to consider that provides free cremation is to donate your body to a university-affiliated medical school. After using your body for research, they will cremate your remains for free and either bury or scatter your ashes in a local cemetery or return them to your family, usually within a year or two.
To find a medical facility near you that accepts body donations, the University of Florida maintains a directory at old.med.ufl.
html. Or call the National Family Service Desk, which operates a free referral service at 800-727-0700.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.