Six Feet Under


Posted at Jun 30 2008 12:37 PM | Updated as of Jun 30 2008 08:37 PM

By Carlos Gonzales

It may sound morbid, but the topic of death, particularly on the expenses related to burial, is quite fascinating. The costs can really kill you and the rituals can sometimes be ridiculous. Nowadays, you can have a fancy burial with photo and video coverage, a band, balloons, the works. A party when you’re dead.
But even the basics can be quite steep. A casket, for instance, sells for as low as P10,000, made in wood, and can go upwards of P850,000 for solid brass. A cemetery lot can go for P70,000 (for a simple lawn lot) to more than P900,000 (for a garden lot that accommodates eight) while a mausoleum or family estate costs about a million and upwards of P8,000,000.

No wonder cremation is becoming a more popular and more practical alternative. You can just rent the casket at 30% off the regular price. The cremation costs about P9,000. A wooden urn goes for just P1,500, although brass ones cost P25,000 to P65,000. And if you want a bone or ash niche or vault in a columbary, it will cost P40,000 to P175,000 (fits 2 to 4 urns!). You can, of course, just keep it at home.

You do get freebies from package deals. Otherwise, you have to consider other related expenses:
Viewing room: P3,000-P5,000 per day
Flowers: P500-P5,000
Garden: P1,500-P8,000
Hearse: P5,000
Police escort:     P700-P1,200 (per policeman)
Burial: P18,000-P25,000
Headstone/Marker: P700-P5,000
Grave diggers/Niche watchers: P500-P2,000 per person
Sandwashing:     P7,000-P15,000
Obituary space: P2,000-P50,000

As you can see, dying can cost you an arm and a leg. You can say the funeral services industry is making a killing. With these expenses, who wants to die?

It’s something you and your loved ones would rather avoid but part of financial planning is anticipating the cost of your or their funeral. Here are some things to remember:

1. Shop around. You won’t have the luxury of comparing prices if a loved one suddenly dies, or worse, if you die. Not all funeral homes or cemeteries are the same. Compare prices if the likelihood of someone in your household dying soon becomes apparent, such as due to old age or serious illness. At the very least, ask around and be aware which ones are reputable and recommended.

2. Don’t be pressured. Remember, it’s not called the funeral industry for nothing. So don’t think of funeral directors as clergy. It’s not that they’re vultures but it’s still a business for them. So don’t buy products and services you don’t need or want.

3. Avoid emotional overspending. You don’t have to buy the most expensive casket or the biggest mausoleum you can (or can’t) afford to honor a loved one or cure guilt pangs. Show your love when the person is alive. A simple, dignified memorial and funeral service is sufficient.

4. Plan ahead. If you can, buy a memorial lot or casket in advance, it will not only come cheap, it will give your loved ones peace of mind. But even if you don’t purchase ahead, at the very least, talk to your family about your wishes (and solicit theirs if they’re open about it). Why buy an imported solid brass casket when your loved one really just wants to be cremated and doesn’t want any viewing?

5. Consider a pre-need plan. Memorial plans today are really just another form of investment. Pre-need companies sell packages that pay out an agreed-upon amount in a lump sum. They do offer value-added services like professional assistance. And memorial parks also offer plans that you can pay in advance.

This article is from is MoneySense, the country's first and only personal finance magazine. You can read more financial tips and stories at