Posted by Elbret Bebla, December 13, 2019 (last updated on February 27, 2020)
If you chose to get a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) as part of your insurance benefits through your employer, then time is running out to spend those pre-tax dollars that can go toward medical expenses like copays, prescriptions, chiropractor visits, LASIK surgery, and much more. FSAs are a great way to put money aside before taxes and contribute those funds directly toward your annual healthcare expenses. Some FSAs end their reimbursement period on December 31st, however, many employers now offer a grace period or an extension that allows you to submit your FSA expenses until March 15th (best practice is to check with your employer!).
If you do not spend the entire amount you budgeted in your FSA account, then you’re likely not totally out of luck because many employers allow $500 of the unused balance to rollover to the next year, or provides an extension where you have until March 15th to use the funds before you lose them. If you do not spend all of the money in your account, the balance goes back to your employer, and it likely will not be used for office nap pods – so definitely make sure to take advantage of the money you already set aside.
There are a couple of different ways to use the money you set aside in your FSA account. The first is a debit card that you can use directly on FSA expenses. If you don’t have your card handy, or your FSA did not issue you a physical card, you can also file a claim online through your FSA account to get reimbursed.
The FSA online store is also a great resource if you have questions around what you can and can’t spend it on as it gets closer to the end of the year. You can use it to find great products to help you with a wide variety of your healthcare needs, and health wellness items like a first aid kids, acne tools, and compression socks do not require a prescription from your doctor to use your FSA dollars to purchase.
Start 2020 with rose colored glasses
If you don’t have perfect 20/20 vision, you should head to the optometrist for an annual check up, which should be covered if you have a vision insurance plan. There, you will be able to purchase prescription sunglasses and start 2020 off with great vision and stylish frames.
Need help reading restaurant menus? Reading glasses don’t require a prescription and can also be paid for using money from your FSA.
Spruce up your first aid kit
Is your First Aid bag looking a bit lean? Now is the perfect time to stock up on Band-Aids, Neosporin, and Tylenol so you’re ready for any cuts, scrapes, and headaches. The holiday season typically leads to more indulgence in comfort food which means that it may be additionally helpful to grab some antacids and heartburn medications as well.
For any over the counter medications it’s important to note that if you’d like to be reimbursed by your FSA, you’ll need a prescription written by a physician or it will not be covered.
Band-Aids, sunscreen, neck pillows, acne spot treatment, and more, do not require a prescription for reimbursement – however, whether or not you get the Mickey Mouse or Spiderman Band-Aids is completely up to you. If you’re looking for a more hypoallergenic and breathable bandage then you can try these that are latex-free, biodegradable, and contain activated charcoal and bamboo fabric to help your skin heal.
Mind your mental health
Putting your FSA dollars toward your mental health is a great way to use your funds. If your therapist is not contracted with any insurance plans, or even if they are and you have a copay for your visit, you can pay for either type of visit by submitting a claim to your FSA account for reimbursement. At the end of your visit, be sure to ask your therapist for an itemized bill and you can submit your FSA portal.
Did you know the transportation you use to get to your doctor or therapist is also reimbursable? We’re talking rideshare apps (Uber, Lyft, etc.), buses and more. You’ll still need to submit a claim for reimbursement to your FSA reimbursement portal, and helpful guidelines are available here.
Care for yourself while you travel
Consider picking up a new neck pillow with your FSA dollars, which is a great accessory for flights and long car rides that you may be taking with your family in the next few weeks. It’ll provide you with comfort and support wherever you are.
If you’re sensitive to light, an eye mask can be a great travel companion for you when you remember your childhood home doesn’t have blackout curtains and darkness for quality sleep is a must for you.
Additionally, compression socks can be helpful when you’re not moving around too much to continue blood circulation in your legs and reduce discomfort or swelling. You do not need a prescription to apply your FSA dollars toward compression socks, but your doctor may recommend them if you have a condition like varicose veins.
Enhance your self care routine
Did you know that you can put your FSA dollars toward a convenient at-home light therapy tool to soothe acne breakouts without any doctor’s orders? If you want to purchase commercial spot treatment products; however, you’ll need a prescription.
If you are looking for a tool that allows you to help you break up tissue and provide your sore muscles with some much needed massage, then a handheld massage therapy ball may be a great portable massaging solution for you. You can release tight muscles, shoulders, and hamstrings with this powerful portable tool.
As open enrollment for 2020 approaches, this is also a great time to take a step back and think about your FSA planning for next year. Did you have a lot of leftover FSA funds this year that you’re left scrambling to spend? If so, check your healthcare spending and use that as a starting point for how much you should set aside next year. Did you run out of your FSA before the year was up? You can review your year spend to date as well as think through any major healthcare expenses you might have in the coming year to determine the right FSA amount for you.
Picking the right amount of funds to set aside in your FSA can seem to be more art than science, but with the right tools and trackers you can usually get pretty close to the right amount. Even if you end up with a little extra in your account this year, it’s useful to remember that spending those extra dollars on health and wellness tools or services you’ll use in the future is better than losing those funds all together.