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This is what a funeral will cost you in South Africa

12 March 2024
6 minute read
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Like food, petrol and almost everything else, funerals are getting more expensive. We investigated the costs of funerals in 2024 so you can ensure you have enough cover and won't have to use your savings or go into debt to pay funeral expenses.

Essential funeral costs and where you can save

Although you can cut out the expensive extras in a funeral service, there are some basics that need to be budgeted for when determining how much cover you need. The cost of these basics can add up into the tens of thousands quite quickly!

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Burial plots

If there is availability at the municipal cemetery, a burial plot will cost a few thousand rands, such as R3 432 in Joburg Parks, R2 309 in Ekurhuleni, if you are a resident in the metro, and R2 013 in Cape Town. Opt for a private site such as Nasrec or Fourways Memorial Parks and the burial plot price multiplies to over R20 000.

Coffins and caskets

Cheap coffins are on offer from around R800, but these are basic models only. More expensive coffins, also called caskets, with designer domes and handles, start at around R5 000, with pricier options available if you so wish. Extra-large coffins will also cost more.

Undertaker costs

Your undertaker will ensure the deceased is transported from the place of death to a mortuary or funeral parlour and to the burial site. They will also prepare the body for the coffin or casket including washing and dressing the body and embalming if necessary. Undertakers can take care of admin matters such as getting a death notice and death certificate.

Undertaker costs vary depending on the service offered, such as if an autopsy is needed, if the body needs to be embalmed, and how far the deceased needs to be transported. The cost will be at least a few thousand rands. If your undertaker organises more, such as a service and catering, the costs will be over R10 000.  

In total we estimate the essential funeral costs of a municipal burial plot, coffin and undertaker fees to come in at around R10 000, minimum, before the all-important gathering costs.  

Gathering costs

Gathering costs are an area where you can save or splurge. The actual costs will depend on number of mourners attending, and food and drinks served.

We did find all-inclusive catering starting at R35 a head, but costs are more likely to be over R120 a head, up to R350 a head for a three-course plated meal. Marquee costs, with chairs and tables, can add at least another R5 000 to the bill.

You can save money by doing the catering yourself, but you will still need to buy food, hire cutlery, crockery and glasses, and cover the costs of electricity and/or gas used for cooking. Some sites will also require a catering permit.

For 50 mourners, we estimate catering costs for the gathering to be at least R6 000.

Other costs

Other costs you may need to take into account include:

  • Chapel hire: This starts at around R1 200 an hour
  • Transporting mourners and relatives: Out of town relatives and friends may require transport, which would add at least R500 to the costs. Accommodation may also be required with the costs depending on where they are staying and for how long
  • Order of service: Printing an A5 booklet, colour, order of service costs start at R680  

The bottom line: The cost of a funeral will depend on many things such as location of the burial site, choice of coffin, number of mourners and gathering arrangements including food and drink. The cost is likely to be R30 000 or more, especially if the burial is in a private memorial park.         

Ways to save and manage funeral expenses

There are ways to save on funeral expenses while still ensuring the service and burial is respectable. And, with a bit of planning, you can manage the cost of family funerals before the time comes.

Undertaker services

Undertakers and funeral parlours provide excellent services, with many taking care of nearly all aspects of the funeral from transporting and preparing the body, offering a range of coffins and caskets, and printing an order of service, to setting up a marquee at the gravesite and offering catering. However, these all-inclusive services will cost! You can save on undertaker fees by selecting only the services you need, such as preparing and transporting the body only.

Use your funeral cover benefits

1Life Insurance funeral cover policies include a repatriation service that provides for transportation of the deceased from place of death to a funeral home. This benefit goes a long way towards making funerals more affordable. And, for the unveiling, our policies include a R5 000 headstone memorial benefit.

Have a family meeting about funerals

Talk to family members about how much cover you have for family funerals and agree to stick to budgets and arrange modest and affordable funerals. Managing expectations upfront and getting the family to agree on funeral costs will go a long way towards not overspending on unaffordable funerals.

Discuss your final wishes with your family

If your wish is to have a respectable and affordable funeral, let your family know. When your family is aware of your wishes, there is less chance they will overspend. Explain to your loved ones that they should only spend as much as your cover allows and that they don’t have to go into debt and give you an expensive service. Be sure to let your family know that a small gathering is preferable, with family and close friends only, and that you don’t need an expensive casket or the most expensive burial plot.

If you need to, write down your funeral wishes and plans and be clear how much is available to be spent. Share with your loved ones where this document will be kept. When the time comes, they can access the document and have a clear idea of how to prepare for your service while keeping the costs under control and on budget.

Don't overlook the cost of cleansing ceremonies - and the unveiling

Cleansing ceremonies are an important funeral rite in some African cultures. When budgeting for funerals don't overlook the cost of these ceremonies, which could add thousands to your list of expenses. 1Life Insurance staff member Andiswa Nyembe shares her story: 

All too often families are only prepared for the cost of the actual funeral and don't take the costs of important cleansing ceremonies into account. When my mother passed on, there were two cleansing ceremonies, one for the children and close relatives and one for my father (the deceased's spouse). Cleansing ceremonies for children differ from culture to culture, and from clan to clan. In my family, for example, the cleansing of the children is done 3 months after the death of a parent. The purpose of the ceremony is to bring closure to the mourning period, allowing the children to move on with life. Costs include: 

  • A goat for slaughter
  • Food for attendees
  • The hiring of a mobile fridge
  • Travel costs, which will depend on distances travelled
  • Gifts to thank the ladies that sat with the coffin. Costs depend on how many gifts you have to buy and the type of gift. We gave 10 ladies head scarves
  • Miscellaneous costs like herbs for the cleansing and incense

Cleansing ceremonies for the deceased's spouse happen after 6 months. Costs are similar to children's ceremonies, but both a cow and a goat must be slaughtered . A new set of clothes will also have to be bought for the widow or widower and presented to him or her by the children.

Families must also take the costs of the unveiling ceremony into account and start planning for them as early as possible. Fortunately, the unveiling happens a year after the funeral, giving families time to save. Costs will vary, depending on how much the family is willing to spend. The budget for my mother’s unveiling included décor and catering, a headstone, a bus service, programmes, attire, mobile toilets and more.

Review your cover annually

Funeral costs have increased, so you should review the sum assured amounts for all members covered on your policy and compare them to the price of a funeral once a year. While you can find ways to save and lower the costs of funerals, there may be times when increasing your cover is the best way to ensure you and your loved ones can cover the costs of a respectable funeral without using savings or taking on debt.

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