Purchasing a burial plot can be done far ahead of time or at the time of an impending funeral. Usually, the funeral home handling the funeral can arrange to purchase the plot, but you can do it yourself if that's your preference.
Choose a cemetery. This choice is often driven by family preferences or aesthetics, but you should be aware that the price of plots can vary widely from one cemetery to another.
Go to the cemetery and look around. The cemetery staff should provide you with a map of available plots, or will personally guide you around the grounds. Look for a spot you would particularly like for the final resting place of yourself or your loved one(s).
Be sure to compare the prices of idyllic burial plots with those in less charming locations in the same cemetery. You can save money by forgoing the ocean view.
Consider mausoleums for above-ground burials, and niches, scattering gardens or cremation burial plots for cremations. These are generally less expensive than regular burial plots.
Ask about the cost of the plot and about any opening, closing or other fees set by the cemetery.
Keep in mind that if certain family members want to be buried together, you'll save money by purchasing enough plots for all in the same cemetery at one time.
Let the funeral home handling the burial know of your preference if a burial is imminent, or handle the sale directly with the cemetery if you're buying the plot for future use.
If you're looking for a plot in a small or exclusive cemetery--so far unsuccessfully--you might try advertising in local newspapers for plots that are for sale. If you're purchasing the plot for use at the time of your death, be sure to convey your intentions and paperwork to survivors so that they know of your wishes. Some cemeteries have rules about grave markers or about what can be put on the graves. If Aunt Martha wants a flaming pink Christmas tree adorning her grave, be sure the cemetery allows it before purchasing the plot.
In some states, you can buy cemetery plots from a cemetery broker, who acquires them from people who have made other arrangements after originally purchasing the plots themselves. Though you can save a great deal of money dealing with a cemetery broker, you need to be sure he or she is licensed and bonded before proceeding with any transaction.