Families opt for no-frills funerals to cut costs
A GROWING number of bereaved families are sparing themselves added financial grief by trimming down on funeral costs.
Undertakers say the average cost of a funeral has dropped by almost 40pc in the past five years.
They say cash-strapped families have had little choice but to compromise on funeral ceremonies by foregoing extras that they once took for granted, like flowers, music and limousines.
At the height of the boom, an average funeral would cost €6,500. But it wasn't uncommon for upwards of €10,000 to be spent up on laying a loved one to rest in lavish ceremonies.
However, grieving families, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet, now pay an average of €4,000 on funerals and are increasingly abandoning traditional removals and turning to cheaper cremations to cut down on bills.
Keith Massey, co-owner of Dublin-based Rom Massey & Sons Funeral Directors, said: "The spend on funerals is right down. I would say people are now spending €4,000 on average, compared to €5,000 just two years ago.
"In 2005 and 2006, it was pretty common for €10,000 to be spent on funerals. In those cases, families might have spent €1,500 on flowers alone, but that figure is now down to between €100 and €300.
"And back then, there were often four to five limousines hired. That now has been cut back to one or even none. And a lot more cheaper veneer coffins are being used than before."
He said cremations, costing as little as €650, now account for almost 30pc of his business, up from just 10pc in 2002.
However, it appears bereaved families are more dissatisfied with the service they are receiving from Ireland's 600 undertakers. According to the Irish Association of Funeral Directors, which represents 250 funeral directors, there has been a "marked increase" in the number of complaints this year.
The group's spokesman, Gus Nicholls, said: "There's been less than 50 official complaints this year, but you can take it the number of people dissatisfied with the service they are getting is much higher. That figure only represents our members, but there are another 350 firms out there that do not subscribe to a code of practice."
Many of the complaints relate to the lack of transparency about invoicing, an issue that could be resolved if the industry were better regulated, Mr Nicholls believes.
He insists standards will only improve once the industry is regulated, forcing all undertakers to adopt higher standards, improve training and provide transparency in their invoicing to clients. "There are no barriers to entry and no licensing in an industry responsible for the burial or cremation of up to 30,000 people a year," he said.