Final Arrangements

An average funeral with a traditional burial in the U.S. can cost at least $8,000 plus cemetery expenses. The final total is often more than $11,000. Planning what you want, documenting it and sharing it with your family can help them make decisions and control costs, making a painful time a little easier to bear. Below are things to consider, plan for, document and share with your family.


  • Are you an organ donor or considering being an organ or body donor?
  • Do you want a traditional or a green burial?
  • Would you prefer cremation?
  • Do you want a home funeral?
  • Do you want a ceremony before the final disposition, later, or not at all?
  • Would you like that ceremony to be religious or a secular, joyful celebration of your life?

Funeral and cemetery goods and services

The typical purchases from a funeral home for a traditional burial include:

  • a casket
  • the funeral director’s basic service fee
  • embalming and body preparation
  • funeral ceremony and viewing
  • plus miscellaneous items (hearse, death certificates, obituary, etc.)

This doesn’t include the costs for burial plots, vaults, grave digging charges, and headstones or grave markers.

Shop around

People often choose the funeral home closest to them or one they have used in the past. Prices can vary enormously between funeral homes, even when they are just blocks apart. Federal law requires funeral homes to give you price quotes over the phone and a printed, itemized General Price List when you show up in person.

Be sure to contact your local Funeral Consumers Alliance affiliate to see what guidance they can offer (see the directory at In the Ithaca area, look at the Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Finger Lakes Price Survey.

Other considerations

Once you’ve determined what you do and don’t want for your funeral arrangements, write it down and share it with your family.

Don’t put your plans in your will or in a safe deposit box, as they might not be seen until long after other arrangements have been made.

While you should consider setting aside funds to pay your funeral expenses, usually it is not wise to prepay.


  • Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting a consumer’s right to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral.
  • Before I Go Funeral Planner — This spiral bound notebook from the FCA allows you to record your detailed funeral wishes, leave instructions for your pet care, and tell survivors where to find your assets and how to wind down your online life.
  • Funeral Consumers Alliance of the Finger Lakes (FCAFL) — The FCAFL, an affiliate of the FCA, is an all-volunteer, nonprofit, public service organization providing the public unbiased information about funeral planning, practices and costs. They serve Ithaca and the southern Finger Lakes region of New York state.
  • Green Burial — For green burial in the Ithaca area, look at Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve. If you’re looking for green burial options elsewhere in the U.S., look at the Green Burial Council website.
  • National Home Funeral Alliance — “The NHFA empowers families to care for their own dead by providing educational opportunities and connections to resources that promote environmentally sound and culturally nourishing death practices.”