The end of the year has us thinking about the very un-Christmas-y topic of flexible spending accounts. Because we overestimated the cost of some dental work we needed done and of prenatal care, my husband and I have about $250 we need to spend on health-related expenses before the end of the year or else we lose the money.
In the past, I would use our end of the year FSA money to stock up on over-the-counter medication for the next year. Unfortunately, the FSA rules changed this year and you have to have a prescription for OTC medicines if you want to use FSA money on them. Lame. Fortunately/unfortunately, we've also never had this much money to use up before either.
In researching what I could use the money on, I came up with some interesting ideas and great resources. While you can't use FSA money for massages (again, lame), if you need relaxation you can use it for acupuncture and chiropractic care. You can use FSA money for birth control pills or condoms, and if that isn't your bag, you can use it for ovulation kits and pregnancy tests. While you should check expiration dates, this is the time to be thinking about stockpiling for the year. Sunscreen, bandaids, contact lense solution, and the aforementioned condoms and pregnancy tests can be bought in quantity and used throughout the upcoming year. This is also the time to go ahead and replace your reading glasses, neti pot, shoe insoles, humidifiers, and the like.
As I get ready for this baby, I plan on using the bulk of our remaining $250 for supplies the baby will likely need. Thermometers, breast pumps, nursing pads, nasal aspirators, and absorbent bed pads are all FSA eligible. (Tip: Infant bed pads and pet weewee pads are the same thing. Look for them with incontinence supplies rather than in baby care or pet care. Thinking outside of the box pays off in situations like these.)
You could also think of this as an opportunity to buy some stocking stuffers. Denture cleanser and adhesive may be appreciated by a grandparent on a fixed income. Your althletic cousin could maybe use another ace bandage and a wrist or knee brace. If you have a sibling who loves to camp, why not get him/her a first aid kit and blister pads? I plan on getting my always-too-hot husband a Chillow. (He had one before and loved it so much he wore it out.) It would also be a good gift for your menopausal mom.
I'm not being compensated to say this, but I've found the FSA Store and the FSA section of Drugstore.com to be extremely helpful in coming up with ways to spend my remaining FSA money. Both websites accept FSA credit cards, which prevents you from having to submit a claim form and saves you a step. Amazon, in my experience, does not accept these cards.
While I am glad we won't lose the money we put into the FSA, I wish we hadn't allocated so much. We've corrected this problem by seriously reducing our election amount for next year, with the knowledge that with a "qualifying life change", like getting married, or in our case, having a baby, we can increase our election amount.
Do you participate in a FSA? If so, how do you decide on an election amount?