A friend from college shared a funny picture from his calendar. The content of the sign:
Funerals 50% Off
He asked what a half-off funeral might be. I said: “One foot in the grave.”
Then he asked me if the Mighty Bargain Hunter approves. I gave that comment a like.
As long as the bottom doesn't fall out before the casket is lowered
Jack Nicholson's character, Warren Schmidt, in About Schmidt, did very well financially. He was a career employee of an insurance company. At one point in the movie, he goes through the emotional wringer as he has to make decisions on burial arrangements for a loved one.
Following the funeral, a family member criticized him:
Family member: “Why did you get such a cheap casket?”
Warren Schmidt: “What?!”
Family member: “I could tell you got the cheapest casket. Everybody could.”
Warren Schmidt: “Oh that is not true. That is not true. I specifically did not choose, as you say, the cheapest casket. There was one less expensive which they showed me. I refused it.”
Family member: “You mean … a pine box?”
Warren Schmidt: “I don't remember what it was.”
I remember really being ticked at the family member as I watched that scene. I also remember cheering for Schmidt. Good for him. He didn't let the funeral home use guilt against him to extract more money from him in his time of grief.
Being caught flat-footed when loved ones are toe-tagged
I don't fault funeral directors for offering their services, and I'm not up for restricting how they offer them. They can only bury the person once, so they'd better capitalize on it as best as they can.
(Whether they're right or not in closing the burial market by regulation is another matter. The lobbying for the funeral industry is strong in my state. There are restrictions on who can sell me a casket in-state.)
As with any reasonably expensive purchase — that's part of what a funeral is, right? — it's up to us to purchase wisely. It's not wise to wait until the time of need to think through the mechanics of the funeral. It's unlikely that sound financial choices will be made amidst all of the intense emotion.
Death isn't pleasant to think about. Giving the funeral arrangements some thought while your mind is still clear, though, is wise. If your burial wishes are known, then the funeral becomes mechanical and fewer choices need to be made by loved ones immediately after you die.
A couple of other times that you'll want to plan ahead a bit so as not to be fleeced with guilt:
- Weddings. Yes, I know it's easier for men on the whole to think objectively about wedding expenses. This is another one-time deal for everyone involved. (At least that's the intention; whether it ends up being a one-time deal is a coin toss statistically.)
- Veterinarians. Sadly, we had to put down an old friend a couple of weeks ago. The vet told my wife that she had made a wise decision. Other vets, though, will not say this. They will dig in their heels about euthanizing a pet if there are ways to prolong the pet's life either through treatments or surgery. One might interpret it as “having a heart for animals” but it's also hard to argue that it's not a conflict of interest. Deciding to put an animal down is hard, and it doesn't help if the vet makes it harder.
Guilt is expensive if you let people manipulate it. Don't.