Cremations on the rise: Pre-planning can help you keep from getting burned

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A few months ago, I wrote a series of posts on budget funerals, noting that options such as cremation, natural funerals and burial at sea could save a grieving family a lot of money. At the time, my main interest was showing that there are options outside the realm of expensive, traditional funerals. In the ensuing months, however, the economy has gone south in a big way. Since death doesn't take a holiday for recessions, it's been interesting to see what the economic downturn has done for the internment industry.

While many people have opted for reduced-price funerals, the biggest effect of the recent economic woes has been a massive increase in cremations. Mike Nicodemus, a Virginia-based funeral director, noted that 45% of his customers are currently opting for cremation, a major jump over previous years. Similarly, Donald Williams, Vice President of the Bronx's Woodlawn Cemetery, pointed out that cremations generally increase by about 100 per year. This year, however, is on track for an increase of 300.

It's not hard to understand why so many people are looking into cremation. While traditional funeral plots generally cost around $5,000 apiece, cremation is a mere $400. Admittedly, it costs more if one wants to be made into a human reef, reconfigured as a diamond, or shot into space. Even these expensive choices, however, are often cheaper than traditional burials.

With bereaved family members increasingly taking a hard-eyed look at burial expenses, this might be a good time to discuss your burial preferences with your loved ones. I know, for example, that my wife wants to be cremated. She, on the other hand, knows that I want to be mummified, buried with 500 retainers, and permanently interred in a crypt that is big enough to be seen from outer space. I have also put in a request for a fridge full of Woodchuck cider, just in case.

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. His real burial plans are far more modest. He's willing to negotiate down to a mere 100 afterlife retainers, in return for a huge trunk full of twinkies.

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