Recession has funeral homes cutting costs

About two weeks ago, the grass outside one South Florida business had become too brown to bear.

So Riverside Memorial Chapel office manager George Camargo put in fresh sod himself, saving somewhere between $500 and $1,000 in labor costs.

As the bereaved look to shave the costs of saying goodbye to their loved ones, funeral homes are, in turn, cutting their budgets. While Ben Franklin's old adage still holds true – that the only two things certain in life are death and taxes – funeral director Patty Ralph said that certainty doesn't guarantee a high profit margin during economic downturns.

"It doesn't matter what type of business you're in. Everybody is facing the same crisis," said Ralph, of T.M. Ralph Funeral Homes. The business has facilities in Weston and Plantation.

A new survey by the National Funeral Directors Association shows that funeral home revenue is weakening as more consumers opt for cremations, less expensive caskets and wakes, and shorter viewing periods. And the trusts and stock funds funeral homes use to invest money from prepaid clients are suffering.

Other than cutting costs, funeral homes have few choices, said fourth-generation funeral director Jim Mumaw of Mumaw Funeral Home in Lancaster, Calif.

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