The bad economy has affected nearly every sector of the business community, and the business of death is no exception.
Concerns about money are obvious in nearly every choice family members make when dealing with the death of a loved one.
Casket style, headstone size, and even the time of the day the service is held — one held during business hours is cheaper — all come into play as local funeral homes see more struggling families.
In some cases, families come into the Lawrence Chapel Oaks Cremation and Funeral Service with no money, said Jake Barnett, funeral director.
“’We have absolutely nothing. What do we do?’” Barnett said he hears from such families.
Those caught in tough financial times have to balance paying the bills with providing family members a dignified funeral, said Larry McElwain, funeral director at Warren-McElwain Mortuary and Cremation Services.
“They’ve been living with more devastating circumstances,” he said. A very basic funeral and burial starts at around $3,000, though most cost much more. It's an expense that can break the budget of those dealing with a death, McElwain said.
A cheaper option, cremation, is becoming more popular in Kansas and across the country. A cremation can save a family at least a few thousand dollars, and basic cremation services can be performed for about $1,000.
The percentage of cremations in Kansas has risen steadily from about 24 percent in 2004 to 32 percent in 2008, according to the Cremation Association of North America. Projected numbers are for that number to rise to more than 44 percent by 2015.
While someone who doesn’t want cremation likely wouldn’t change his or her mind based on cost, it’s something more families are considering, said Bart Yost, president of Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home and Crematory.
“People definitely think more along those lines,” said Yost, whose business has a cremation rate of more than 40 percent. However, the cremation rates for the Lawrence community have always been higher than national and state numbers, he said, because of the political and social makeup of the area.
The best advice Yost gives to families is to plan ahead, something he’s seeing less and less often. Funds that people traditionally saved for funerals have been used on other necessities.
“A lot of these people have gone through that money,” he said.
That has made an impact on the bottom line of local funeral homes, which have found themselves scaling back as well.
Yost said his business has cut back on some of the things that might have done in the past, such as painting the facility, in order to keep pace with the economic downturn.
“I haven’t raised my prices in two and a half years because I know people are struggling,” he said.