By: Tadia Toussaint

Dr. Michel M. A. Francois, a Pennsylvania resident who recently lost his father opted to cremate him. Cremation, he explained creates room for great flexibility.

“Its very difficult for family members to make travel arrangements when this happens so quickly.”

Francois, who said his father wished to be laid to rest in his home country of Haiti, explained that cremation gave the family more time to make financial arrangements for the memorial services.  He says transporting ashes is “less of a headache” than transporting a body.

Associated Press

Associated Press

Francois isn’t the only one choosing to go the non-traditional route.

In 2007, there were one million less caskets sold than in 1999. The Casket and Funeral Supply Association of America (CFSAA) collected the data of casket units sold each year based on the estimated number of casketed deaths reported by the CDC.  Instead, more Americans are choosing alternatives such as cremation: As of 2014, 46.7% of Americans are cremated, up 22% since 1999.


The driver of this shift: the rising cost of a traditional burial.



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Now, the median cost of an adult funeral with viewing and burial is $8508, a 29.3% change from 2009’s price of $6560, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). According to a funeral-industry sponsored Wirthlin Report from 2006, people who choose cremation say 30% of the reason why is because that option saves money.  Cremation costs range from $1610 to $6,078 depending on the choice to have a viewing.

The only reason for the rising costs, Jessica Koth, spokesperson at NFDA says “As with many goods and services, the price of things have gone up over time.”

The figures for traditional burials don’t take into account external costs like the plots at the cemetery, floral tributes, and a vault that encloses the casket which some cemeteries require.  The cost accumulates from dealing  with separate parties including the funeral home and a cemetery, leaving a family with a hearty bill.

Burning one’s corpse and housing them in an urn underground, on the living room mantle or sprinkling them in the ocean is a trend that many American families are following.

The options don’t end at just turning dead bodies to dust. People who are committed to choosing the traditional route are still trying to save money.


Thomas Shaw, a 49 year old Texas resident purchased a casket from Costco back in 2013 to lay his father to rest.

“It definitely was more economical,” he said.  After hearing about it from a friend, Shaw said “it was convenient and it came 15 minutes before the funeral.”


Review comments on Costco’s site rave about the surprisingly amazing quality of the caskets and the convenient financial reliefs they provide.


Not only can you buy 7-month supply of toilet paper at Costco but for more than 10 years now,  you can grab a casket in aisle 6. Casket prices have increased 14% with metal caskets selling at $2100 in 2004 and $2395 now. Caskets on the Costco shelves vary in color and style,  like the “The Mother Casket” available for as low as $949.

Robert M. Fells, CEO of the International Cemetery and Funeral Association (ICFA) says that though all of these “alternatives” seem interesting and cool, “maybe they’re not such a great idea.”  He explained that people connect with tangible things to remember their loved ones that have passed on.  Fells said whenever he gets a chance he brings a wreath to his parents’ gravesite on Christmas.


“Future generations, when they go on they’re going to find their ancestors don’t have a grave,” he said. “At first glance, it’s like these people have been wiped off the face of the earth.”

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Eternal Reefs, a memorialization company that uses cremated remains to make underwater concrete reefs has been growing steadily every year servicing an average of 120-150 families a year .  The company, the CEO George Frankel said, receives 10,000 information requests a year, showing that people are becoming more and more interested in alternative options.

“You feel powerless when you lose somebody in your family, you go down to the funeral home you make a handful of decisions, you write a check, but you’re not involved,” Frankel said.  “We’ve encouraged families to actively participate.”

Families are invited to leave handprints and messages as a part of the 4-day eternal reef project.

“By the time they’re done, there’s a real sense of ownership.”