The casket is usually the biggest expense in a traditional burial, but you can bring the cost down substantially if you know what questions to ask.

Burials and cremations both require the body to be put into a container. Since the cremation process consumes the body with the container, it’s normal to have the bare minimum, basic “alternative container” for a cremation. Burial more typically involves a more substantial casket, but that doesn’t mean it has to cost an arm and a leg.

The less expensive options are generally not shown in casket show rooms. Ask the mortuary what they have in storage or in catalogs available for timely shipment. Mortuaries often have caskets and cremation containers with some manufacturing defect or damage that was incurred during shipping or handling. The mortuary staff seldom mention these units because they don’t want to imply that the loved one deserves anything but the best you can afford. However, for the cost-conscious person in your life who values relationships over things, a scratched or dented casket might be very appropriate. Don’t ask how much they would discount for the imperfection. Say that you would take one off their hands for half of their MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price). Recovering the cost they have invested in the unit and reclaiming the storage space may be an attractive option for the mortuary.

If the damage to the coffin is visually unappealing, one option is to cover the casket with a flag of some sort. Of course an American flag can be used. Each branch of the military service also has their own flag. And some people belong to organizations that have their own flag, such as the Boy Scouts, Shriners, and many other civic and fraternal groups. A creative option is to cover the casket with a white cloth “Love Flag” that friends and family can write messages and draw pictures on. The Love Flag cloth can be brought to pre-funeral events and gatherings for personalization. When folded like a flag and presented to the family in a triangle flag case, it becomes a sentimental keepsake.

You can also check on-line purchase options because you do not have to buy directly from the funeral home. Most casket manufacturers will sell to the mortuary or cremation business you choose, and many will sell directly to you with shipment to your mortuary or other location for a home funeral or natural burial cemetery.