Christians can declare confidently, along with the Apostle Paul, that “to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Even so, the end of our mortal lives does carry a cost — literally. Almost everything connected with the death of the body has a price: The casket (or urn), the funeral home, transportation and preparation of the body, the ceremony — it adds up.

A Funeral Price Survey conducted last year by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) pegged the median cost for a traditional funeral at $7,360, a figure that includes itemized costs as well as about $2,000 in funeral-home “service fees” (covering everything from permits to insurance to administration).

But there’s more. That NFDA survey didn’t include the price of a burial plot, a grave marker, and a vault (the protective container for a casket that prevents the ground above from sinking — required by many cemeteries). Adding those items raises the median cost to more than $10,000, according to

There are ways to economize — if you plan ahead. Unfortunately, decisions related to “death care” often are made “at need,” i.e., shortly before a person dies or immediately afterward. It’s not uncommon for a spouse (or other family members), while racked by emotional distress and squeezed by time pressure, to face a series of potentially costly choices. Making “pre-need” decisions, well in advance of death, is better both emotionally and financially.

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