Materialism has always been part of the American way. After all, we are the land of opportunity and, with that, comes the power to purchase. We purchase everything from fidget spinners to the most luxurious cars and homes. The drive to spend money on extravagant and not so extravagant items is highlighted by social media. It’s not uncommon to post our latest purchase among advertisements that litter our Facebook feed. The subconscious pressure to buy the “latest and greatest” doesn’t stop with death.

Keeping Up With The Jones Doesn't End With Death

Median Cost Of An Adult Funeral In 2017

Funerals aren’t cheap. In 2017, the median cost of an adult funeral with viewing and burial was $7,360, and there are more options to upgrade a funeral than ever before:

  • personalized coffins,
  • professional musicians,
  • ornate flowers,
  • limousines,
  • and costly catering.

When we are in the midst of grief, it is easier to say “yes” to costly add-ons.

According to Sussman and Alder, we often underestimate and overspend on “special occasions”.

Reasons Why People Spend More On Funerals

Keeping Up With The Jones Doesn't End With Death

The reasons for spending are varied and many. Some people fear being judged. They worry they will be labeled as cheap or uncaring if they fail to “properly honor” their loved one with an elaborate service, so they may spend more than they can afford. Instead of the once standard potluck reception at church, families rent out private rooms at restaurants, country clubs, or banquet halls which can quickly amount to the cost of a wedding.

Others have their own agenda and strive to impress relatives and friends – which can even happen at the expense of a loved one’s wishes. They may equate the cost of the funeral as a public demonstration of their love for the deceased.

Finally, there are those who desire “only the best” for their family member and endeavor to plan the perfect funeral to honor the deceased, which can be costly. In addition to the perfect coffin and gravestone, they spend thousands on the perfect vocalist, perfect flowers, and perfect programs.

The Pressure Of Keeping Up With The Joneses

The pressure of keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t end with death.  When a loved one passes, many of us can experience feelings of guilt worrying whether or not our loved one would feel honored or that we did enough.  It is also common to worry what others will think, the fear of judgment, the desire to impress others, and the need to please those who are dead are very genuine human traits. Besides which, the whole process of making major financial decisions in an anguished state of mind is taxing.

A Talk Of A Lifetime

When possible, the best thing to do is plan ahead and have an open and honest conversation about our loved one’s wishes before the passing. What is it that they desire, and what is a reasonable budget for the family? Authentic conversations like these can remove any perceived pressure to overspend from well-meaning family members.

How do you want to be celebrated?

Learn why pre-planning is the most important thing you can do for your family. I’m interested in learning more