20 unusual ways to save money: Join a funeral alliance

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All too often, the elderly scrimp and save in order to pass on some of their hard-earned money to their children in their wills. Unfortunately, upon their death, the children often spend that money on a funeral the deceased would have found obscenely expensive. If you don't want to see your estate gobbled up after your death by the funeral industry, consider joining your local affiliate of the Funeral Consumers Alliance or a similar group.

The FCA is a not-for-profit organization with local affiliates that pre-negotiate reasonably priced funerals for its members with local funeral homes. It also provides information to the public about how to find the most cost effective services, monitors trends and exposes abuses. The national organization serves over 100 local affiliates, and also provides information to many local associations formed for the same purpose but not formal affiliates of FCA.

Why is such an organization necessary? A recent survey by the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Central Ohio showed that embalming fees ranged, depending on the home, from $320 - $695. Again depending on the funeral home, cremation could cost $880 - $2691. A viewing could cost anywhere from $100 - $625, a funeral $275 - $625.

Pretend for a moment that, instead of funeral expenses, these were automobile repair prices. Would you tolerate such huge disparities?

Membership in a local group is usually very inexpensive -- where my wife and I joined, it's only $40 for life. When we die, our loved ones won't have to go through the trial of arranging (and possibly overpaying for) funeral costs; they'll simply call one of the funeral homes with a standing fixed-price agreement with our local group.

I'd much rather see any money left in my estate (as if!) go to making someone's life better. I don't need a fancy box to shuffle me off into the hereafter. In fact, I've long joked that Tupperware should make a casket, so they could just burp and bury me.

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