[Note: With Clark Howard’s permission, this article has been updated 4/1/2014 to reflect current figures]

The recent announcement by the Costco chain to sell funeral caskets has certainly made the company the butt of many jokes. And it does sound funny-the idea of buying your eternal resting place at a reduced rate from a wholesaler that also carries tires and televisions.

But the good thing about the move-other than the belly laugh it’s engendered-is that it has people talking about a very serious subject. It’s gotten people to realize that they’re not going to live forever.

It’s a sad fact that most of us go to our deaths without having shared our final wishes with our loved ones. And being unprepared makes us a sitting duck for a funeral home.

The cost of burials and cremations can be a major financial setback. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral is now in the range of $8000-10,000. But there is another way to offset the cost and have your wishes carried out at the same time.

The Memorial Society of Georgia (www.memorialsocietyofgeorgia.org) is a non-profit organization that uses group buying power to get its 7,000 members much cheaper rates than the going market cost for cremations and burials. It’s a group that many people don’t know much about, but it’s been in the state since 1973. It’s run by its members and a voluntary board of trustees, and it has an affiliation with the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance (funerals.org), which means it’s easy to transfer your membership from Georgia to one of the 170 other societies in the United States and Canada. In Georgia, it refers its members to 27 participating funeral homes, spread across the state from Athens to Adel.

Members pay $1095 for a simple cremation. A simple burial, which includes picking up the body, a wooden casket, transportation to the cemetery and a simple service, is $2050.

The group also works with its members to arrange organ donation and preparation of a living will and power of attorney documents. It also provides your final instructions to family members, doctors and lawyers.

Membership in the society is a one-time fee of $35 per person. After joining, members are given detailed paperwork that allows them to go through the entire planning process, so their wishes are in writing for family members when the time comes.

The reason so few people know about the organization goes back to our reluctance to talk about death and dying. It’s the same reluctance that has people poking fun at Costco. But the casket comedy does one thing: it gets the topic on the table.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution