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Relational Spending in Funerals: Caring for Others Loved and Lost

Whitley, S. C., Garcia‐Rada, X., Bardhi, F. , Ariely, D. & Morewedge, C. K. (2022). Relational Spending in Funerals: Caring for Others Loved and Lost. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 32(2), pp. 211-231. doi: 10.1002/jcpy.1240


Funeral rituals perform important social functions for families and communities, but little is known about the motives of people planning funerals. Using mixed methods, we examine funeral planning as end-of-life relational spending. We identify how relational motives drive and manifest in funeral planning, even when the primary recipient of goods and services is dead. Qualitative interviews with consumers who had planned pre-COVID funerals (N=15) reveal a caring orientation drives funeral decision-making for loved ones and for self-planned funerals. Caring practices manifest in three forms: (a) balancing preferences between the planner, deceased, and surviving family, (b) making personal sacrifices, and (c) spending amount (Study 1). Archival funeral contract data (N=385) reveals supporting quantitative evidence of caring-driven funeral spending. Planners spend more on funerals for others and underspend on their own funerals (Study 2). Pre-registered experiments (N=1,906) addressing selection bias replicate these results and find generalization across different funding sources (planner-funded, other-funded, and insurance; Studies 3A-3C). The findings elucidate a ubiquitous, emotional, and financially consequential decision process at the end of life.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Relational Spending in Funerals: Caring for Others Loved and Lost, which has been published in final form at, Journal of Consumer Psychology. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Publisher Keywords: funerals, relational spending, financial decision making, rituals, caring
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of SSRN-id3810168 (1).pdf]
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