The truth is that, in most cases, cremations are cheaper than funerals. Many American burials today can cost between $7,000 and $10,000, while the cheapest options for cremation can cost somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000.
Cremation isn’t always cheaper. If mourners hold a funeral service and bury the ashes, the cost difference between cremation and burial is much smaller. In fact:
Sheri Richardson Stahl, director of Island Funeral Home in Beaufort, S.C., explained that, "Plenty of times, cremations are just as expensive as burials."1
Also, some people who choose cremation are relatively well-to-do and the financial advantages of choosing cremation are not a major part of their decision-making process.2
Still, there is little doubt that one of the major factors motivating people to choose cremation in recent years is the issue of cost.
Consider the phenomenon of direct cremation. In this type of cremation, a cremation company is contacted online or by telephone. They send someone to pick up the body, bring it to the crematorium, and deliver to the bereaved family a small can3 full of cremated remains. Costs are often between $1,000 and $2,000. While it is possible to conduct a parallel "direct burial," and doing so is easy to arrange, it is still more expensive than direct cremation.
If cremation is cheaper, why bury?
First of all, practically, there are ways of managing funeral costs:
- By planning ahead and choosing a pre-need plan with installments, things are usually very affordable, even for families who are not particularly wealthy.
- Relatives can be of assistance in helping loved ones achieve their final resting place.
- Finally, if you need to make decisions in the midst of grief, talk to your local Rabbi, Jewish funeral home, and Chevra Kadisha to find out how to make it happen.
- Money should not stop anyone from receiving a proper Jewish burial, and rarely does.
At a deeper level, burial is worth the extra money.
1 Molly Kardares, "Another Sign of the Recession — Cremation on the Rise," CBS News, March 20, 2009,
2 Cremation in the 1990s had "nothing to do with what you spend" … The typical cremation customer was affluent, not poor, and more than willing to spend money to see loved ones go out in style. Jack Springer, former head of CANA, the Cremation Association of North America in Prothero, Purified by Fire, 199. Popular cremation choices over the last decades seem to validate this view. People are sending remains into space, shooting them in fireworks, placing them in concrete coral reefs on the ocean floor, and turning them into diamonds and other gems, among other options. Scattering ashes from a plane or in the sea is increasingly popular, and also adds significant costs. These options are far from cheap, and business is booming — in these cases, the money factor is not the reason people choose cremation, because the difference in cost is not significant, if it exists at all.
3 Or an urn, if you pay extra.